independent

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Abortion nightmare for cancer sufferer Michelle

POSITIVE RESPONSE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW ON RTE

FINTAN LAMBE

Published 28/12/2010 | 10:45

Ardamine resident Michelle Harte had to travel to England for an abortion while seriously ill with cancer.

ARDAMINE resident Michelle Harte, who last week told her heartbreaking story of how she had to travel to Britain for an abortion, despite being desperately ill with cancer, has said she has received lots of positive feedback since her interview.

Michelle (39) was interviewed by a national newspaper and on RTE's Morning Ireland, after she decided to tell her story in response to a recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights. The court had decided that Ireland had failed to give full effect to the constitutional right of allowing abortion in Ireland where the life of the mother is at risk.

Michelle has been fighting cancer since 2001. She told this newspaper last week that there had been a lot of positive feedback since her interview. A friend has also set up a Facebook site under her name to allow other women discuss the issues.

In her interview, Michelle explained how doctors at Cork University Hospital who were treating her for her cancer, had advised her to terminate the pregnancy, because of the risks to her health.

However, the hospital's ethics forum decided against allowing the abortion, saying her life was not under ' immediate threat.'

This decision had taken two weeks to be made, and it then took another three weeks for travel to be arranged to London.

' The pregnancy was discovered at the end of May, and I went to England at the end of July,' said Michelle. 'I hadn't even considered I would have to travel.' She said that a passport had to be arranged, as well as flights.

Getting to London proved very stressful, as she was very ill. She had to be helped on to the aircraft due to her deteriorating condition. Her partner Neil Doolan (28) from Monageer recalled how she was very week, nauseous, and vomiting.

She decided to speak out, after reading about the European Court of Human Rights judgement. ' I had been thinking about it since the abortion,' she said. 'But obviously I was so sick at the time, I didn't have it in me. When I read the article, that brought it home to me that other women were coming up against these barriers.' She said she wanted to ensure no other woman would have to experience what she went through.

She said her symptoms are more stable now, but unfortunately fresh scans taken after the trip to London, have shown the cancer has become much more aggressive, and has spread to her brain. She had not been able to receive cancer treatment during her pregnancy.

Michelle, a mother of one, is a former London nurse, and moved to Ardamine five years ago. She said the treatment she had received in the hospital in Cork had been 'absolutely top mark.'

'My life has been absolutely amazing over here,' she said. 'I love Ireland. We always came to Courtown on my family holidays, and there's an attachment you would have to those childhood memories. All my family are in Ireland now. I was the last one to make the move.'

She said she is hopeful that her story will help speed up a change in the law. She said that going ahead with the pregnancy, and not being able to have scans or further treatment, would ' have been going into no man's land.'

'I was very weak during the early weeks of the pregnancy,' she said. 'Symptom wise, I'm quite stable now, well controlled. It's all you can ask for at this stage.'

She said her partner Neil has been 'absolutely amazing. 'I wouldn't have gotten through it without him,' she said.

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