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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 26 October, 2014

Survivors of symphysiotomy take next step in search for justice

The group of women will discuss their proposed draft bill to amend the statute of limitations in relation to the pelvic operations at an Oireachtas committee hearing today.

Symphysiotomy survivors at Leinster House last March.
Symphysiotomy survivors at Leinster House last March.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A NUMBER OF women who underwent the symphysiotomy procedure in Ireland between the 1940s and 1980s are to attend an Oireachtas Justice Committee meeting this afternoon.

The survivors’ group will discuss their proposed draft bill to amend the statute of limitations in relation to the pelvic operations that left many of them with life-long chronic pain and a host of other medical problems.

Ahead of the meeting, committee chairman David Stanton welcomed the women and said the hearing would give them an opportunity to discuss lifting the statue of limitations for a one-year period so they can attempt to seek redress through the courts.

“The meeting will also enable Committee members to raise issues pertinent to the statute of limitations,” he added.

A draft government report on the controversial practice is due to be published this week. Although full details are not due until tomorrow, Tuesday’s Irish Times revealed that it will suggest the laws of the Catholic Church influenced the use of symphysiotomies in Ireland long after they were discontinued elsewhere.

The Survivors of Symphysiotomy group claims that many of the operations in Ireland after 1940 were carried out – without prior knowledge or consent – “mainly for religious reasons, by obstetricians who were opposed to family planning”.

Writing in a column for TheJournal.ie, the group’s chairperson Marie O’Connor said that the practice was seen as a “a gateway to childbearing without limitation”.

O’Connor believes the courts represent survivors’ sole route to truth and justice. “Now that the veil has been rent on these abusive operations, the Oireachtas should lift the statute of limitations for survivors, for a brief period,” she wrote. “This was done for victims of sexual abuse, a far more difficult area to legislate for. There are no floodgates, only 130 or so mainly elderly women, standing, waiting, for justice.”

The meeting begins at 2pm in Committee Room 2 and procedures can be followed live here.

Yesterday: Draft symphysiotomy report due this week>

More: Dáil hears calls for justice for survivors of symphysiotomy>

Column: Symphysiotomy was seen as a gateway to childbearing without limits>

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