Protect the unborn

The Tánaiste has said he does not believe that maintaining the status quo and the Eighth Amendment is the right thing to do.

However, Simon Coveney says he does not believe that there should be no protection in law for the unborn child.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Mr Coveney said the Government is united in its approach to repealing the amendment, but there are differing views on the legislation that should replace it, which is a good thing.

Mr Coveney said the State’s number one priority must be to protect women in pregnancy.

Despite this, he added that he also believes the State needs to protect the unborn child and he does not support unrestricted access to terminations during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Mr Coveney said he supported recommendations by the all-party Oireachtas committee that terminations, post 12 weeks, should be allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and cases of rape and incest.

Referring to rape cases, he said that he believed one doctor should be able to sanction an abortion after a consultation with the woman.

He said people are trying to polarise the debate but in his view, the majority of people in Ireland recognise the need for constitutional and legislative change, and he believes he represented the middle ground that many people favour.

Mr Coveney said his views have changed and moved over the last number of months and, as a politician, he cannot stand over sending vulnerable women in crisis pregnancy overseas.

The only way to do this, he said, was to change the constitution and he wanted to be part of that process.

He said that he hopes a balanced legislation can be reached that he will be able to support.

Mr Coveney said any adult or child with Down syndrome should not be abused as part of the debate.
Mothers-to-be can limit the risk of hearing loss in their unborn babies. When damage does occur, newborn hearing screening can ensure early intervention and support.

The ear is a complicated organ, mainly developing before birth. The hearing of the unborn child is vulnerable to a number of factors, making hearing loss the most common birth defect. Three-four newborns in every 1,000 are born with hearing damage. In about half of these the causes are genetic predisposition.

Expectant mothers can take a variety of precautions to minimise the risk of non-genetic hearing loss in their unborn children.

  • Frequent hand washing protects against infections with cytomegalovirus, a common herpes virus. When transmitted from mother to child in the first three months of pregnancy, this virus may cause hearing loss in the child.
  • Stopping smoking and avoiding second hand cigarette smoke is another important precaution. Smoking may adversely affect the developing cochlea.
  • Excessive noise should be avoided, as well. Noise can damage the hearing of the child before birth.

Hearing screening

Many countries have instituted universal hearing screening of newborns in the last couple of decades. Early intervention is beneficial for the children’s speech, as well as their educational, social and emotional development, according to numerous studies.

It is of great importance that parents disclose all relevant information prior to the screening.

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