Tuesday 26 September 2017

'I’ve been called a murderer, Hitler' - Woman who travelled to the UK for abortion calls for an end to stigma

A woman forced to travel to the UK for a late-term abortion, said Ireland is wrong to “trap” women into carrying foetus’ with fatal conditions (Stock picture)
A woman forced to travel to the UK for a late-term abortion, said Ireland is wrong to “trap” women into carrying foetus’ with fatal conditions (Stock picture)

Laura Lynott

A woman forced to travel to the UK for a late-term abortion, said Ireland is wrong to “trap” women into carrying foetus’ with fatal conditions and has called for an end to the stigma.

The woman said she’d “skipped” excitedly to her 12-week ultrasound scan, before hearing the horrific news her foetus was unlikely to survive birth.  She was one of six women who spoke on anonymous recordings made for the Citizens’ Assembly.

Each emotional story was played for the 99 members, giving insight into the traumatic journey thousands of Irish women take each year to the UK to seek abortions for varying reasons.

“I remember skipping into the midwife,” the woman said. “She said the baby was quiet and not moving, that some of my blood results were worrying her.  A doctor said they’d never seen a baby like ours live past 17 weeks and I’d most likely have a miscarriage."

The mother-of-one, desperate to have her impossible little girl, kept returning to the doctor, to see if there was any hope the baby could survive.

“And every time he told me she would pass away,” the woman said.

“By 18 weeks, we got the results which confirmed she had a complete extra set of chromosomes and that variant was fatal. There was no hope.

“When I was 24 weeks pregnant, I was thinking how can I still be pregnant when my baby is going to pass away?

“Walking into the hospital you’d see everyone else with bumps and carrying these car seats with their babies and I realised I’d never leave hospital with my baby in a car seat.

“My baby would be leaving in a coffin.”

The mother said because of the current restriction to abortion in Ireland, she was forced to continue an unviable pregnancy.

And though her blood pressure shot up and she began to show signs of preeclampsia, a potentially-life threatening condition, she was not assisted or given any practical advice to help her.

“It made me feel I didn’t matter, my life was the same as a non-viable baby,” she said.

“They (the doctors) were prepared to let my physical and mental health deteriorate at any cost for a baby that wouldn’t live.

“I had this dying baby inside me but I was dying as well and neither of us were getting looked after.”

The woman and her partner consulted a hospital in Liverpool who said they didn’t believe “it was fair” to “force” her to continue the pregnancy. 

Medics there explained even if the foetus survived birth, the baby could “have a fit and die instantly and it would be painful,” she said.  

“In their medical opinion it was kinder to put the baby to sleep and she wouldn’t feel any pain and they’d induce labour.

“It was the first time I felt letting it (the birth) happen wasn’t the best way.   As a parent if I went abroad to have an abortion, it was caring for my daughter.”

The mother said a huge part of the problem for women is they can’t access the best medical advice in Ireland because doctors are restricted on what they can say by the Eighth Amendment.

She and her partner travelled to Liverpool where they were greeted by a “kind” medical team who “cared” and carried out the termination at a very late stage.

But even after, the woman couldn’t grieve properly because she had to wait weeks for her baby’s ashes to be returned to Ireland for a memorial service.

“I was frightened, I didn’t want to lie and tell people I miscarried or had a stillbirth, I loved her so much,” she said.

“I didn’t want her to be seen as an unwanted baby.  

“I remember telling my daughter I was sorry, that I wasn’t strong enough to continue with the pregnancy.

“I was so sorry she didn’t meet her grandparents and sister but I was concerned the pregnancy was putting my physical and mental health at risk.

“I didn’t think my home would abandon me like that.  I still miss her and wish we could have had her but I’m so grateful now I have a happy one-year-old but the thought of getting pregnant again fills me with fear and could put my life in danger.

“I know what being trapped in a pregnancy feels like.

“I don’t think it’s right to force any woman to continue with a pregnancy if they feel they can’t.”

Another mother-of-two told how she’d travelled to the UK for an abortion, after she’d suffered mental health problems, as a result of a street attack.

She said she knew after suffering a nervous breakdown, she was in no position to have another child after the crisis pregnancy to her partner.

The couple were forced to go to a loan shark to afford travel to the UK and for the fee for a termination.

And despite doing what she felt was right for her two children, she was vilified by those who knew she’d had an abortion.

“I knew I’d made the right decision but there was still a weird shame,” she said.

“I’ve been called a murderer, Hitler.  Terrible things have been said to me. I’m not a  murderer...I made the right decision for my family.”

The woman said it was time Ireland stopped stigmatising women who seek abortions, adding:  “We aren’t ogres, or unclean, we’re your sisters, mothers, nieces. We are every woman.

“Enough is enough, we need to take this shame and stigma away.”

Another woman told how she’d carried a baby to full-term despite being told the infant would die upon birth.

“When he was finally born in our arms, he was so beautiful, so perfect and imperfect,” the woman said.  

“I remember gazing upon him wanting him to be whole and utterly loving him as he was, and  telling him we loved him.

“When he died, he slipped away quietly. I’d been there for him, seen him and met him and been bowled over by the beauty of who has.

“ I can’t imagine what it would be like if abortion was available … I might have lost my son within a week (of pregnancy.)

“I hope babies continue to be valued by the law and from the nation.”

The Assembly gave a round of applause in tribute those who’d re-lived traumatic experiences in order to help them make the best decision for Irish women in respect of abortion legislation.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News