Friday 15 December 2017

'We will have this on our conscience for the rest of our lives'

Emotional: Fiona Whyte and Séan Malone with their twin babies, Ruby and Donal. Photo: John Kelly
Emotional: Fiona Whyte and Séan Malone with their twin babies, Ruby and Donal. Photo: John Kelly

RTÉ's surrogacy documentary, Her Body, Our Babies, whipped up huge controversy when it was aired on Monday. Perhaps wisely, the woman at the centre of the programme, Fiona Whyte, did her best to avoid the vitriol directed towards her and husband Seán on social media that night.

"We know it would upset some people," she told Weekend Review two days later. "But surrogacy is an option that more and more Irish couples are taking and we wanted to show what the reality is like."

The couple from Milltown Malbay, Co Clare, who are in their 50s, paid an Indian clinic €25,000 to arrange for a Mumbai woman to become a surrogate mother for them. In its most contentious moment, the programme showed Fiona and Seán asking to have three embryos implanted despite being told that should three viable foetuses be produced, it was the clinic's policy to terminate one of them. That is exactly what happened and a euphemistically termed "foetal reduction" procedure was carried out.

"It is something we will have on our conscience for the rest of our lives," Fiona says. "It is very emotional for me to talk about, especially when we look at Donal and Ruby and think of a third baby.

"We had been trying to have children together for so long but nothing worked -- not IVF, not adoption -- so we never really thought it was possible that all three embryos would be successful.

It was our last shot -- we just didn't have the money to try again if this surrogacy attempt failed. In fact, our life savings are wiped out and we've had to borrow money. We just hope people will look with compassion at the dilemma we faced."

The twins are now 14-weeks-old and Fiona says they have made her and Seán's life complete -- despite the fact that she has no biological or legal rights to the children. "There's a complete lack of regulation for surrogacy in this country," she says, "and that has to be addressed. There's no point living in denial -- surrogacy is happening and it's happening because people who could be great parents desperately want a family together."

Irish Independent

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