The new suffragettes: The powers that be are in the Dark Ages. We want to move into the future

A nurse who wants an easing of Ireland’s draconian anti-abortion laws explains how she found the courage to take on the religious establishment

Growing up in Ireland, I never gave much thought to abortion or the lack thereof. I do, however, have a vivid memory of being a young teenager and coming across an extreme pro-life stand in the centre of Dublin, with horrific pictures of aborted foetuses. I was so enraged that I told the middle-aged man behind the stand how utterly insensitive he was, displaying these images when women may have been walking past who had lost their much-wanted baby from miscarriages or complications. Little did I know that I would go on to experience such a loss.

In the summer of 2009 I was newly married and pregnant with our first baby. My husband, Mike, and I were anticipating the most exciting time of our lives, but it turned out to be the worst. After two bleeds, I booked a private 12-week scan to reassure myself that things were going smoothly. Things were far from smooth.

Our nightmare began when we were told that our much-wanted baby would not survive. She had anencephaly, a condition that meant a large part of her skull and brain did not develop. This condition was labelled “incompatible with life” and, as a paediatric nurse I knew there was no hope.

We asked the consultant what we should do next and he replied: “You either continue with the pregnancy and your baby will die in utero or at birth – or you travel.”

“To travel” is an Irish euphemism for booking a cheap flight to England to obtain an abortion. Continuing with the pregnancy was not an option for us. I couldn’t contemplate another 28 weeks of carrying a baby that I knew had no chance of survival. I couldn’t imagine people watching my bump grow and asking well-meaning questions like, “Have you got your nursery ready?” What was I to reply?

I have never felt so much anger towards my own country as I did the day Mike and I boarded the early morning flight to Birmingham. At the worst time of my life, when my country should have wrapped its arms around me, it turned its back on me. I wanted to be looked after in Ireland, where my family and friends could support us as we grieved, but instead we had to travel to England, like criminals.

I found it incredibly hard to understand why, in a country where a life support machine can be turned off when there’s no prospect of life for the patient, a woman could not get a termination when her own body was acting like a life support machine to keep her baby alive.

It was not until early 2012 that I found the fight in me to campaign against this barbaric law. This came only because, for the first time, I met other women who had experienced termination for a fatal foetal abnormality. We found strength in each other and went public with our stories.

Those stories and our pictures appeared on the front page of The Irish Times. We were not “X”, “A”, “B” or “C”. We were women with names and faces. Finally people could speak out about this previously unspoken topic, and some of the stigma was removed.

We set up the organisation Terminations For Medical Reasons (TFMR) Ireland with one very specific aim. We are campaigning for terminations for fatal foetal abnormalities to be legal in Ireland. Nothing more. We want couples who make the heart-breaking decision to end a much-wanted pregnancy following this devastating diagnosis to be afforded the compassionate care they deserve.

We have a big battle ahead of us. People who live outside Ireland have little idea how the abortion debate plays out here. Politicians are afraid of supporting it, even in situations like ours, in case they lose precious votes. The media are obsessed by it, regularly pitting pro-life people against pro-choice people, which is not constructive. The Catholic Church is vehemently opposed to it, using the power it has over the country and our institutions to impose its views and beliefs on us all.

While the powers that be have not moved out of the Dark Ages, I am hopeful that the general public wants to look to the future. The overwhelming support we received after we spoke out is an indication of that. People realise that the abortion issue is not black and white: there are grey areas, as we experienced, and they must be dealt with.

So I will keep telling my story, keep talking to journalists, keep emailing politicians, keep raising awareness of this awful situation which Irish couples find themselves in every week, until one day change comes.

The government can never change this fatal diagnosis. But it can change the law.

Ruth Bowie campaigns for Terminations For Medical Reasons (TFMR) Ireland

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game