Use of Term "Fatal Foetal Abnormality" Disputed


Margaret Hickey, writing in the Irish Examiner tackles the attempt to use “fatal foetal abnormality” to persuade people to open further the door to legal abortion. Because abstract arguments do not capture the public imagination, “real-life stories are now being embedded in the arguments for expanding abortion legislation in Ireland.”


“Emotionally, it matters little whether you are pro-life or pro-choice. You feel the devastation of this strange intrusion of death into a pregnancy narrative that should be all about life and joyful expectancy.”


“It is possible to be empathetic with these families and yet point out that the fatal-foetal abnormality argument is dishonest, manipulative, and disingenuous.”


Hickey observes that people like TD Mick Wallace rightly judge that fatal-foetal abnormality (and not rape, or any other grounds affecting mother or baby) is the most compelling case for change, although he favours abortion on much wider grounds.


One of the problems with the term “fatal foetal abnormality” is that it is not a medical term and is too vague to be used in legislation. “There are many life-limiting conditions that can be diagnosed as pregnancy advances, and which of these would qualify under legislation is anyone’s guess. What kind of prognosis will qualify in respect of life expectancy? What conditions qualify as ‘incompatible with life’ (another elastic term) and which do not?”


Since anencephaly, the closest condition to a fatal foetal abnormality occurs in one in every 100,000 births, Hickey queries what conditions Mick Wallace might be referring to when he claims that two babies are born every week in Holles Street hospital with fatal foetal abnormality.


“The decision to repeal the 8th Amendment is a momentous one and we need to make our decision with the head, as well as the heart,” Hickey concludes. “Abortion stories are sad and complex. If there was a way of erasing all difficulty and suffering from life without creating worse consequences, no-one would stand in the way.”


Why not read the full story and add your comment, or better still, write a letter to the editor?

Irish Examiner. June 30.

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