‘It was the first time I could breathe since I lost my daughter’

Campaigners for terminations for medical reasons overwhelmed by landslide vote

Siobhán Donohue, Amy Walsh, Aoife Lowry, Gaye Edwards and Caroline McCarthy of Terminations for Medical Reasons, and master of the National Maternity Hospital Rhona Mahony. Photograph: Maxwell

Siobhán Donohue, Amy Walsh, Aoife Lowry, Gaye Edwards and Caroline McCarthy of Terminations for Medical Reasons, and master of the National Maternity Hospital Rhona Mahony. Photograph: Maxwell

 

Couples who suffer a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormalities during pregnancy will “no longer be kicked out of their country” after the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, their representative group has said.

Members of the Terminations for Medical Reasons Ireland spoke emotionally at a Dublin count centre about the great relief they felt at the victory in the referendum removing the constitutional ban on abortion.

“I felt like that it was the first time I could breathe since I got my diagnosis that I lost my daughter. I think we all felt like that,” said Amy Walsh, whose daughter Rose was stillborn at Liverpool’s Women Hospital after a fatal diagnosis.

The group, which assists parents who have received diagnoses of fatal or severe abnormalities during pregnancies, has been campaigning for six years for changes to Irish law to allow them to be treated at home.

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“While nobody can ever change the devastation that a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality brings, now Ireland can work towards changing how these couples are treated,” Ms Walsh told reporters. “For those who make that heart-breaking decision to end their pregnancy, they will no longer be kicked out of their country and made feel like criminals for their difficult choices.”

Personal stories

The group addressed the media at the RDS count centre as results came in showing the Yes side securing a resounding victory paving the way for the legalisation of abortion.

Exit polls show that the individual stories of people affected by the Eighth Amendment prohibiting the termination of pregnancy was a factor in a large number of people voting to repeal.

“Telling our stories over the last six years has been emotional and draining but it was the burden that the Eighth added to our trauma and pain that galvanised every single one of us to relentlessly fight to stop any more women, couples and families suffering in the way we have all done,” said Arlette Lyons.

Another group member, Siobhán Donohue, said the result was “just the beginning” and further work was needed to ensure legislation is in place “to make sure people can access care when and where they need it.”

“The overwhelming support shown by the people of Ireland gives us the strength and the resolve to pursue provision of compassionate care. Removing the Eighth is a first step but what a step,” she said.