Sunday 23 November 2014

C-Case mum: I grieve for my lost baby every day

Gemma O’Doherty talks to a woman who, almost 16 years on, seeks answers from the State about her abortion and the time she spent in care

Gemma O’Doherty with Mary (not her real name), the C-Case mother.

On a dark December day in 1997, Mary (not her real name) boarded a plane to England with a social worker and her foster mother.

Her 13-year-old body was gripped with nausea as she switched on her CD player and tried to sleep. A song that would become an emblem for the rest of her life began to play.

This week, almost 16 years later, Mary recalled the moment vividly as she sat in a Dublin hotel murmuring the words of the song in a poignant whisper.

"'I'm leaving on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again.' I'll never forget those lines. Part of me never did come back again after that. I didn't know that the next day my life was about to change forever."

Today, Mary is a 29-year-old mother of two, but 16 years ago she was the teenage Traveller at the centre of the controversial C Case who was taken to the UK for an abortion by health board staff after being brutally raped.

This was permitted by the High Court under the earlier X-Case ruling because the court heard that Mary was suicidal.

The abortion led to a spiral of depression and chaos in her life.

But today she has turned her life around. A bright, beautiful young woman with gleaming black hair and a smart dress sense, she lives in a perfectly kept house with her loving boyfriend and her two children.

Sipping a cappuccino as she speaks of the joy in her life now, she scrolls through pictures of her little boy and girl on her phone, her face beaming at each one.

Christmas, birthdays, family gatherings, but always in the back of her mind someone is missing.

Now Mary is seeking answers from the State. She has acquired a legal team and is waiting for her medical records to be released.

In the days after the rape, social workers arrived at Mary's caravan in north Dublin and took her away. She believed she would be home again in 24 hours.

She was taken to Mullingar and placed in foster care with another Traveller family. Slowly, the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months. Before long, she realised nobody was coming to take her home.

Around this time, she developed severe hunger pangs and frequent vomiting. She had no idea what was wrong until one day her foster mother took her to the local GP where she was asked for a urine sample.

"They gave me an injection, and when I woke up, the pain had gone. Eventually they told me the baby was dead."

In the days before her abortion, her parents had taken a legal action against the State in a bid to stop their daughter being taken to England. A psychiatrist for the Eastern Health Board insisted that Mary would kill herself if she did not have an abortion. The couple, however, failed in their action and the abortion went ahead.

Today, Mary has launched her own legal inquiries to find out why the abortion left her so badly damaged. She is also seeking answers as to why she was put into care after the abortion.

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