Campaign group for access to abortions on medical grounds ‘hurt’ by bishop and TD’s remarks

A group campaigning for access to abortions on medical grounds has criticised comments by both the Bishop of Elphin and the Fianna Fáil chief whip, accusing both of ‘misrepresenting the reality of receiving a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality’.

Terminations For Medical Reasons issued its criticism following recent media appearances by Bishop Kevin Doran, and Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, on Newstalk and TV3 respectively.

Gaye Edwards of TFMR Ireland criticised Bishop Doran’s use of the terms “life-limiting condition”, “a child who is sick during pregnancy”, and “a seriously ill child during pregnancy” during his radio interview.

In February 2001, Ms Edwards and her husband Gerry were told their son Joshua had severe anencephaly. He was delivered stillborn on February 12, 2001, at 22 weeks gestation in Belfast.

“Our babies were not sick or seriously ill, and they did not have life-limiting conditions,” Ms Edwards said.

“Many would die during the pregnancy, many during delivery and the remainder immediately or shortly afterwards. Their abnormalities were such that they could not sustain independent life. Nobody wanted these diagnoses or prognoses to be wrong more than we did.”

Ms Edwards was also critical of Bishop Doran’s remark “the response of a civilised society to a terminal illness is to offer palliative care”.

“Is the bishop seriously suggesting that parents who make the agonising decision to have a pregnancy terminated in these tragic circumstances are not civilised? These are shockingly rude, arrogant, offensive and deeply hurtful remarks.”

Mr Edwards criticised comments made by Mr Ó Fearghaíl, who told TV3’s Vincent Browne he would vote against any repeal of the constitutional ban on abortion, including on medical grounds. “I have, over the past year or so, met three children whose mothers had been told that those children would have fatal foetal abnormalities, and they may not be fully healthy, but they’re running around playing today, and that is something that is very important to me,” he said on Wednesday night’s People’s Debate programme.

“We fully respect the deputy’s clearly deeply held views regarding terminations of pregnancy in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, but it is our view that his comments were intended to suggest that these conditions do not actually exist, and this is a situation which parents who have lived through this horrific experience find deeply hurtful and offensive,” Mr Edwards said.

“This level of either deliberate misrepresentation or willful ignorance is totally unbecoming of any public representative.”

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