Breda O’Brien: How many other Baby Christophers are there?

Christopher was aborted on grounds of fatal foetal abnormality, although perfectly healthy

Christopher’s parents want to know where the tragedy of their son appears in the abortion figures. File photograph: Getty Images

Christopher’s parents want to know where the tragedy of their son appears in the abortion figures. File photograph: Getty Images

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Where is Baby Christopher to be found in the bleak statistics of 6,666 Irish abortions? Baby Christopher’s life was terminated in March 2019. He was his parents’ first child. The scan was normal. His parents say they had not planned to have a non-invasive prenatal test for abnormalities, but when offered one by Merrion Fetal Health, accepted it. The prenatal test showed a genetic abnormality which was interpreted by their doctor as being a fatal foetal abnormality.

His parents are adamant that they would have continued with the pregnancy if it were at all viable. It is alleged his parents were told that there was no hope and no point waiting for results of definitive genetic testing ordered by the hospital. The termination went ahead in Holles Street.

His parents say that after the test results came back no one had the simple, human kindness to tell them personally that Christopher was actually a completely healthy little boy. They had found it out themselves from reading the test results.

An independent investigative review of the circumstances surrounding the abortion has yet to commence  work.*

In the meantime Christopher’s parents want to know where the tragedy of their son appears in the abortion figures. There are 100 cases counted under section 11 of the Termination of Pregnancy Act which covers life-limiting conditions likely to result in death before birth or within 28 days after.

Christopher does not belong in section 11 because he did not have a life-limiting condition. If he was counted in this section, is he not even worth an asterisk, pointing out that although the abortion was carried out on this ground, that it should not have been?

How many of these 100 terminations took place without waiting for more accurate testing? If so, how many of these alleged fatal foetal abnormalities were definitively confirmed by biopsy of the remains after the termination? How many other Christophers are there?

And if Christopher is not in that section, where is his death counted?

His parents also want to know what month in which baby Christopher’s termination appears. The abortion took place in March but was not notified to the minister until May. (If this happened as the parents report, it is in breach of section 20 of the legislation which mandates that all abortions carried out under section 11 be notified to the minister within 28 days.)

Aside from the tragedy of 6,666 lives that will never unfold and ripen (7,041 if you count the abortions carried out in England in 2019) these statistics are a travesty. They simply give the county in which the woman lives, the month, legal grounds and numbers. If it were not for his parents’ tenacity, we would never know that Baby Christopher’s short life and unnecessary death are concealed within these statistics.

The official Irish abortion figures are four pages long, including two pages on the legislation. The equivalent official document for England and Wales has 19 pages. Everything from the age of the mother, gestational age of the baby, marital status, ethnicity, number of previous abortions, obstetric history, maternal deprivation and perhaps most significantly, complications, are recorded.

We have no idea how many women experienced complications which can include haemorrhage, retention of body parts or placenta, or sepsis after an abortion. Why not?

The mandate of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency has never been revoked, that is, to reduce the numbers of women having crisis pregnancies and seeking an abortion.

If we have no idea who is having abortions or why, how can we reduce the numbers? Far from reducing, the numbers have gone up by almost 40 per cent.

Many people voted for repeal on the grounds that liberal abortion regimes reduce the numbers of abortions, something manifestly untrue, given that in 2019, England and Wales also had their highest figures ever.

There were about 5,000 Irish abortions in 2018. Those figures are based on statistics from England Wales and the Netherlands and a generous estimate of 2,000 abortion pills being consumed, based on figures from suppliers like Women on Web. (It is generous not least because the State was actively and successfully seizing pills.) That’s a rate of just under 14 a day in 2018. It has now risen to over 19 a day.

An Abortion Rights Campaign member refers to the figures as 6,666 small victories, which is grotesque, given that very few women celebrate their abortions. Meanwhile, Amnesty wants to extend the grounds for abortion beyond allegedly fatal disabilities to other non-fatal disabilities.

We rightly mourn more than 1,700 Covid-19 related deaths. The deaths of 7,041 of the smallest humans pass almost without comment, aside from demands to widen the legislation.

Christopher’s parents are pro-choice. Unlike me, they supported repeal. But their devastating experience has made them query legislation for abortion on the grounds of so-called fatal foetal abnormality. Even when accurately diagnosed, it is impossible to know what life will be like for any individual child. Some children with alleged fatal foetal abnormalities live for years.

His parents wonder why so few have supported their search for the truth of what happened to their little boy. Fifteen months on, no review has commenced, no apology has been issued and it looks like very few people care.

*This article was edited on July 4th, 2020

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