Why closure of clinic a triumph
Saying goodbye to the Cork Family Planning clinic are, left, Angela Hill, company secretary, and Mary Cummins, managing director.
The Cork Family Planning Clinic, outrun by its own success, closed its doors to a grateful public in October, writes MARY LELAND
The label on my plastic folder says, “Family Planning Clinic 1975. Etc.” Sifting through the file, I find a clipping from The Irish Times of February 1975. It refers to the Cork Family Planning Clinic’s first premises at 8 Tuckey Street and to the statement by the then Catholic bishop Dr Cornelius Lucey, warning congregations throughout Cork that the doctor running the new service was “not a Catholic”.
Commenting on Dr Lucey’s admonitions, Donal Musgrave wrote: “The basic difference between the new clinic and the old marriage guidance centre is that Dr Lucey exercised a very strong influence over the latter, whereas he has no power in Tuckey Street.
“The test will be whether the need for a family planning service independent of any of the churches is stronger than the bishop’s edict to his flock and whether Dr Lucey’s rule is still absolute in Cork. One way or another, he has succeeded in putting the clinic on the map.”
And on the map it stayed until October 2012. Then, the Cork Family Planning Clinic, outrun by its own success, closed its doors to a public it has ensured can avail of reproductive health services elsewhere and easily.
Response to demand
That was the ambition of those first steps in Tuckey Street when the now retired obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Edgar Ritchie, psychiatrist Dr Anne Schofield, the late Máirín Morrish and a small group of GPs and other supporters began the work of supplying response to a very obvious demand in the city.
In many ways, this was a humanitarian response; the practitioners were dealing with contraceptive requirements and restrictions all the time, their patients often afraid both of their husbands and of the church.
However, within a short time of opening, the husbands began to attend the clinic as well, and although up to the final weeks a prayer group kept vigil across the street from the premises, even the church has diverted its attention to other issues.
“The average family size in Ireland in the 1970s was seven children,” remembers Mary Cummins, the clinic’s managing director. “The clinic made such a difference in the last four decades to women in Munster and all our ancillary activities have been developed here to the highest professional standards. We have provided contraceptive training to more than a thousand nurses and have also been part of the family planning training module for UCC’s nursing faculty, as well as tutoring graduates up to MSc level.’