Bereaved parents put babies’ remains in freezer bag

Expectant parents of babies with fatal foetal conditions who travel to Britain for a termination have to use freezer bags in order to keep their bodies cold in coffins when crossing back over the Irish Sea, the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment will hear today.

TDs and senators will hear how parents of those babies who are unlikely to live outside the womb are “often left to their own devices” in terms of dealing with the personal crises facing them.

Testimony from the Terminations For Medical Reasons Ireland (TFMR) group, which represents parents of babies deemed not to be compatible with life, will detail the full cost of having to travel to Britain for termination of an unviable pregnancy can top €4,000.

“At a time when we are experiencing the most intense grief of our lives, we are abandoned by Ireland — the State and its people — isolated from our families and friends, and separated from the trusted medical team who looked after us up to this point,” Claire Cullen Delsol of TFMR will say.

In hard-hitting testimony, Ms Delsol will detail the personal trauma suffered by parents who are forced to travel to the UK to have a termination.

“If we have our car, we can bring our baby home on the boat,” she will say. “This journey involves us having to go to a supermarket to buy freezer packs, and then we have to stop at regular intervals to open the coffin and change them so that we can keep our baby cold. We also have to leave our baby in a coffin in our car, covered by a blanket or in the boot, while we cross the Irish sea.

“If we are flying home, we may be able to bring our baby’s remains on the plane. We have to check in advance with the airlines and deal with their special assistance staff.

“We may need to place the coffin in a holdall or suitcase and check it in as luggage. This will mean our baby will be put in the hold by baggage handlers and we will have to collect them from a luggage carousel in Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Galway, or Knock. Alternatively, we could take the coffin onto the plane as hand luggage.”

Committee members will hear of the difficulties bereaved parents encountered when they arrive home.

“Even when we bring our babies home, there are more logistics to overcome,” Ms Delsol will say. “How do we arrange a funeral? Can we get a priest to officiate? Some of us are afraid, to tell the truth, in case we are judged, yet don’t want to lie.

“Not being able to bring our baby home and not being able to have a normal funeral service, with the support of our family, friends and community, further compounds the sense of isolation and abandonment that we feel.”

There are many parents in this situation who wish to avail of a termination of pregnancy but who do not travel, she will say.

“Many families and women in Ireland continue a pregnancy, not because it is the right thing for them. We might not be able to afford it — flights [up to three round trips], accommodation, cost of the procedure itself, post mortem, cremation, and transport home of foetal remains costs each couple as much as €4,000.”


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