Incompatible with Life
I have one child, but I have been pregnant three times. Having suffered two early miscarriages in the past few years, I am all too familiar with the pain of losing a much-wanted baby during pregnancy. But driving home yesterday, listening to The Last Word on Today FM, I realised I am actually one of the lucky ones. You see, I got to lose my babies in the privacy of my own home, with love and support from my husband and family. When I needed to, I could curl up in my own bed and shut the world out while I grieved for my lost little ones.
But what would have happened if my babies hadn’t miscarried naturally? What if it had taken a scan at a much later stage to show that the baby I wanted and loved would not survive? Would I have been afforded the same dignity and care? Not in Ireland.
You see the stories I heard on The Last Word yesterday were from an extremely brave group of women who are speaking out about the inhumane treatment of women in Ireland whose babies are diagnosed with conditions deemed incompatible with life. These babies will die later in pregnancy or shortly after birth.
But, in an Irish maternity hospital, on giving a woman the news that her baby has no brain or no brain activity, or a chromosomal abnormality that will prevent the baby from developing normally and surviving the remainder of the pregnancy or birth, that is where the medical care ends. The doctors’ hands are tied. “Will you travel?” they ask. Because that is the only option open to you if you wish to terminate your pregnancy. Irish legislation does not permit your doctors, your caregivers to allow you the dignity of terminating your pregnancy in your own country, in your own hospital. Instead, you must travel to the UK. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to make those arrangements at a time when your world is reeling from the news that your baby will not live.
Of course, as has been said by some politicians and others this week, the Irish medical system does offer palliative care for those who choose to carry their babies to term. And I have every respect for parents who make that choice. I’m sure it is not an easy decision. Just as I am sure that the decision to terminate the pregnancy is not one reached lightly. At a time when we should be offering every support to these bereaved parents, our medical system is forced to wash its hands of them. I cannot begin to imagine how this must add to the trauma of an already nightmarish situation for people.
Yesterday, listening to the stories being recounted on The Last Word, I had to turn off the radio, because I was crying so much I was afraid to keep driving and listening. But the truth is that we cannot stop listening. These are the stories of families who we are failing on a daily basis in Ireland. Their cases should not form part of a pro-life or pro-choice debate. We need the government to legislate for termination for medical reasons immediately to help these families out of the awful medical limbo they find themselves in right now when faced with a diagnosis of “incompatible with life.” Because to force someone who wishes to terminate in that situation to travel abroad to avail of termination services is not just wrong – it’s inhumane and lacking in compassion.
You can find the campaign to legalise termination services for medical reasons in Ireland on Facebook: Make Termination for Medical Reasons Available in Ireland. Or you can sign their petition on Change.org: TFMR IRELAND: MAKE TERMINATION FOR MEDICAL REASONS AVAILABLE IN IRELAND
If you or someone you know have had or are thinking about termination for medical reasons, a new support group has been set up: http://www.terminationformedicalreasons.com