“Women with money have options and women who are poor have babies”

Breedagh Hughes
Royal College of Midwives

THIS short statement by Northern Ireland’s top midwife pretty much nailed what everyone else was thinking at the launch of Amnesty Ireland’s Repeal The Eighth campaign.

The packed audience in Belfast’s MAC listened intently as a panel of women and men told their stories of abortion.

At an ante natal scan, Jennifer Ryan from Terminations For Medical Reasons, Ireland was told her baby had developed without kidneys and had hydrocephalus of the brain. Medics said the feotus was incompatible with life.

After travelling on the overnight ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, her husband drove her to Liverpool where she gave birth to their baby girl. She spoke emotionally about holding her baby and being able to see her severe organ and skeletal deformities through her skin. They made the return journey home to Ireland and held a family funeral.

The most high profile panelist was Graham Linehan, writer of Fr Ted and The IT Crowd. His wife Helen told their story of needing to have a medically recommended abortion at eleven weeks because their much wanted baby’s skull had not formed properly. If carried to full term, it would have died a short time after birth.

The audience was made up of couples whose pregnancies had to end because of Fatal Foetal Abnormality, women who didn’t want to give birth and those who believed in full bodily autonomy.

There was a bit of a moment when writer and comedian Tara Flynn spoke of her crisis pregnancy and abortion. She was interrupted by a woman who shouted “but we wanted our baby”.

Although there are different reasons for having abortions, these three pro choice camps have come together to support Amnesty International’s campaign for safe and accessible abortion in Ireland.

Mara Clarke from the Abortion Support Network said she knew of pregnant women who could not afford to have any more children and couldn’t even scrape together the plane fare to have an abortion.

These Irish women resorted to desperate measures such as drinking bleach and crashing their cars to bring on miscarriage.

If the campaign is a success, it would mean that women in the North would be able to have an abortion in Dublin – a timely, cost effective and less traumatic option of flying to England and staying in a hotel or buying illegal tablets from the internet and jeopardising their own health.

To sign the Repeal The Eighth petition, please click here