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We wouldn’t change Steven and I don’t say that lightly

 
by Louise Doyle
l.doyle@donegalnews.com
 
 
 
A CONVOY mother of a boy with Down Syndrome has called on people to protect the right to life of the unborn baby, as a referendum on the Eighth Amendment takes place in three weeks’ time.  
 
Judith Tait was speaking at a public meeting in Convoy Enterprise Centre, as both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups in Donegal continue to canvass ahead of the Referendum on May 25. People will go to the polls to vote on whether to retain the Amendment or repeal it, allowing for the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion in Ireland. 
 
Judith and her husband, Robert, had two daughters, Emily (3) and one-year-old, Eleanor, when they found out in June 2013 they were expecting their third child. The couple were overjoyed, however, their elation turned into a mixture of roller coaster emotions when, during a routine 14-week scan, they received the unexpected news their baby had a congenital abnormality. 
 
Judith told of how, following her initial scan, she was offered an Amniocentesis test which would confirm the nature of the abnormality, but as this procedure involved a risk to their baby, the couple declined. 
 
“The doctor set out all our options, including, as he put it, ‘going to England’”, said Judith. 
 
“There were many emotions and the news was a real shock to us. It was a real bolt out of the blue and we weren’t expecting it at all. We were devastated and sad and the tears did come.” 
 
Judith said she questioned if she could cope with the road ahead. 
 
“I was scared and afraid of the unknown and I had so many questions of what would life be like for us. Would our baby live, how disabled would they be and how would it affect our other children? There were so many questions and no answers.”
 
At a time of uncertainty, Judith said she clung to what she did know.
 
“God was in control. He makes no mistakes and this was the very child he wanted us to have. All human life is precious  because we are all made in his image,” she said.
 
Following an anxious six-week wait for her 20-week scan, Judith said doctors confirmed a congenital abnormality and a heart defect in her unborn baby. 
 
“We had appointments with the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin and it was there that they told us there was an 80 per cent chance our baby had Down Syndrome,” said Judith. 
 
Steven Tait was born on January 17, 2014, and after gaining the recommended weight at four months old, he underwent heart surgery in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. 
 
“What can we say about that place? The staff were amazing. We just had world class expertise and care. The surgery was very successful. They told us we would need to be in for 10 days, we got out in nine.” 
 
Now four years old, little Steven loves going to Convoy Community Playgroup where he is having fun and meeting his milestones in his own time.
 
Although life is different for Judith and her family, she said she can’t imagine it without Steven. 
 
“We wouldn’t change Steven and I don’t say that lightly. He’s just one of us, he’s part of our family. Yes, Steven has Down Syndrome but it does not define him.
 
“Emily and Eleanor have been affected by Steven, but only in a positive way. We see them having a care and concern for people, especially for people who are a little bit different. I don’t think they would have had that to such an extent if Steven wasn’t part of our family. We also have Nathan now, our fourth child.” 
 
Judith revealed how poignantly when her own mother discovered she was pregnant with her at 43 years of age, she too was advised by her doctor to opt for an abortion.
 
“If my mother were of a different mind, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you today. My four children wouldn’t be here either.” 
 
Judith said she was shocked to learn that 90 per cent of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted in the UK. 
 
“In 1989 there were 318 children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb and of those 302 were aborted. Because screening and detection is better, in 2013 those figures rose to 1,232 diagnosed, of which a staggering 1,108 babies were aborted.  That says to me that if the Eighth Amendment is removed the greatest risk to the life of children with Down Syndrome isn’t going to be after birth, but is going to be before birth.”
 
Judith said women faced with crisis pregnancies need support and positive options. 
 
“People in our situation don’t need to be told there is an option for abortion because that says to me your child’s life is not important.”
 

Judith and Robert Tait with their children, Steven, Emily, Eleanor and Nathan.

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