There is an extremely moving article in today’s Irish Times here . It looks at the issue of women in Ireland travelling abroad to terminate pregnancies where the baby has been diagnosed with fatal abnormalities. Five years ago next week we were facing this possibility. We had just been told that our unborn daughter had Dandy Walker syndrome and that there was a possibility she could have Edwards syndrome also. I was 29 weeks pregnant at the time. My visceral reaction was that I wanted her born in Ireland and that meant I would have had to continue with the pregnancy knowing our little girl would not survive.
Just think about that for a minute. Imagine being noticeably pregnant and trying to carry on your everyday existence knowing that your baby wasn’t going to survive. Imagine being out shopping and well-meaning people coming up to you and asking when you’re due. What do you respond? Do you tell them the reality? Or do you try and save their embarrassment and just force a smile through your heartbreak?
In our case the tests proved negative and our wee girlie does not have Edwards syndrome. She does have a considerable level of physical and intellectual disability but she is here with us and is our absolute delight. Thankfully we never had to make the decision as to whether or not to continue with the pregnancy. And it is an immensely hard decision to be faced with at one of the most agonising times people can ever face. I have written before about that time in our lives here.
But it should be a choice available to anyone in that position. Choosing to terminate a much wanted pregnancy must be unspeakably painful. But to have to travel to a different country to do so? To have to wander around a strange city after having this procedure carried out, in pain, bleeding, grieving? To maybe not be able to tell your social circle back at home what you have gone through for fear of condemnation? That is nothing short of barbaric.
I don’t know the women featured in the article. I do know they are in pain and grieving. I do know that their lives and those of their partners have been changed irrevocably. And I know that as a woman, as a feminist, as a mother, as a human being I am sickened that my country is still putting people in that position when they are already suffering torment that most people luckily will never experience.
These women and their families deserve our compassion and understanding. And the law needs to be changed. Their campaign has a Facebook page here.