Friday 15 November 2019

'A place without abortion puts two lives in danger, not one' - Graham Linehan on wife's termination after fatal foetal diagnosis

Graham Linehan and wife Helen Credit: Youtube
Graham Linehan and wife Helen Credit: Youtube

David Kearns

Father Ted creator Graham Linehan and his wife have described their heart breaking experience of terminating a foetus with no chance of survival.

In an emotional video as part of Amnesty International‘s campaign to decriminalise abortion in Ireland, the Irish writer and director and his wife Helen talk about how the act could have led to prison had it taken place in this country.

Initially describing how excited they were to learn of the pregnancy in 2004, the couple explains during the 12th week scans revealed that the foetus had a condition called ‘acrania’ which means the flat bones over a baby’s brain have not formed.

“It has a 100pc mortality rate,” Mr Linehan says in the video.

“It was very traumatic sitting in a waiting room with heavily pregnant women, knowing that this little flutter in my tummy was not going to survive,” Ms Linehan explains.

Accompanied by her husband, she had an abortion three days later in a hospital near their home in London.

Helen Linehan Credit: Youtube
Helen Linehan Credit: Youtube

“It was terribly sad and devastating, but it was handled well,” she said.

“I just praise the treatment and the support we were given by the hospital because in other places it’s different.”

Some months later, the couple moved back to Ireland, where they discovered that, had they been living there during  the pregnancy, Ms Linehan would have been forced to carry the pregnancy to term, or face a 14-year prison sentence for procuring an illegal abortion.  

“I would have had to have gone full term knowing that this baby, going into shops and every day life, having a heavily pregnant body, people commenting: ‘oh, when are you due?’

“All that stuff. Going through labour, your body’s changed, knowing the baby’s not going to survive,” said Ms Linehan.

“All I wanted to do was get over that hurdle of what happened to us and move on and try again.

Graham linehan
Graham linehan

“It would have been life-changing. To endure the full-term pregnancy, and to come home empty-handed and with the physical changes that come with pregnancy – it would have been awful.”

The shock of that revelation prompted the couple to speak out about their experience for the first time, as part of a campaign by Amnesty to repeal the eight amendment.

“The fact that abortion is illegal in Ireland, even in cases where there is no chance for the foetus to survive, makes Ireland “a dangerous place to be pregnant,” says Mr Linehan.

“I don’t think it is safe for women in Ireland to be pregnant. Abortion is an important medical procedure and when that’s taken off the table, then you’re not safe. A place without abortion puts two lives in danger, not one.”

The writer of the television comedy series Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd goes on to say that despite being proud to call himself Irish, he is “thoroughly ashamed of the abortion laws”.

“It’s time Ireland grew up about [this]… Irish politicians need to treat it as the emergency that it is.”

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