Dr Mahony about abortion of babies with Down Syndrome

On Wednesday, 9th May, RTE Radio 1’s News At One, Claire Byrne interviewed Dr Rhona Mahony, Master of Holles Street Hospital and campaigner for abortion with TogetherForYes. Here is the transcription. If the 8th is repealed, children with special needs will lose their most important protection in the law.

CB: Given that there is availability of non-invasive prenatal tests of Down Syndrome by a simple blood test by 9 week gestation, does Dr Mahony feel that there will be an increase in the abortion of babies with Down Syndrome in Ireland if the 8th amendment is repealed?

RM: There is a blood test available now at 10 weeks which can look at a tiny amount of fetal DNA, it predicts about 99% accuracy, whether or not a baby has Down Syndrome. We have seen an increase of the uptake of this test. Most women take this test mostly for reassurance. Given that Down Syndrome is quite rare, most women will be reassured. I think it is very important to note that we have antenatal diagnoses, for example in the Rotunda figures 50% of women would choose to continue the pregnancy, knowing that baby has Down Syndrome, 50% choose not to continue. Down Syndrome is not one condition. Down Syndrome is all spectrum of disorders, ranging from babies who won’t survive the first trimester, babies with very serious heart defects, all kinds of other congenital anomalies, and babies that are quite well and relatively healthy. It is not one condition.

CB: But you can test for Down Syndrome at 9 weeks and we found a clinic in Dublin offering that test and saying, and we phoned them today to make sure that …

RM: From about 9 or 10 weeks, that’s right

CB: … that that baby is likely to have Down Syndrome.

RM: The screening test would give 99% predictive value, then most of people would go on having a gold standard diagnostic test but it is absolutely correct. About 1,000 women in my hospital avail of this. These are women who can afford to avail, it is not in the public health service in this country, and again what I can say is that women who have this test, it looks like 50% of those choose to continue and 50% would not continue but I think it is very important that we understand that Down Syndrome is simply not one condition, there is a whole spectrum of conditions, so each case is individual.

The audio is available here.