The woman at the centre of the ‘Miss D’ case in 2007 has said she is “enraged” and “hurt deeply” that women with fatal foetal abnormality diagnoses still have to leave Ireland for abortions.
Amy Dunne was 16 and in State care when she became pregnant. She found out her baby had anencephaly — a fatal condition where parts of the baby’s skull are missing — on her 17th birthday.
Speaking at an event on Wednesday to mark the fourth anniversary of the repeal of the 8th amendment, she said that within moments of telling her social worker she wanted to terminate her pregnancy, she was threatened with a murder charge and told that both the Garda and the passport office would be informed she was not permitted to travel for an abortion.
“I was to carry this pregnancy to the end without any empathy or consideration for my mental health,” said Ms Dunne. In May 2007, the High Court ruled she was legally entitled to travel for an abortion.
Wednesday’s event, hosted by the National Women’s Council (NWC), heard despite that 2018 legislation permitting abortion on request up to 12 weeks, many women still faced barriers. These include a mandatory three-day waiting period between requesting an abortion and receiving abortifacient medication; geographical inconsistencies in availability of GPs providing abortion services; and, for women with a diagnosis of a foetal abnormality, two doctors must agree her baby would die within 28 days of birth for it to be deemed fatal. Where there was a doubt over how long the baby would live after birth, the woman must still travel after 12 weeks.
Ms Dunne said the traumas she experienced were “lifelong”.
“The most difficult part was to leave my baby in Liverpool. No time to see my daughter’s face, no time to sober up after the medication that was needed in my 16-hour labour — just crawling on to a plane, heavily bleeding and trying to hide the shame and hurt while picturing my daughter in a room in a different country.
“All these years later, I still have traumas and these are lifelong. I have contacted undertakers and hospitals, even after 15 years, trying to find out what my baby looked like. I’ve contemplated digging her up many times just to try to get the time that wasn’t given to me.
“It hurts deeply to know, like my story, many are still living through this ordeal. I am speaking out today because I want to help ensure that no woman has to travel abroad for basic healthcare that she should be able to receive at home . . . What’s still happening today is not what people voted for four years ago.”
Dr Marion Dyer, a GP based in Blanchardstown, Dublin, said when she listened to Ms Dunne all she could think was, “Ireland, you are so cruel to women”.
“What I hear being described by Amy meets the definition of torture,” she said.
The NWC published data showing just one in 10 GPs offer abortion services, and just 11 of the 19 maternity units or hospitals in Ireland provide abortion services.
The 2018 Act is currently being reviewed. Among changes needed, says the NWC, are extending the current 12-week limit to abortion on request, removal of the three-day wait time, decriminalisation, and broadening the definition of fatal foetal abnormality .