Babies aborted after a misdiagnosis of a severe abnormality must not become “collateral damage” in the rush to establish a new regime after the repeal of the 8th amendment, pro-lifers have demanded.
The call comes following the emergence of “horror stories”, including revelations that a baby aborted in the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, on the grounds of ‘fatal abnormality’ was subsequently found not to have had the condition suspected.
The case has led to fears that medics are pressuring parents to abort and the National Maternity Hospital has commissioned the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to carry out an external review of the circumstances of the abortion, which took place in March this year.
The Irish couple who had their pregnancy terminated after the hospital had advised the preborn child had a ‘fatal, foetal abnormality’ were reportedly “utterly, utterly mentally and physically devastated” after test results, which came back after the termination, found that the baby did not have Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards Syndrome.
Caoimhe Haughey, the solicitor representing the couple, told RTÉ News: “Their loss and their grief is interminable.”
The Life Institute insisted that babies that have been aborted following a misdiagnosis of a severe abnormality must not become “collateral damage” and voiced their fear that parents are being pushed to abort after a poor diagnosis in Irish hospitals.
In response to the “shocking, horrifying case”, Niamh Uí Bhriain, of the Life Institute, told The Catholic Universe: “Nothing will bring that baby back to its devastated family, and the inquiry into what happened needs to establish why the family felt they shouldn’t wait for the results of the more accurate test to come back.
“Babies with a severe condition can be aborted until birth under the new legislation so time pressure did not come from the law. Did it come from another source in the hospital. We need to know if it did.
“It would be entirely unacceptable if babies aborted after a misdiagnosis became mere collateral damage to the HSE or the government,” said Ms Uí Bhriain. “Pro-life groups warned this would happen in the referendum and we were shouted down, but what steps did Simon Harris take to ensure this would not happen?
“The abortion legislation is in place less than five months and we are already seeing these horror stories emerge. This family is devastated, and there may be others. We cannot allow this to continue. There must be safeguards to ensure families are not rushed into aborting baby, and positive alternatives such as perinatal hospice care must be promoted,” the pro-life spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, a support group for parents whose children have been diagnosed with life-limiting abnormalities described the case as “profoundly shocking” and “absolutely heartbreaking” and voiced their concern for those with life-limiting conditions.
“We warned that abortion would become an expectation where a severe or life-limiting condition was suspected and now this family’s baby has been aborted. Nothing will bring that baby back, it’s just so devastating,” Vicky Wall, of Every Life Counts, told The Catholic Universe.
“I fear that doctors are pushing parents towards abortion when they suspect something might be wrong with baby, and that is just wrong, and we’re going to see many more cases like this. Families need love and support and we were trying to get that for them, but abortion is all they will be offered now. I’m heartbroken for them,” said Ms Wall, whose baby girl Líadán was diagnosed with a life-limiting condition.
Echoing Ms Uí Bhriain’s acknowledgement that other such “horror stories” are emerging, Ms Wall added: “I dread to think how much worse things can get for families like mine, and like this family who have lost their much-wanted baby now.”
Ms Wall urged families to seek help and support from other families when a diagnosis was made, and cautioned that sometimes doctors made mistakes, which could not be rectified. “Parents shouldn’t be just offered abortion as if there was no other option,” she said. “And mistakes can happen, misdiagnoses can be made. After an abortion that medical mistake can’t be rectified and where are families left then?” she asked.
Meanwhile, the Pro Life Campaign claimed that the reluctance of the Government to listen to the perspectives and experiences of families in these situations hadn’t changed since the referendum.
Eilís Mulroy, of the Pro Life Campaign, said she sincerely hoped that this tragedy would lead to greater openness from the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to listen to these families “instead of shutting out contributions that don’t fit in with the Government’s narrow focus to date in this whole area”.
“Parents of children who received a misdiagnosis have been dismissed and brushed aside for way too long,” Ms Mulroy told The Catholic Universe. “If their stories were treated with the respect and prominence they deserve, tragedies that will otherwise occur in the future could be avoided.”
She insisted that Mr Harris is “duty bound” to do whatever it takes to ensure such a tragedy would never occur again.
“He should start by listening to the stories of parents who have no agenda other than to share their personal stories which shed light on the whole area of misdiagnoses and how it impacts on families and outcomes for the babies at the centre of these cases.
“Ultimately, with abortion the issue is not about whether a baby has a disability or a life-limiting condition. It is about the fact that with every abortion an innocent baby has his or her life ended,” she added.
Picture: National Maternity Hospital.