TFMR Respond to Archbishop Martin

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Health, Human Rights, Women's Rights

Archbishop needs to take his head out of his palace

TFMR Ireland are dismayed by the callous and hurtful comments of the Catholic Primate which are devoid of the compassion and support needed by women and their families in crisis.


We in TFMR (Terminations For Medical Reasons) Ireland were dismayed by the callous and hurtful comments of Archbishop Eamon Martin today [01st October 2016].  The Catholic Primate of all Ireland said that “the argument of what’s termed fatal foetal abnormality was no more morally relevant than when considering an adult with a life limiting condition.”  This is not the first time that Dr Martin has deliberately conflated Fatal Foetal Anomalies with disabilities or life-limiting conditions.  It is a fact that babies die as a result of foetal abnormalities.  This death may occur during the pregnancy, during delivery or shortly thereafter.  There is no intervention or treatment available which can alter this outcome.  It is also a fact that denying the choice of a termination of pregnancy in these circumstances is a breach of human rights and is cruel, inhuman and degrading as determined by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the case of Mellet v Ireland earlier this year.

“It is sad but not surprising that he feels qualified to comment on this issue despite not having lived experience, medical knowledge or any role to play in the treatment of pregnant women in any capacity” said Claire Cullen-Delsol from Waterford.  Claire’s daughter Alex was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality during a 20 week scan one year ago and she was told by foetal health specialists that her daughter would not survive the remainder of the pregnancy.  Claire was refused her request for an induced labour as she desperately wanted to protect her daughter from further suffering.  She was unable to travel to the UK for this procedure so endured five further weeks of torture, feeling her daughter get weaker and weaker until eventually her poor little heart gave up.  It was only after her daughter died that Claire was permitted to have that induced labour.  “It was the worst time in my life.  I couldn’t function, I couldn’t look after my other children.  I just wanted the suffering to end and I have never ever felt so rejected and alone.”  Claire continues “The Catholic Church in Ireland has a long,  tragic history of distrust and contempt of women and at best a cavalier,  and at times vicious attitude towards the children interned in its institutions. The extent of this is soon to be discovered when the remains of an estimated eight hundred dead babies will be exhumed in Tuam.  Given this reality it is hard to believe the Archbishop is speaking from a place of sincere concern for women and their dying babies.”

The Primate went on to say “To deliberately and intentionally take the life of an innocent person, whatever their state or stage of life, is always gravely morally wrong”

Gerry Edwards, from the group TFMR Ireland who have long campaigned for legal changes to allow for terminations of pregnancy in cases of Fatal Foetal Anomaly responded “My wife and I lost our son Joshua to anencephaly.  Most of his brain and skull was missing.  He could not live outside the womb.  In fact, it is most unlikely that labour would have triggered spontaneously and would have had to be induced.  What difference does it make to the Archbishop, or anyone else for that matter, whether my wife had an induced labour at 22 weeks, 32 weeks or 42 weeks? We know of many other women whose babies, through cruelty of nature, had similarly catastrophic conditions and they made the unbelievably heartbreaking decision to end these pregnancies at a time of their choosing in the best interest of their babies, themselves and their families.”

Ruth Bowie, one of the founders of TFMR, said “Comparing a fatal foetal anomaly to a life limiting condition shows how poorly educated the Archbishop is on this matter. Why? Because he is not a doctor!  This is exactly why we must trust the professionals who have studied and gained experience in foetal medicine and have to break this tragic news to devastated parents.  We have supported so many women over the years and many of them have spoken of the compassion they received from the Catholic chaplains in the UK hospitals they were forced to travel to, and also from the front-line priests and nuns from their parishes.  This is what Christian love and compassion means to most people in Ireland”

Gaye Edwards concluded “The Archbishop talks of wanting to walk with and accompany women in these situations.  He needs to take his head out of his palace and have a look at the world around him.  Have a look at the suffering of so many women and their families, suffering which is completely malicious and man-made in its nature.  What I needed then, and what women in Ireland need now, is somebody who will walk with us with compassion and support and not in judgement and condemnation of us.”


Notes to the Editor

  • Gerry Edwards, 52 Woodstock, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow. (M) 086 1021306
  • Gaye Edwards (M) 086 1021306
  • Claire Cullen-Delsol (M) 087 2372744
  • Ruth Bowie (M) 087 2778862
  • TFMR Ireland are women and men who have been faced with the heartbreaking diagnosis of Fatal Foetal Anomalies. Due to the restrictive laws in Ireland, we were all forced to either travel to the UK and further afield to receive treatment which is illegal in Ireland, or to continue our pregnancies in Ireland against our will. We have all been traumatised, shocked and appalled that at our greatest time of need, our country turned its back on us and made us feel like criminals. Many of us found ourselves in unfamiliar places away from family, friends and our homes.
  • We are de-stigmatising terminations of pregnancy in cases of Fatal Foetal Anomaly by raising awareness of this horrific problem by publicly sharing our personal experiences. Through our stories we are educating people about the nature of these anomalies and how the 8th impacts upon the care of women in Ireland in these tragic circumstances.  We provide emotional support to women and their families who have gone through these losses, and who are going through the process now.  We are also campaigning for a change in the law so that others need not suffer as we have. The law cannot prevent babies from developing conditions which are incompatible with life, but as a Country and a society we can show compassion, understanding and support for mothers, fathers and families in this situation.  Nobody should have to suffer as we have in addition to the loss of a baby.
  • TFMR Ireland is also a member of The Coalition to Repeal the 8th, which is a growing alliance of over 60 organisations including human rights, feminist and pro-choice organisations, trade unions, health organisations, NGOs, community organisations and many others. Its members agree that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution must be repealed in order to respect and protect the lives, health and choices of women in Ireland..
  • TFMR Ireland also operate a charity “Leanbh Mo Chroi” which offers emotional support to families by manning a helpline +353 86 74 74 746 and running face to face support meetings every few months. This is facilitated on a shoestring budget.  We receive no state support.