Restricted abortion access for cases of fatal foetal abnormalities 'enrages' Miss D

Restricted abortion access for cases of fatal foetal abnormalities 'enrages' Miss D

Amy Dunne, centre standing, the woman at the centre of the controversial Miss D case in 2007 with Ailbhe Smith, Repeal the 8th activist with supporters outside the Dáil on Wednesday. Picture: Moya Nolan

Continued restricted access to abortion for women whose babies have fatal foetal abnormalities “enrages” Amy Dunne, who advocated for reform as Miss D in 2007.

In an emotional address to a National Women’s Council event marking four years since repeal of the Eighth Amendment, she said women still face similar obstacles as she did.

In 2007, she took a landmark legal case on the right to travel for abortions following a diagnosis of the fatal condition, anencephaly.

“Carrying this pregnancy was not something my heart could take and as devastating as this decision was for me, I knew it was the right one for my circumstances,” she said, remembering her 17-year old self.

“There was no support for the difficult decision I had to make, and in fact within moments of informing my social worker, I was threatened with a potential murder charge.

She gets “tons of messages” from women, she said.

'Grey areas'

“It enrages me, it fills me full of anger that in 2022 we are going backwards,” she said, referring to “grey areas” around defining fatal foetal abnormalities.

She has more energy now to share her story to help other women, she said.

“I was to carry this child to the end,” she remembers being told, “without any empathy or consideration for my mental or physical health. The fact was my baby was going to die and carrying a child with anencephaly has many health risks, some of which I began suffering quite rapidly.”

NWC director Orla O’Connor said: “Although Amy’s experience happened some 15 years ago, we know that many women continue to fall outside the current legislation.” 

She said during the pandemic “almost 600” women travelled to the UK for abortions.

“The proportion of women travelling to the UK in cases of severe or fatal foetal abnormalities has significantly increased, accounting for one third of all those who had to travel in 2020,” she said.

She said abortion access is “unfinished business”, causing stress, anxiety and challenges.

Call for full decriminalisation of abortion

She called for full decriminalisation of abortion in line with World Health Organisation guidance and removal of mandatory three-day waiting periods.

“We need to see widening of the 12-week gestational limit, and removal of the 28-day mortality clause for fatal foetal abnormalities, so abortion is accessible to all up to viability,” she said.

Also at the event, Dr Marion Dyer, GP member of Doctors for Choice and the Southern Taskforce on Abortion & Reproductive Topics , described Amy’s experience as “cruel”.

She criticised the legal situation which requires obstetricians to be sure a baby will die within 28 days.

“The obstetrician is within the law if a baby should die at 27 days, but we are outside of the law if they die at 29 days,” she said.

She is aware of GPs who had anti-abortion graffiti daubed on their premises, and of a doctor who had to close their regular Saturday clinic to all patients because of protesters.

Only 11 of the 19 maternity units offer abortions, and she said this must be expanded.

About one in 10 GPs offer termination services, the event heard, however, she said this amounts to one-third of GP practices as in a group practice one doctor would specialise.

After the talk, campaigner Ailbhe Smyth said the law as it stands “is only the first step”.

She said: “We did set in motion a change which will no doubt take years to achieve. And without the work, so many young women and young girls, young men did we wouldn’t have 6,500 women able to access abortion in Ireland.”

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