Monday 22 October 2018

Parents of aborted baby: ‘It’s very hard for us not to be cynical’ about Varadkar’s claims

Amanda, James and fellow campaigner Amanda pictured with Justice Minister Fitzgerald (Photo: Facebook/TFMR Ireland)
Amanda, James and fellow campaigner Amanda pictured with Justice Minister Fitzgerald (Photo: Facebook/TFMR Ireland)
Leo Varadkar
Amanda Mellet: 'It's not easy to share our loss so publicly, and we wish we did not have to.'
Freya Drohan

Freya Drohan

A couple who made the heartbreaking decision to travel to the UK to obtain an abortion after a fatal fetal anomaly diagnosis said 'it is very hard' not be cynical about health minister Leo Varadkar's claims.

Speaking to Newstalk FM in the wake of Mr Varadkar’s move to put abortion on the agenda for the next general election, James Burke told Pat Kenny that, while he respects the minister's move, there has been enough talk and now it is time for action.

Read more: Varadkar: let's end moral civil war on issue of abortion

In May 2011, James’ wife Amanda Mellet discovered she was pregnant with the couple’s first child.

“We went for our 11 week scan and were told everything was okay,” James told Pat Kenny.

“It was at the 21 week scan that they discovered the baby’s heart was operation could have been done and she would have survived, but once we got the diagnosis of Edwards syndrome, we knew she would suffer and die in front of us when she was born.”

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

James and Amanda were told by a midwife at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, that couples in their situation routinely opt to 'travel' abroad, but gave no details about what this 'travel' would entail.

James said that he and Amanda felt that terminating the pregnancy was the most compassionate option. They went through an onerous process and Amanda’s pregnancy was safely terminated in the UK in December 2011.

Amanda had an adverse reaction to pain medication which left her weak, bleeding and faint on the flight home the following day.

James said Amanda's only follow-up appointment at Rotunda Hospital was a routine checkup with a midwife, and she never received an offer of post-abortion care or bereavement counseling from the hospital.

“Amanda was so upset, especially as an expectant first time mum,” he said.

“This is always something that will be with us, it made us grow up a lot and it was a very difficult decision.”

Amanda and James filed papers before the United Nations Human Rights Committee to hold Ireland accountable for the "inhumane and degrading way she was treated."

Her case was also backed by the Centre for Reproductive Rights and Terminations for Medical Reasons.

Read more: Woman attempting to bring Ireland to UN Human Rights Committee over abortion law

“We set up campaign and support group, and by meeting other couples we found great comfort in that. But nothing will take away from the fact that we should now have a three year old daughter," he continued. .

James confirmed that he had 'no regrets whatsoever' about their decision:

“The procedure was the best thing we could have done in our situation, the only regret I had was that I had to travel to another country.”

James and Amanda continue to campaign constantly, since establishing Terminations For Medical Reasons Ireland (TMFR).

TFMR Ireland is a group solely comprised of people who have had first hand experience of having to travel for a termination. The group urges the government to change legislation in Ireland to allow termination for medical reasons. 

“This is when we get busy again, when a Health Minister makes a statement like he did,” James confirmed.

Read more: Varadkar indicates he wants abortion referendum at some point in future.

“I respect the fact that he said it, but because this has been going on for so many’s very hard for us not to be cynical, we’ve had a lot of support but very little action.”

“I may respect it, but I know a few hours later a couple are getting that diagnosis and will still have to travel to England,” he said.

“Words don’t really matter or make a difference,” James concluded.

For more information about the campaign, visit

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