Mother speaks of daughter’s experience of taking abortion pills

Together for Yes event hears how woman’s daughter was to avoid pregnancy due to illness

Noel Whelan, Elaine Bedford, Mary Lou McDonald and Ailbhe Smyth at a Together For Yes press conference in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Noel Whelan, Elaine Bedford, Mary Lou McDonald and Ailbhe Smyth at a Together For Yes press conference in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

A mother whose daughter took abortion pills at home in Ireland has spoken out ahead of Friday’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Elaine Bedford said her daughter Kate had ordered the pills when she became pregnant just months after being seriously ill in hospital.

She said Kate, who was 25 when she took the pills two years ago, had type-one diabetes and polycystic ovaries and had been told by doctors never to have an unplanned pregnancy, but had fallen pregnant despite taking the contraceptive pill.

Speaking at a Together for Yes press conference in Dublin on Wednesday, Ms Bedford said she had been in work when her daughter had taken the pills but had gone home after her daughter messaged her about it.

“I got home, she was in agony,” she said.

Ms Bedford said she had wanted to call a doctor but her daughter told her not to.

“This went on for hours – it felt like days. I couldn’t do anything. I was watching her blood sugars. It was just heartbreaking. It’s not something I want any mother in this country to ever have to witness,” she said.

“I can’t stand back, at this stage, and let any woman look at that fear in her daughter’s eyes.”

Ms Bedford said her daughter got married last week and was now planning to have a baby.

“She really wants a child but she wants it to be born healthy. She has every right to want that for her child.”

Friday’s referendum will ask voters whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits abortion.

Looming large

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who joined Ms Bedford at the press conference, said the issue of abortion pills had “loomed large” during the referendum campaign.

“I think for lots of people it came as news maybe that such pills were available, that they were being imported, that they were being consumed by women and girls with absolutely no medical supervision whatsoever, in secrecy, in silence and with a fear of potential criminal sanction,” Ms McDonald said.

“I think today by Elaine telling her story, Kate’s story, it actually makes that situation all the more real.

“This is the reality. This is another harsh, cruel reality of the Eighth Amendment and on Friday we will have a big opportunity to put that right.”

Barrister and Irish Times contributor Noel Whelan said he had defended people in court who faced 10- or 12-year sentences for “heinous” offences.

“It is absurd in our law that an even greater sentence is provided for the crime in our law that . . . Kate is guilty of, and Elaine as an accessory.”

He said getting rid of that absurdity required a Yes vote on Friday.

He added that, as a matter of law, nothing could be done about the “hard cases” such as Kate and Elaine’s unless those lines in the Constitution were deleted and politicians were given the power to change the laws.

Asked about Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín arguing for the No side in the referendum debate on RTÉ on Tuesday night, Ms McDonald said he had not been representing the party.

“Sinn Féin is for repeal. I am here representing Sinn Féin. Peadar wasn’t representing Sinn Féin; Peadar was speaking for Peadar. So any questions or queries or observations on his performance, good, bad or indifferent, need to be put to him.” – Additional reporting: PA

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