TFMR Ireland are dismayed that they have been excluded from the Citizens’ Assembly.

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Health, Human Rights, Women's Rights

Statement from TFMR

“We are the only advocacy group that consists solely of women and couples who had their tragedies compounded by being refused the medical care of their choice purely because of the 8th Amendment. How can the volunteer Citizens and the public at large get a clear understanding of the issues if the groups most directly affected are excluded from the process?” argued Gerry Edwards, Chairperson of TFMR Ireland.

“This Assembly was an idea that popped into Enda Kenny’s head when challenged by a journalist in the run up to the last election. That meant that when he became Taoiseach, the abdication of responsibility by the Oireachtas was unavoidable.”

TFMR Ireland recently wrote to the Secretariat of the Assembly expressing their concerns about their exclusion from the process.

“We pointed out that many of our members have spoken in public about their most personal and intimate of losses. We have since been compared to Nazis and Isis. Our difficult decisions have been compared to eugenics and even gender selection. We have had the nature of our babies conditions, which were lethal, compared to illnesses and disabilities with no regard whatsoever for the welfare of those involved. We have even had our love for our babies questioned, suggesting that we somehow dehumanised them or did not value them. We expressed our concern that these disgusting comments would be made about us and other women who are currently going through this bereavement without being in a position to defend them. We even had the farce of a group going to Geneva to try to prevent medical professionals from using the correct and appropriate medical language, simply because it didn’t suit their agendas.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the Assembly is now more concerned with creating a fake balance based simply on headcount rather than providing the Citizens with an opportunity to hear the full range of diverse and valid arguements that are being made in support of having a Referendum to Repeal the 8th. Instead, they will get only some perspectives while having to play “spot the difference” between the collection of anti-choice organisations that have been invited.

“To add insult to injury, we were even asked if we would like to attend as observers!” said Claire Cullen-Delsol from Waterford. “How could I possibly sit there and listen silently to these strangers disecting my love for my daughter and be forbidden from responding? Needless to say we declined. This is just another example of Irish institutions and their disrespect for women and their lived experience”

“We are particularly dismayed that Every Life Counts will speak to the Assembly in our absence. This group first appeared on Facebook one month after our founding members appeared on The Late Late Show in April 2012. It is important to point out that we, like them, fully support the offer of Perinatal Hospice Care to women following a diagnosis of a Fatal Foetal Anomaly. In fact, such services are currently being provided without legal impediment, and a woman’s choice to avail of them is in no way affected by the presense or absence of the 8th Amendment. Meanwhile, those who feel that they cannot continue their pregnancy are required to travel overseas for medical treatment or are forced against their will to remain pregnant in Ireland waiting for their baby to die inside them”

TFMR Ireland made a detailed and extensive submission to the Citizens’ Assembly including personal testimonies, video and audio contributions. Their work has not been presented to the Assembly members. Instead it is part of an upload of over 13,500 submissions which the members can seek out if they wish.

Gaye Edwards, who lost her son Joshua to Anencephaly 16 years ago says “There are too many groups who seek to infantalise grown, pregnant women by presuming to be in a position to make decisions on their behalf about major life events. We are pregnant and devastated by the news we receive, but we haven’t lost our faculties. People are trusted to make other difficult decisions all the time, and they are supported through that process. That’s all anyone is asking for here.”

Gerry Edwards has asked the Assembly Secretariat to ensure that not only are presentations factual, but that suitable standards of human decency and respect are upheld throughout the presentations and the Q&A sessions.

“Unfortunately, we are not the only group who have valuable contributions to make who have been excluded, and we feel that it is informed debate and democracy that will suffer. Is it not now time for the current members of the Oireachtas to just grow up and accept their responsiblities as our legislators and get on with the job in hand? We cannot as a caring society continue to punish women for their personal tragedies.”

— ENDS –