Martin Ferris speaks of birth of grandchild who lived for 58 minutes
Danny Healy-Rae: Aborted foetus brought from UK in boot of car ‘did not feel very loved’
The Dáil will vote on Wednesday on the second stage of legislation to allow a referendum on abortion take place.
Debate on the Thirty Second Amendment of the Constitution Bill concluded after six-and-a-half hours of debate at 11.30pm on Tuesday and following discussion for a similar length of time two weeks’ ago before the St Patrick’s week recess.
During the debate Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris spoke about the birth of his first grandchild, who survived for just 58 minutes.
Her parents took a chance to continue with the pregnancy, even though they were told the baby would not have any independent life. They were also warned the baby could die in the womb, and the possible consequences were outlined.
In an emotional speech, Mr Ferris said: “They took a decision to persevere in the hope that nothing would happen my daughter-in-law”.
He said that in 2001 his son and daughter-in-law were expecting their first child, but four or five months into the pregnancy they were told their baby would not have any independent life.
“Five months into the pregnancy they were told their child would not have any independent life, that the brain of the baby in the womb had not developed and was not going to develop and may not survive birth and if it did survive birth it would not be for very long,” he said.
“The suggestion was made that they could go for early inducement or they could seek a termination outside the country,” he added.
He said they came to him and his wife for guidance. “Would they seek the termination in order to protect the life of the mother or would they take a chance and see the pregnancy out?
“But there was no doubt whatsoever the child would not survive. They took a decision to persevere in the hope that nothing would happen to my daughter in law,” Mr Ferris said.
The baby, Seoidín, was born in early 2002, just over seven and a half months into the pregnancy, after being induced, “and the baby lived 58 minutes and died in her arms. We were all there. I will never forget it, because if it went the other way the four children they’ve had since would not be in this world.
“So I consider them very fortunate and very lucky insofar as it could have gone terribly wrong. And maybe if an abortion facility was available in this county at the time it might have been different.”
Mr Ferris said he heard the woman interviewed on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland who was in a very similar position to his daughter-in-law.
Mr Ferris said that after listening to that interview and the trauma the woman suffered, “any doubts I had were wiped away” that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed and the Oireachtas allowed to legislate.
“Because we, as legislators, have failed that woman, we have failed the 3,500 people who go each year. We have failed the eight or 9,000 people who get abortion pills on an annual basis.
“I think we have to do the right thing, I think we have to support repeal and debate what will follow and give power to the legislators to do their job. That’s what they are elected for.”
His party colleague Carol Nolan said, however, she believed deletion of the right to life of the unborn would be a “very regretful step and one which we as a society will live to regret”.
‘Basic fundamental right’
She said: “Every child has the basic fundamental right to life and that right is not negotiable” and Ireland should not “repeat or replicate the mistakes of England and other countries where abortion has been normalised”.
Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said Irish society had come “full circle” from showing compassion and removing capital punishment from the Constitution and preserving “the sanctity of human life”, to removing that sanctity for unborn children.
Mr Fleming objected to allowing the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion. “I don’t believe matters of life and death should be solely in the hands of TDs,” he said.
Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae said it was his duty as an elected member of the House to speak for unborn babies who had a right to continue their journey into this world.
Mr Healy-Rae said he had heard Minister for Health Simon Harris say on radio it was terrible to think a mother was coming home from the UK after a termination “with their loved one in the boot of a car’’.
“I don’t know what you meant, Minister, but I surely do know that the little dead baby did not feel very loved and it would make not a difference whether the baby was in the boot of the car in London or the north of Ireland or the south of Ireland,’’ he added.
“The unborn baby was dead at that stage anyway.’’
He said he was very hurt when he heard the Minister say something like that.
“I believe only God decides when a life should end,’’ he said.
He said there should be support for women with crisis pregnancies.
If they could not manage to rear their babies, there were couples who would love to adopt a child, he added.
He said he saw so many members of the House supporting abortion, and the unborn baby would not stand a chance in the future if the amendment was repealed.
“What about all the contraceptive methods, the morning after pills?’’ he added. “I mean, the last thing we should be talking about is getting rid of the little unborn baby.’’
At the conclusion of the debate, Minister for Health Simon Harris praised its tone, adding that it had been conducted by professional politicians grappling with a complex issue.
“What really struck me tonight is that people with whom I fundamentally disagree with on this issue, and they with me, were grappling to do the right thing,’’ he added.
He paid tribute to the contribution of Mr Ferris, who had shared a family experience. He said Mr Ferris had brought humanity to the debate.