a 'fatal' abnormality

Babies with serious abnormality have a Right to Life

Sadly, some parents are told that their baby may not live for long after birth, or might not make it to birth at all. But those children, until such time as nature takes its course, are alive and kicking, and have the same right to life as every other child.

Recently huge media attention has been given to legalising abortion in Ireland for babies who have received a diagnosis of anencephaly, trisomy 13, or another condition which may severely limit the life span of a child.

What you should know

  • Research shows that most Irish parents DO NOT abort their baby following a life-limiting diagnosis when support and best care is made available. A study looking at all Trisomy 18 and Trisomy 13 pregnancies in the region serviced by Cork University Hospital from 2001 to 2012 found that between 94% and 96% of parents continued with the pregnancy. (1) Another 2010 study found that the ‘predominant parental choice’ after diagnosis of anencephaly was continuation of pregnancy. (2) Dr Fergal Malone of the Rotunda hospital recently claimed that higher percentages of parents attending that hospital underwent an abortion after these diagnoses, which should prompt the Rotunda to review the support and care it is providing.
  • These children do not suffer in the womb or after birth. This claim is untrue and is upsetting to parents. Palliative care manages any discomfort or pain the baby may feel after birth, and before birth, baby is protected from any pain in the womb.

  • Most children diagnosed with these disorders do, in fact, live beyond birth - and some continue to astound their families and doctors. For example, 70% of babies with anencephaly live after birth, and 30% of children born with Trisomy 13 live for longer than a month. These children have a right to their life, however short that life may be, and however severe their disability.  You can see some of their beautiful stories below. (3,4,5)

  • In stark contrast to the Irish experience, in countries where abortion is legal, up to 90% of children with a life-limiting diagnosis are aborted. (6)

  • Parents in this situation deserve much more than our sympathy - they need us to put professional support systems in place. The Minister for Health must establish perinatal hospice services in Ireland as soon as possible. These services are not expensive to provide and make an enormous difference to parents. (7)

  • In contrast to the loving answer given by perinatal hospice, abortion ends the life of these babies by lethal injection or worse.

  • The right to life of all children with disabilities would be seriously impacted by allowing children to be aborted because life we deem their lives too short, or 'too disabled' for our world. Where then do we draw the line? In other countries, such as Britain – which 45 years ago legalized abortion for ‘severe disabilities’ - this has led to the terrible situation today where up to 90% of unborn children diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome are killed.


  1. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3840564/
  2. Prenatal Diagnosis, 2010, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pd.2490/abstract
  3. Jaquier M, Klein A, Boltshauser E. ‘Spontaneous pregnancy outcome after prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly.’ BJOG 2006; 113:951–953
  4. Mitchel L. Zoler, ‘Trisomy 18 survival can exceed 1 year’, OB/GYN News, 1 March 2003
  5. Mitchel L. Zoler, ‘Trisomy 13 survival can exceed 1 year’, OB/GYN News, 1 March 2003
  6. Mansfield C, Hopfer S, Marteau TM. ‘Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis’. Prenatal Diagnosis,Sept 1999. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10521836
  7. http://perinatalhospice.org/


Most Irish parents don't abort their terminally-ill unborn baby

You may have read that most Irish women who are told their baby has been diagnosed with a serious or life-limiting foetal abnormality go to the UK for an abortion. Figures as high as 80% - and numbers as high as 1,200 each year -  have been suggested repeatedly - on RTE's Prime Time and in the national newspapers.

Official records from the British Department of Health show that estimation to be wildly incorrect. The reality is that a small number of parents - only 36 cases in 2011 for example - go to Britain for an abortion because their baby had a serious or life-limiting anomaly.  Is some regions, research shows that more than 90% of Irish parents choose to continue to spend every moment they can with their child.  

So where do these exaggerated and clearly false figures come from? The Irish media seemed to have been mostly misinformed mostly by John Halligan, the pro-abortion TD from Waterford, who falsely claimed there were 1500 cases of life-limiting conditions diagnosed in babies before birth every year, and that 80% of these babies were aborted - which would mean that 1200 abortions take place on Irish women in Britain every year under Ground E of the British Abortion Act - where there is a “substantial risk of the child being born seriously handicapped.” 

That is not the case. In fact it is an gross overstatement, by a factor of 30 or more. 

The records kept by the British Department of Health  not only record all Ground E abortions on Irish women, but also record the condition diagnosed, and separate out conditions such as anencephaly, Trisomy 18 (Edwards Syndrome),  Patau's Syndrome etc. 

As you can see from the Table released by the British Department of Health below, in 2011 a total of 51 abortions were carried out on Irish women for reasons of disability -  including Down Syndrome and Spina Bifida, which are not 'fatal' abnormalities at all. When we narrow it down to life-limiting disorders then we see that the total is just 36.  

In 2011, for example, 8 babies with anencephaly being carried by Irish women were aborted, 7 with Edwards Syndrome, and 7 with Patau Syndrome. In 2010, the number was higher at 68 abortions; in 2009, it was lower at 42 abortions. 

Clearly these figures are nowhere close to what is being claimed by abortion advocates. Yet the media absolutely fail to call John Halligan and other abortion campaigners to account, and RTÉ refused to correct its false reporting of 1200 abortions carried out for these reasons each year.  

It is of course, a testimony to love and courage, that most parents facing a diagnosis of terminal illness for their unborn baby go on to bring their babies to term. If we change the law, that figure will be upended, to reflect the British reality where up to 90% of children, even those with conditions such as Down Syndrome, are aborted. These babies, and their families, deserve better than abortion. 

These babies, and their families, deserve better than abortion. 


Learn more online. Be inspired by the following stories and the worth of every life:

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More Information

News Pieces and Interviews

YouTube Videos


John Paul Johnson

John Paul Johnson lived for seventeen minutes after birth, surrounded by his family and those who loved him. He was theirs for a time: and every moment of his life in the womb and after birth was celebrated by his family. His mother, Clíona, talks about those precious moments with John Paul, and the love he brought to everyone.


Lilly Ann

Aileen from Kildare tells us about her daughter Lilly Ann in a beautiful testimony.

Little Andrew

Dubliner Fiona was told her baby boy, Andrew, had anencephaly. He lived for 27 hours after birth.

Clodagh McGill

Derbhille McGill shares the moving story of her little baby daughter - Clodagh - who was diagnosed in the womb with having a life-limiting disability and would die before, or soon after birth. Little Clodagh lived for 33 days and was such a blessing to her family during her short life. Derbhille says perinatal hospice care must be given to other mothers who receive similar prenatal diagnoses. 

Bryce Daniel

Bryce Daniel's mother was advised to abort her son and was told he would not live long. Watch this moving video of their struggle and the story of a mum whose son was born with hydrocephalus.


Eliot was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 while in the womb. Eliot was born with an undeveloped lung, a heart with a hole in it and DNA that placed faulty information into each and every cell of his body.

Kennadee Albright

Don and Shawna Albright discuss the series of events that took them from being told to terminate a pregnancy to finding the one surgeon in the world who could fix their unborn daughter's heart defects. Called one of the most complex heart repairs ever, Frank Hanley MD, and his team at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital repaired a series of heart defects that other doctors said would impossible to fix. Kennadee Albright now has a fully repaired heart, and celebrated her 1st birthday on on 21 May 2011.

Lacey Buchanan

Without saying a word, Lacey Buchanan tells the story of their love for Christian and the joy he brings to their lives and to the many others he encounters. Using cards and music she says it all beautifully in this must-watch video.