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Oireachtas Hearings

Letter: TFMR 'disappointed' at exclusion from abortion hearings

Read the full text of a letter to a TD from a mother whose daughter had to travel to Liverpool for a termination.

A GROUP OF women who were forced to travel to the UK for terminations because Irish hospitals could not care for their needs have expressed their anger at being omitted from today’s Oireachtas hearings on proposed abortion legislation.

TFMR (Terminations for Medical Reasons) was founded as a support network for mothers who were told their babies would not live outside the womb because of fatal foetal abnormalities. Under Irish law, terminations are not legal for people in such circumstances and many are given the option to travel by their consultants.

As the joint Oireachtas committee for health is hearing only from medical and legal experts today, Monday and Tuesday, the group was not invited to send a representative.

“It is very disappointing,” said spokesperson Arlette Lyons. “A lot of people were outraged that we were excluded again.” (TFMR did not take part in the previous hearings ahead of the publication of the drafts heads of bill).

The proposed legislation will not change the situation for families in similar medical cases. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been adamant that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 will not change current laws and rights. The heads of bill do not provide for rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities.

In its submission to Jerry Buttimer’s committee, the women said the “experience of being expelled from our own country at our greatest hour of sorrow and loss has needlessly compounded our trauma”.

“With this proposed legislation, the Irish government now finally has the opportunity to rectify a wrong that has been allowed to continue for far too long.
Nothing could have changed the fact that we were going to lose our cherished babies, but something can be done now to ensure that couples in the future do no face the added cruelty, indignity and trauma of having to leave Ireland to receive the treatment that should be available to them here.
“We feel that our voices must be heard as a part of the process of formulating this Bill.”

Arlette’s mother Mary has outlined her personal position in an email to Fine Gael deputy Brian Walsh, which has reproduced, in full and with her kind permission, here:

Dear BrianThank you for your reply. That email was sent to you by my Husband Pat. It also represents my views.

I retired from City Council in January 2011. I met you many times but I am sure you don’t remember me because of all the people you meet and have to smile and be friendly towards. Don’t know how you do it actually!

Here is what I hate. Our country is laden down by our church and politicians who are mainly men. We all know about Man Flu!! A bit of a sore throat and they are dying. I know if I ever got a sore throat I had the deadly job of looking down Pat’s throat to see if he had one also! I feel if only one man had to go through a pregnancy things would be a whole lot different.

The point I am getting to is this. Men have not got a clue what women go through when they become pregnant – the hormones, the weight gain, sleep deprivation, being uncomfortable etc, etc. Now this is grand when the outcome is going to be a lovely tiny baby which gives such joy and pleasure. I know all about this as I have five great kids and 15 grandchildren. Arlette is due another baby in eight weeks and the whole family are over the moon and hoping that every thing will be fine.

Our position is this. Arlette became pregnant last year after trying for another baby for two years. She has two lovely sons, aged 10 and six. When she went for her 12-week scan she was told that the baby had trisomy 13 and d with a large cystic hygroma. (Google it, it is devastating). She was told that the baby had no hope of surviving outside the womb. After getting this information from her Obstetrician, she was then told that there was nothing the hospital could do for her because of our outdated legislation. There was absolutely NO CHANCE of the baby surviving, so she had twos options. One was to carry the baby until she would have a spontaneous miscarriage, the other choice was to go to England. (We have been dumping our problems over there for so long).

Her two boys were so excited about this baby. She had also told the whole family and her big circle of friends. So she thought, what do I do? Do I go to bed some night and miscarry the baby, which might not have a face or some other terrible abnormalities, or do I go to England and have a termination?

She chose the latter. She told her boys that the baby had died in her tummy. They were devastated. She then had to leave them to be taken care of while her husband Alan and Pat and myself accompanied her to the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool. What an awful journey for any women to have to take. Her option was that the boys would be still expecting a little brother or sister and everybody else would be saying the usual “how are you doing Arlette”; “looking forward to the big event” etc etc!! Not a real option is it??

Luckily Liverpool Women’s Hospital were wonderful. All her files from The Coombe Hospital were sent over plus she had two more scans to confirm that the baby had no chance of survival in the womb. By the way, the baby was a little girl who we named Skye and we often refer to her. I am crying thinking about her lost life as I write this email.

So Arlette was in the hospital for about five hours. We came out and we had booked a room in a hotel so she could lie down for a few hours. The worst bit was that we had to leave little Skye in Liverpool. I know she was only 14 weeks but we would have loved to have brought her home. Arlette is still very, very angry her own country could not help her in her time of need.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that Arlette and a few other wonderful women who had the same experience formed TFMR (termination for medical reasons) and they are doing trojan work. Women came forward who had not even disclosed this information with their parents and family because of the way so many people still think here in Ireland. They have been to the Dáil, on television and on every radio station in the country. This is a side to Arlette that I had never seen before and she is 34 years of age. I watched her on the Late Late and Vincent Browne. She was wonderful and articulated her situation with great passion.

I don’t expect you to change your views after hearing this particular story but maybe it might give you something to think about. I can vouch that you are a very nice man but there will be no votes from Arlette’s family and friends.

I wish you good luck in your career and hope that you can help turn Ireland’s fortunes around.

Mary Lyons

A crash course in today’s abortion legislation hearings

Medical Terminations: ‘Ours is a very specific, heartbreaking and clear-cut case’

Group says lack of invite to Oireachtas abortion hearings “a grave injustice”

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