No side accused of disrespecting women who travel for abortion
‘We are real people not just hard cases to be dismissed or debated in an abstract way’
Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr Rhona Mahony at Together for Yes HQ, Upper Mount Street, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
The No side in the Eighth Amendment debate has been accused of being callous towards Irish women who have had to have abortions abroad.
A group of women who had to have abortions abroad due to the Eighth Amendment attended a Together for Yes launch of ‘No Way to Live’, an eight-minute video featuring Irish women whose pregnancies were terminated in the UK following a fatal foetal abnormality disgnosis.
“In the last few days the No side have been dismissive and callous about our actual experiences. The No side have casually dissed the thousands of Irish women and families who have had to travel because our country has abandoned us,” said Siobhán Donoghue.
“We are real people not just hard cases to be dismissed or debated in an abstract way. We are bereaved parents, we are all over Ireland and we appeal to you to listen to us; our real life experiences,” said Julie O’Donnell.
“We have all experienced the stigma and shame of having to travel to another jurisdiction for help,” said Aoife Lowry. “We have sat beside shoppers, hen parties, tourists, businessmen, with no luggage, on the day trip from hell. And then we have returned to live in silence.”
Jennifer Ryan said that “to compound the insult, we are lucky to have a funeral in another country or we are asked to conceal our beloved babies on our secret journey home. This is our lived reality. ”
They had “watched our doctors in disbelief”as “they tell us their hands are tied and they cannot help us anymore,” said Arlette Lyons.
Every single day a couple in Ireland heard the news “that everyone dreads to hear,” said Amy Walsh. “Then they experience the loneliness and abandonment as they, just like we had to, grasp for snippets of information before finding solace and care in another country.”
Gaye Edwards pointed out that “we’re not an abstract concept. I’m neighbour to lots of people, I’m mum to four kids, all of whom go school. We’re all around you and I don’t think it’s a good thing to require people to speak out, but when we do please listen.We have real lived experiences and I think it can inform the debate.”
Caroline McCarthy appealed to the Irish people to vote Yes on May 25th to “end the cruelty.”
The Eighth Amendment had not stopped termination of pregnancy where Irish women were concerned, “it has just made it more dangerous,” said Dr Rhona Mahony.
As Master of the National Maternity Hospital at Dublin’s Holles Street, she had already delivered a baby this morning, she said. “I’m always told that no one has been locked up because of the Eighth amendment but 5,000 women are locked out of our health care system every year because of the Eighth amendment,” she said.
“This is not about a debate, this is about real life. We can have ideology, we can have philosophy, we can have religion but at the end of the day we are faced with real life,” she said. “When you criminalise termination of pregnancy you don’t prevent it, you just make it more dangerous,” she said.
Sinn Feín leader Mary Lou McDonald described the video as “absolutely heartbreaking. But it’s also very illuminating because you see when all of the din and the noise subsides this is the reality of it. These aren’t hard cases, these aren’t exceptional stories, this is the reality of what the Eighth amendment has meant for these families.”
Those that said families such as those in the video “can be catered for within the confines of the amendment are wrong. They’re being deliberately misleading,” she said.
Ailbhe Smith, co-director of the Together For Yes, said “we can do nothing for these people, these families, these women, until we remove the Eighth amendment from the Constitution.”
Commenting on the Claire Byrne Live programme last Monday night, in which she took part, Ms Mcdonald said “it was a matter of great disappointment that families who have experience the awful trauma of a diagnosis of fatal foetal anomaly and who had to make that heartbreaking journey didn’t get an opportunity to speak.”
She added: “This isn’t about winning a debate. This isn’t about who can outwit or even outshout somebody in a television studio. This is about doing the right thing. It’s as fundamental as that. This isn’t about noise, it’s not about sensationalism, this is about truth, it’s about real lived experiences.”
On the latest opinion poll in The Irish Times, which indicated support for the No side was growing, she said she was “notoriously sceptical, in fact to the point of allergy, about opinion polls of any sort.”