Two Portadown mothers whose Down’s Syndrome sons have enriched their lives, are fearful that the confusion in the abortion laws in Northern Ireland could lead to the “elimination of children with the condition”.
Currently, Justice Minister David Ford is lodging an appeal in the High Court that the abortion law in Northern Ireland is “incompatible” with human rights legislation. He fears that “the lack of legal certainty” could lead inadvertently to abortion on demand in the province.
Lyn Steele and Julie Flaherty claim that the confusion fuels their fears that the introduction of sweeping abortion laws would virtually wipe out the condition of Down’s Syndrome “and deny society the joy of these children who live their lives to the full”.
Mrs Steele is mother to eight-year-old David, who attends Bocombra Primary School, “and is an example of living a life with unmitigated joy, who spreads love and compassion throughout our family and everyone who knows us”.
She added, “He plays rugby through the special Panthers group at Chambers Park, and is a fanatic of Ulster rugby – we attend the matches at Kingspan together and he has met stars like Stuart McCloskey, Tommy Bowe and Rory Best. He has been their mascot and loves the famous ‘Sparky’.”
The Steeles also have the responsibility of teenage son Aaron who has Asperger’s and is developing well through the One Eighty Restaurant in Mandeville Street. “All these experiences have enriched us,” Lyn said. “They have made me a better, caring person, and we have made friends through David whom we never would have met.”
Julie Flaherty’s is a joyous-sad story. Her son Jake died two years ago – just two days after his second birthday. He had the added complications of a serious heart condition, bowel disease and failing lungs.
Said Julie, “He spent half his young life in hospital undergoing a series of operations, fought like a tiger, but succumbed to a heart attack. It was such an honour helping him through every stage, and I’d give the world to have him back. We miss him more with every day that passes.”
Lyn and Julie point the finger at the medical profession in countries where Down’s babies are aborted “at a whim”. And they are convinced that the new, simple blood test – that is due to replace the invasive amniocentesis test – could spell further “doom” for the unborn Down’s child in Northern Ireland.
Said Lyn, “If abortion and the new blood test for Down’s Syndrome are introduced in Northern Ireland – as is the case in other European countries - Down’s children will be eliminated. The attitude of many societies devalues these special children.”