Eighth ‘prevents me from providing complete pregnancy care’

Doctor says two women travel for abortions weekly after foetal abnormality diagnosis


Two women a week have to travel abroad as a result of the Eighth Amendment to terminate a pregnancy after receiving a diagnosis of a complex foetal abnormality, a consultant in obstetrics and maternal foetal medicine has said.

Dr Jennifer Donnelly, from the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, said the amendment, a constitutional provision which guarantees the mother and unborn an equal right to life, “prevents me from providing complete pregnancy care to women and their families”.

“Over 50 per cent of women in Ireland who receive a diagnosis of a complex foetal abnormality in Dublin or Cork will travel to the UK or further afield to have a termination of a much-wanted pregnancy,” she said at a Together for Yes campaign event.

“These are for conditions such as Edwards syndrome, renal agenesis or anencephaly. These are women who I, and other doctors like me, can’t give complete medical care to at one of the most vulnerable times of their life.”

Together for Yes said the figures being cited were were from the Dublin maternity hospitals’ annual clinical reports and Cork Maternity University Hospital clinical report.

Dr Donnelly said every week she had to break news to women that the baby they were carrying had “complex problems” that were going to have a serious affect on their lives and in some cases this will result in “death before its birth or shortly after”.

‘Never easy’

“Some women and families when faced with this devastating news make a very difficult decision not to continue their pregnancy to full term. This decision is never easy or straightforward,” she said. “Many people assume that as their anomalies are fatal, that they won’t have to travel abroad to end their pregnancies early but this is not possible. I have to tell them they must and I can’t help them here.

“I can provide them with information and inform them they are free to travel to the UK or other countries to end their pregnancies early.”

Jane Dalrymple, clinical midwife specialist in foetal medicine at the Rotunda Hospital, said that prior to the Christmas period the hospital had to reduce the number of women it recommended to Liverpool Women’s Hospital due to staff shortages. She said she was informed in recent weeks it can again refer patients to the hospital.

Dr Siobhán Donohue, national chair of the Terminations for Medical Reasons support group, said during her third pregnancy her baby was diagnosed with anencephaly.

‘Shamrock Suite’

She travelled to Liverpool Women’s Hospital where she was told there was a room nicknamed “the Shamrock Suite” as “that many Irish women have been in it”.

Amy Walsh (36), from Dublin, said her baby was diagnosed with triploidy during her first pregnancy.

Ms Walsh said she decided to travel to Liverpool Women’s Hospital as “we felt that allowing my daughter to pass away peacefully in Liverpool would save her from being what would be a very traumatic labour and birth if my pregnancy continued to full term”.

“I rang Liverpool Women’s Hospital to speak to the specialist midwife who looked after Irish women with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality in pregnancy. She told me I was the 10th Irish woman on the phone to her that morning, it was only 9.30am,” she said. “I could not believe there was so many of us, so many of us who were abandoned by our country in our time of greatest need turning to Liverpool for help.”