First draft of Walsh report criticised


A GROUP representing women who had symphysiotomies said it would not co-operate with a Government report on the issue. Its members say they will run their own consultation process.

About 150 women who had the procedure, as well as family members, went to a meeting of Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) in Dublin yesterday and discussed the first draft of the “Walsh report”.

The report by Prof Oonagh Walsh of UCC, commissioned by the Government, into the use of symphysiotomies on women in labour between the 1940s and 1980s in Ireland, was published last week.

The procedure involves cutting the cartilage that binds a woman’s pubic bone in half to open the birth canal, in theory making the baby’s passage easier.

The Walsh report finds the procedure was used at a time when Caesarean sections were regarded as a safer option for women experiencing difficulties in labour.

It found that its use was heavily influenced by the Catholic ban on contraception. Following a Caesarean a woman is advised to have no more than two more pregnancies, limiting the number of children she could have.

The procedure permanently injured many of the women, who have ongoing back pain, incontinence and difficulty walking.

At the meeting the report was heavily criticised, especially conclusions that symphysiotomies had been considered appropriate in emergencies and that many of the women were physically unfit.

Prof Walsh said she is willing to hear people’s views in a supportive environment and has organised meetings (details on 045 880 400).