Miscarrying women told to ‘read between lines’ and go to UK

Miscarrying women who went to Britain for medical terminations as they were refused in Ireland have spoken in heartbreaking detail about what they endured.

On RTÉ Radio’s Liveline, five women who faced similar situations to Savita Halappanavar explained the reality of a grey legal area. All callers were 15-20 weeks’ pregnant when the incidents occurred in hospitals from 1997 to 2004.

Medical Council guidelines and all sides of the debate accept there is a clear argument to help miscarrying women pass the foetus if their health is at risk in the very early stages of pregnancy. However, the women claimed they were advised to "read between the lines" and travel to clinics in Britain.

One woman, Jennifer, said that in 2003 when she was 16 weeks’ pregnant, she started bleeding and went to her local hospital.

"All the nurses inside [the unit] just started crying uncontrollably. They said there was no hope for the baby and they couldn’t understand I hadn’t miscarried.

"There was no ... fluid [around the foetus], he had one kidney, fluid on his brain. But there was a heartbeat. They kept listening."

Jennifer said GPs and four consultants met her separately after work in their own time for scans, only to tell her "you need to make a decision immediately" due to the impact on her health.

She said one said to her mother: "I know what I would do if it was my daughter, you need to read between the lines. You need to do it urgently.

"I went to see my GP at 11pm at night." Her mother travelled with her to Britain.

Fiona said she miscarried at 20 weeks in 1997 but doctors told her to pass the remains herself. A month later, they provided a medical termination on the foetus. "But it was hush hush ... I’d told them I was suicidal. The doctor said that’s the only way we will take it away ... It was now dead over a month."

Irish GP Dr Mark Murphy — who said he was pro-choice but would never push his views on someone else — said the problem was the "majority of consensus in this country is not represented because there are extreme views [on all sides] who dominate the agenda".