It’s Back to the Future for Ireland. The whole country has climbed into a gigantic DeLorean and zapped itself back to the Eighties, where economic depression stalks the land and religious ideologues harangue pregnant women.
Last night on the Late Late show, three women told their stories of discovering that their unborn babies could never live outside the womb. All of them wished fervently to bear a healthy child, but the reality was that it would never happen. They asked to have their deliveries induced and they were refused. In this God-fearing little country, they must bring their babies to full term, in the certain knowledge that those babies will be born dead.
What would you do? They went abroad and had abortions.
Now let’s be clear about this. Their babies did not simply have abnormalities, deformities or disabilities.
In the case of these three women, their bodies were acting as life-support machines for babies that would never have survived outside the womb. The mothers and fathers of these children give them a name. They keep photos of the little life. They grieve for them. They bury them. They tell their other children about them, children who also experience the bereavement, and they spend the rest of their lives loving them. They spend the rest of their lives in a form of mourning that their emotionally-stunted religious detractors can never understand.
Anencephaly is a condition related to Spina Bifida. It’s a neural tube defect in which the brain does not develop. The baby shows all the signs of a living child, but has no brain and can in no circumstances exist independently. When doctors determine that the victim of a road accident is brain dead, they can legally remove the artificial life support apparatus and allow the patient to die naturally, but when a woman in Ireland asks to have a baby with no brain delivered so as not to spend two, three or four months enduring the torture of such a thing, she is told NO. You will become a life-support machine until such time as that child is delivered. It matters nothing that you may be destroyed emotionally as a consequence.
That’s how our little republic treats women in such a heartbreaking fix.
It takes us right back to the Sheila Hodgers case, where a pregnant mother with cancer was allowed to die screaming rather than receive pain-killing drugs that might damage her foetus. That happened in the Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, where so many other women were treated as lumps of meat, attacked, humiliated and defiled by the likes of Neary and Shine. The Northern Ireland-trained staff nurse who blew the whistle on the extreme Catholic ethos of that hospital was hounded out of a job as a result.
On the Late Late Show last night, these women were called “murderesses”, a ridiculous word, revealing the antediluvian nature of the accuser, but that wasn’t the only debasement they experienced. They reported being sneered at by a parliamentarian, Senator Ronan Mullen, who is of course inextricably bound up with the vile Youth Defence and Cóir and all the other manifestations of the Catholic extreme right in Ireland.
Make no mistake: Catholic or not, these people have little interest in Christianity. This is all about control.
The current government has had to make extremely difficult decisions on the economy. While I disagree with many of their policies I don’t envy their task, but here comes the acid test. Since they seem resolved to impose one savage budget after another, despite the extreme public backlash, will they have the balls to face down these heartless ideologues who would impose such suffering on young mothers?
Will we finally as a nation show some maturity instead of allowing decent, heartbroken women to skulk off like thieves?
Ronan Mullen, shame on you, and all those like you.
This isn’t the Eighties, though. This time, people have the information and the means to fight back.