Last night in Dublin a crowd of thousands gathered outside the Irish parliament to protest against media bias on the issue of abortion in the country. The Irish Times this morning reported “several hiundred”. How about that for a sample of bias? The crowd listened with subdued anger for an hour as speaker after speaker told them stories about the saving of lives, stories exposing the culture of destruction of the unborn and stories of harm suffered by women which national media in the country have ignored.
Ireland’s Pro-Life campaign late last year analysed a sample of two weeks’ mainstream media coverage of health-related stories and found a ratio of 33:1 stories favouring the culture of abortion as opposed to a culture of life. While the demonstration – attended by people from all over the country – focussed on media bias related to the life issue it might equally have shone the light on a number of other social issues where slanted media coverage is angering that percentage of the Irish public which still places value on the common good over rampant individualism.
Some wondered why the demonstration was held outside the Irish parliament. There are probably two answers to that. Firstly, media bias is so rampant across all national general newspapers and broadcasting organisations that selection of the offices of just one would have been invidious. Secondly, the elected represenatives are perceived by the frustrated Irish public as being cowed into submission to political correctness by the pundits who dominate the newpaper colums, the chat shows and current affairs programmes.
Currently a very flawed Children and Family Relationships Bill is being rushed through the Dåil (the Irish parliament’s lower house) with backing from all parties. The Bill is the darling of the media and has been allowed to get to this stage without the normal scrutiny given to proposed legislation.
Over the past two months there was general media moaning because a proposal from pro-abortion deputy, Clare Daly for the abortion of children diagnosed with “fatal feotal abnormalities” was rejected – depuies had no choice but to reject it because it would have been unconstitutional. It would have passed easily had Ireland’s Constitution not given its protection to the unbond child’s right to life. No one is under any illusions about the real intentions of Ms. Daly – the overturning of this right.
This group of Irish families taking the issue to the UN is flying directly in he face of this contrary campaign. Last night’s meeting heard numerous stories of instances where unborn children were diagnosed with feotal abnormalities and yet were born, treated, and now live normal happy lives.
The Geneva Declaration, which is the centerpiece to a a global campaign to end disability discrimination caused by the ‘incompatible with life’ label, has already been signed by more than 200 medical practitioners and researchers and 27 disability and advocacy NGOs. It aims to improve care for mother and baby where a life-limiting condition has been diagnosed before or after birth.
At the Geneva event, entitled ‘Achieving excellence in Perinatal care; Babies with a illness and disability deserve better than abortion’ families from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Spain, and Switzerland said that the label ‘incompatible with life’ was not a medical diagnosis and was causing “lethal discrimination against children diagnosed with severe disabilities, both before and after birth”.
The conference was addressed by Dr Ana Martin Ance an expert in perinatal hospice care, who said that, in her experience, families benefited hugely from supportive care which allowed them to spend time with their children, whose short lives had meaning and value.
Barbara Farlow, whose ground-breaking research led to a new understanding of the experiences of families where children had a life-limiting condition, said that the label ‘incompatible with life’ had been shown to lead to sub-optimal care after birth and that the phrase dehumanised children.
In a moving presentation, Grace Sharp, Derbhille McGill, Sarah Nugent and Sarah Hynes from Ireland spoke about the love and joy their children had brought to them in their short lives.
“My daughter, Lilly Joy, was alive and kicking inside of me and then she fought so hard to have four hours with us after birth before slipping peacefully away. All she knew was love,” Grace Sharp told the conference.
They were joined by Spanish family Francisco Lancha & Macarena Mata who said the right to life of children with disabilities had been seriously eroded.
The Independent TD from Tipperary , Mattie Mc Grath, said that he was delighted to support the global campaign and welcomed news that politicians in Spain, the US and Northern Ireland had expressed support for the initiative.
Professor Giuseppe Benegiano , former director of special programmes for the UN, said that the UN should give support for this important initiative against disability discrimation.
Prof Bogdan Chazan, an eminent obstetrician from Poland said that babies with a challenging diagnosis deserved better care than abortion.
Tracy Harkin of ELC who launched the Declaration states that: ‘As medical practitioners and researchers, we declare that the term “incompatible with life” is not a medical diagnosis and should not be used when describing unborn children who may have a life-limiting condition’. It also calls for better perinatal care for families.
Ms Harkin said that the families wanted to challenge the United Nations to recognise the dignity and value of all children with terminal illness and disability.
The UN Convention states that ‘States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children’. The Preamble to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also states that a child ‘needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth’.
“Yet studies show that up to 90% of children with disabilities are aborted before birth. In particular, children with life-limiting conditions are subject to discriminatory language and attitudes which deny them their humanity and their human rights. Families who are told that their baby may not live for long after birth need our full support and holistic perinatal care, but this can only be achieved if misleading and offensive language and attitudes are discontinued,” said Ms Harkin.