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'I couldn't believe the injustice': Irish grandparents explain why they're voting Yes

Parents of women who had received a fatal foetal diagnosis and travelled to the UK for a termination shared their stories today.

…when she told me she could not be treated compassionately in her own country, I was flabbergasted.

PAM BOWIE DESCRIBES herself as a woman who had always been pro-life, someone who had a “very sincere Christian faith”.

When her daughter Ruth received a fatal foetal diagnosis 12 weeks into her pregnancy, she said she was shocked at the lack of options available to her.

The diagnosis was a severe case of anencephaly and speaking today alongside his wife, Doug Bowie, a retired GP, explained this meant that the “at least half the brain and half the skull were missing and so it was a non-viable pregnancy”.

He said his daughter was told she could not have a termination in Ireland and so she “spent a horrific 24 hours in England”.

“I actually couldn’t believe the injustice of the Eighth Amendment that she would be expected to carry that baby as a life support machine, with a brain-dead baby until maybe the heart stopped, maybe she’d have to deliver and the baby would not live,” his wife said today at a press conference for Grandparents for Repeal.

Another grandmother who spoke today was Mary Lyons who told the audience about the difficulties people had accessing contraception in the 70s – when she and her husband were raising five small children.

She said they used to have to go to a place off O’Connell Street in Dublin’s city centre and they took turns because of the embarrassment.

“I went in and they had the glass counter, the product here… Don’t make eye contact with the person selling them.”

“There used to be jokes around that they were so hard to get that people would wash them and hang them out on the line,” she said.

Lyons said she knew five children was enough for her at that time.

Her daughter Arlette is another Irish woman who received a fatal foetal diagnosis when she was pregnant. She was told the foetus had no kidneys and had a hole in the heart, among other issues.

“We just couldn’t believe it, we had never heard of fatal foetal abnormality,” Lyons said.

She had heard stories of women having to travel over to the UK for terminations on flights with hen and stag parties and she did not want her daughter to have to go through that upset. Lyons and her husband travelled over with Arlette and her partner on the boat to Liverpool.

She said they were “treated wonderfully in the hospital” but “the whole thing was surreal, absolutely surreal”.

Lyons worries now that older people will not vote Yes and that other women will have to go through the same experience as her daughter.

‘The reality of life’

Retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness was a little more optimistic about the older vote. She said there is a perception that the campaign is “between generations” and that young people will vote Yes while people in her generation will mostly vote No.

We are speaking to grandparents as grandparents. Grandparents have a life experience. We have seen and dealt with many problems in our life. We have brought up and educated children. We as grandparents have actually learned a few things in this life. It is for people of all generations to look at the reality of life. We have abortion in this country but in an Irish solution to an Irish problem way.

“The choice on May 25, is not between abortion and no abortion, the choice is between having a proper system rather than having a system where we pretend this isn’t happening.

“I say as a grandparent – we can be trusted to make our own decisions.”

Carol Hunter, founder of Grandparents for Repeal, said adults learn as they get older that life is not black and white, it is grey.

“What we do know is we want our children and grandchildren to be cared for by us and protected by us. The Eighth is a very wide-ranging thing. It affects women’s health in the most basic way.

“I can’t bear the thought that my daughter would take tablets at home, silently, in her room, and I can’t do anything for her. If she had a life-limiting condition of her own, I couldn’t do anything.

“As a grandparent, where the role is to support and nurture and protect, so we can’t go on like this. This is an opportunity to show the world we care, that we are loving.”

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