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'The pain and suffering is etched in my memory': TD takes emotional stand during fatal foetal abnormalities debate

Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell was speaking before the Dáil this evening.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

A DÁIL DEBATE on a bill to legislate for terminations in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities has heard an emotional appeal from Dublin TD Kate O’Connell.

Responding to the proposed legislation by Independents-4-Change TD Mick Wallace, O’Connell told the chamber how she dealt with the issue during her own pregnancy.

Appearing visibly moved, the Deputy said:

This is a topic that is very close to my heart. My husband and I were unfortunate to be told that our much wanted child had a profound defect when we went for our 20-week scan.
The pain and suffering of that time is deeply etched in my memory. And the fear of the unknown and the cruelty of fate weighed heavily on our shoulders.
Against the odds the pregnancy was delivered to term, and I was delivered of a child that had almost the entirety of his organs outside his body.

“He is now miraculously a fit and healthy five-year-old with a flair for social commentary,” she said.

That week when we awaited the result to tell us if he also had a genetic, and therefore fatal abnormality, was the hardest of our young lives.
Before that I had not needed to pay much attention to the Eighth Amendment. Nor had I been overly aware on the limitations it placed on the Irish people.
Call me ignorant, but it had never been on my radar until that point, having spent most of my adult life in the UK where a civilised and compassionate approach to women’s health is par for the course.

Pausing to take a drink of water, O’Connell then urged TDs to:

“Meet with the people who have lived the experience, and to listen to the medical experts, and not some self-appointed moral police who look down on the rest of us from their lofty perches.”

While she commended Deputy Wallace for bringing forward the Bill, she stated her view that it would be imprudent to go against the advice of the Attorney General Márie Whelan.

“It is incumbent on us to vote to vote down this legislation when we’re informed that it’s unconstitutional,” she said.

As legal adviser to the government, the Attorney General has made her opinion clear.
I understand that legal opinions may differ, but the Attorney General is who we turn to for legal guidance, and to ignore her professional opinion would be to do her a disservice.

She also called for legal clarity around the term fatal foetal abnormality to benefit doctors, and also stated that should a referendum be called on repealing the Eighth Amendment, she would travel the “length and breadth of the country” to campaign on it.

Speaking earlier in the debate, Minister for Health Simon Harris issued an apology to Amanda Mallet, a woman who took a case in 2011 to the UN’s Human Rights Commission after being told at 21-weeks pregnant that her child would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

Read: Simon Harris has apologised to Amanda Mellet in the Dáil

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