Written by Helen Linehan

In The News

“It’s a positive step for Northern Ireland, but it’s a small step.”

A high court judge has ruled that Northern Ireland’s ban on abortion breaches the human rights of women and girls. Good, says Helen Linehan, who would like the Republic of Ireland to take note.

Pro-choice campaigners at a 2012 rally in Dublin in memory of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused a life-saving abortion. Photo by infomatique, shared under  CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pro-choice campaigners at a 2012 rally in Dublin in memory of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused a life-saving abortion. Photo by infomatique, shared under CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m sitting here with a bottle of Rescue Remedy. I’m on the bloody news tonight. I didn’t have to go on but I had to. An amazing thing happened today: the courts in Northern Ireland decided that denying abortion in cases of serious foetal malformation, rape or incest is a breach of human rights (although Northern Ireland’s attorney general later said he is considering whether to appeal the ruling).

Tiny steps.

In 2004 I fell pregnant. My husband and I were delighted and we did the thing that you’re not really supposed to do until your first scan: we told everybody. Skipping to hospital like a pair of demented love puppies, our bubble was quickly burst when we heard the sonographer’s awful words: “There’s a problem.”

The foetus was missing the top of its head; a fatal condition called acrania. A further internal scan confirmed that it would possibly grow in the womb but would not survive birth. Devastated, we were offered a termination and accepted immediately. This was a Friday and the termination was on the following Monday.

Two more days of morning sickness followed. The last two days of morning sickness. Still feeling the movement of the baby we so desperately wanted. It was a long weekend. The longest of my life.

In the Republic of Ireland, that weekend would have lasted another eight months. For those in the same situation as we were, there is no intervention offered until there is no heartbeat. It is illegal for doctors to offer advice.

Abortion carries a 14-year jail sentence. The two days I waited is nothing compared to the trauma inflicted on women diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities in Ireland.

My husband and I joined up with Amnesty’s campaign to repeal the eighth amendment. We travelled to Belfast and Dublin where I met with some of the victims of this law. Women who had to Google abortion clinics in the UK. Women who had to scrape the money together to pay for the procedure, flights, accommodation. Women with zero support from their country.

Helen and husband Graham share their story in a video for Amnesty's campaign.

Helen and husband Graham share their story in a video for Amnesty’s campaign.

The ruling today is a positive step for Northern Ireland, but it’s a small step. There are still Irish girls and women flying to clinics like BPAS in Liverpool to have abortions. These women also need support. Abortion will always play a part in society. It’s never an easy decision but it should be there as an option.

I’m going on the news now because I had to. No, I didn’t have to, I chose to.

I am pro-choice.

Watch Helen and Graham’s video for Amnesty here.
Watch Chains, Graham Linehan’s video for Amnesty here.

@hellycake

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Written by Helen Linehan

I am Helen Linehan. I am forty years old. Mother & wife. No journalistic experience whatsoever. Four more words...DONE!