Last week, the long-time abortion supporter and Irish Times columnist, Eamonn McCann, in obvious liaison with Amnesty and other abortion campaigners, tried to smack down parents whose babies died from life-limiting conditions such as anencephaly and Trisomy 13.
McCann wrote a rather disjoined and paranoid piece about the HSE consultation process on bereavement standards, which accused parents who children did not seek abortion for their babies because of a life-limiting diagnosis of being ‘strident’, simply because these parents don’t want misleading and upsetting terms like ‘incompatible with life’ or ‘lethal anomaly’ used in relation to their children – rather, they want the conditions explained and the medical research in relation to those conditions presented.
Astonishingly, Eamon McCann took exception to this and suggested that only the voices of those seeking abortion should be heard. The journalist is, of course, an abortion extremist: he famously led a mob from the Socialist Workers Party to protest a pro-life march, where one of them was arrested, and then told RTE that pro-lifers should not be allowed to take to the streets.
This week, Grace Sharp, mother to Lilly Joy and one of the heroic parents in the advocacy group Every Life Counts replied to McCann in a letter to the Irish Times. Have a read – and then go to www.everylifecounts.ie to learn more about the work of this marvellous organisation who abortion activists feel should be shut out of the discussion, even though they are the parents who have loved and lost babies with life-limiting conditions.
Sir, – Eamonn McCann is correct when he says that language is important in any discussion of abortion (“Are there signs of a ‘pro-life’ group influence in HSE document?”, Opinion & Analysis, July 23rd). However, language is also crucially important when ensuring parents have factual information, and are not being misled, or nudged towards abortion, after a diagnosis of a condition such as anencephaly or trisomy 13 for their unborn baby.
Eamonn McCann’s article repeated much of the misinformation surrounding these conditions – and misinformation is neither helpful to the public debate nor to parents who have received the devastating news that their baby may not live for long after birth. According to figures from the British Department of Health, more than 90 per cent of Irish parents facing a diagnosis of life-limiting condition for their baby do not seek an abortion.
We are parents who have been told that our children were “incompatible with life” or had a “fatal foetal abnormality”, labels which were not just offensive but misleading. We are seeking to ensure that parents in similar situations are correctly informed by medical practitioners, that outcomes for conditions are correctly explained, and that better services are made available to families of very sick unborn babies.
The experience of parents is hugely important. Many of them, such as Sarah Hynes, mother to baby Seán who lived for two days with trisomy 18, speak of their frustration at the lack of information available. “I was told my son had trisomy 18, that he was ‘incompatible with life’ and then I had to go home and Google it to find out any more information,” she says. It is entirely appropriate that parents who have had first-hand experience of love and loss be a part of a consultation process of improving standards in bereavement care. It is simply astonishing to suggest that these parents be excluded from a consultation process because they do not support a political agenda on abortion.
No child should be described as a “lethal” or “fatal” abnormality, or “incompatible with life” – these descriptions are medically meaningless, misleading and offensive. Surely at the worst of times we should have the best of care available and this includes a language that affirms the reality that no matter how sick our babies are, no matter how short their lives may be, they are not only our sons and daughters but are members of our human family. They deserve to be treated with dignity and their memories respected. – Yours, etc,
GRACE SHARP, Every Life Counts, Dominic Street, Dublin 1.
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