Friday 19 January 2018

Reilly offered support – and then washed his hands of these women

THE small group of women sitting in the Dail's public gallery stood up as Independent deputy John Halligan brought them to the attention of the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions.

They were, explained the Waterford TD, from the Termination for Medical Reasons campaign (TFMR), which seeks to have the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill amended to include provision for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

"These women found themselves being told in heartbreaking fashion that they were carrying a baby who would live for just seconds or minutes outside the womb," explained Mr Halligan.

"They faced a crisis of conscience; whether to continue with their doomed pregnancy – only to watch their baby die in their arms after taking its first breath – or to end the pregnancy."

Among the women was Gaye Edwards, who had her own personal tragedy 12 years ago when her 20-week old foetus was diagnosed with the neural defect anencephaly.

She and her husband took two weeks to seek further medical opinions and to consider their options before travelling to a UK hospital.

"I delivered my baby through the normal process," she said. "They treated him with dignity and treated me like a mother. They washed him and dressed him and put him in a little Moses basket and brought him to us. And when we had to leave him, they looked after the arrangements for his cremation."

Gaye believes the legislation should take into account the tragic circumstances of a non-viable pregnancy.

"It is a decision which has to be available when a terrible thing happens to women during pregnancy," she said.

At the press conference, Sarah McGuinness of TFMR said they had received pledges of support from the Health Minister at a meeting with him last June.

"We left, maybe naively, very hopeful," she said. "He offered his support and said he'd keep in contact with us, but there has been no follow-up, we're saddened to say."

However, a spokesman for the minister said that he had recently consulted the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan on the issue.

Last month, Dr Reilly said: "I've been advised by my department that under the current Constitution, it would be extremely difficult to accommodate a need for that under the current legislation".

Mr Halligan remains hopeful. Did he think he was pursing a lost cause? "No, we are committed to this. The battle lines are drawn."

Irish Independent

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