Irish PM criticises anti-abortion campaign

Dublin (AFP) –


Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Tuesday denounced the pro-life lobby for using images of people with Down Syndrome in the build-up to the May 25 referendum on abortion laws.

His intervention came after backers of the existing constitutional ban on abortion repeatedly suggested that liberalising the laws would lead to many terminations of Down Syndrome babies.

"It's wrong, because we have made it very clear in the proposed legislation that disability will not be grounds to end a pregnancy," Varadkar said, according to national broadcaster RTE.

"It's one of a number of attempts by the No campaign to muddy the waters and create confusion."

Several posters have gone up claiming that in neighbouring Britain -- where currently many Irish women go for terminations -- some 90 percent of babies diagnosed in the womb as having Down Syndrome are terminated.

On Tuesday, the "Love Both" pro-life campaign posted online a video featuring a boy with Down Syndrome calling for the constitutional ban on abortion to be maintained.

Abortions are only allowed in Ireland if the life of the mother is in danger.

"I am Conor. I am from Drogheda. I love my life," the boy says in the 20-second video.

"Please: save babies with Down Syndrome."

On Monday, Health Minister Simon Harris attacked the No campaign, saying it was "very upsetting to say to people with Down Syndrome in Ireland that you've only been born" thanks to the current law.

Some 45 percent are backing the Yes campaign in favour of changing the abortion law, while 34 percent back the status quo, with 18 percent undecided, according to the latest poll by Kantar Millward Brown for the Sunday Independent newspaper.