Baby Christo­pher and bleak abor­tion fig­ures

The Irish Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Breda O’Brien

Where is Baby Christo­pher to be found in the bleak statis­tics of 6,666 Ir­ish abor­tions? Baby Christo­pher’s life was ter­mi­nated in March 2019. He was his par­ents’ first child. The scan was nor­mal. His par­ents say they had not planned to have a non-in­va­sive pre­na­tal test for ab­nor­mal­i­ties, but when of­fered one by Mer­rion Fe­tal Health, ac­cepted it. The pre­na­tal test showed a ge­netic ab­nor­mal­ity which was in­ter­preted by their doc­tor as be­ing a fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­ity.

His par­ents are adamant that they would have con­tin­ued with the preg­nancy if it were at all vi­able.

It is al­leged his par­ents were told that there was no hope and no point wait­ing for re­sults of de­fin­i­tive ge­netic test­ing or­dered by the hos­pi­tal. The ter­mi­na­tion went ahead in Holles Street.

His par­ents say that after the test re­sults came back no one had the sim­ple, hu­man kind­ness to tell them per­son­ally that Christo­pher was ac­tu­ally a com­pletely healthy lit­tle boy. They had found it out them­selves from read­ing the test re­sults.

A re­view of the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the abor­tion has yet to com­plete its work.

In the mean­time Christo­pher’s par­ents want to know where the tragedy of their son ap­pears in the abor­tion fig­ures. There are 100 cases counted un­der sec­tion 11 of the Ter­mi­na­tion of Preg­nancy Act which cov­ers life-lim­it­ing con­di­tions likely to re­sult in death be­fore birth or within 28 days after.

Christo­pher does not be­long in sec­tion 11 be­cause he did not have a life-lim­it­ing con­di­tion. If he was counted in this sec­tion, is he not even worth an as­ter­isk, point­ing out that al­though the abor­tion was car­ried out on this ground, that it should not have been?

How many of these 100 ter­mi­na­tions took place with­out wait­ing for more ac­cu­rate test­ing?

If so, how many of these al­leged fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­i­ties were defini­tively con­firmed by biopsy of the re­mains after the ter­mi­na­tion? How many other Christo­phers are there?

And if Christo­pher is not in that sec­tion, where is his death counted?

Which month?

His par­ents also want to know what month in which baby Christo­pher’s ter­mi­na­tion ap­pears. The abor­tion took place in March but was not no­ti­fied to the min­is­ter un­til May. (If this hap­pened as the par­ents re­port, it is in breach of sec­tion 20 of the leg­is­la­tion which man­dates that all abor­tions car­ried out un­der sec­tion 11 be no­ti­fied to the min­is­ter within 28 days.)

Aside from the tragedy of 6,666 lives that will never un­fold and ripen (7,041 if you count the abor­tions car­ried out in Eng­land in 2019) these statis­tics are a trav­esty. They sim­ply give the county in which the woman lives, the month, le­gal grounds and num­bers. If it were not for his par­ents’ tenac­ity, we would never know that Baby Christo­pher’s short life and un­nec­es­sary death are con­cealed within these statis­tics.

The of­fi­cial Ir­ish abor­tion fig­ures are four pages long, in­clud­ing two pages on the leg­is­la­tion. The equiv­a­lent of­fi­cial doc­u­ment for Eng­land and Wales has 19 pages. Ev­ery­thing from the age of the mother, ges­ta­tional age of the baby, mar­i­tal sta­tus, eth­nic­ity, num­ber of pre­vi­ous abor­tions, ob­stet­ric his­tory, ma­ter­nal de­pri­va­tion and per­haps most sig­nif­i­cantly, com­pli­ca­tions, are recorded.

We have no idea how many women ex­pe­ri­enced com­pli­ca­tions which can in­clude haem­or­rhage, re­ten­tion of body parts or pla­centa, or sep­sis after an abor­tion. Why not?


The man­date of the Cri­sis Preg­nancy Agency has never been re­voked, that is, to re­duce the num­bers of women hav­ing cri­sis preg­nan­cies and seek­ing an abor­tion. If we have no idea who is hav­ing abor­tions or why, how can we re­duce the num­bers? Far from re­duc­ing, the num­bers have gone up by al­most 40 per cent.

Many peo­ple voted for re­peal on the grounds that lib­eral abor­tion regimes re­duce the num­bers of abor­tions, some­thing man­i­festly un­true, given that in 2019, Eng­land and Wales had their high­est fig­ures ever.

There were about 5,000 Ir­ish abor­tions in 2018. Those fig­ures are based on statis­tics from Eng­land Wales and the Nether­lands and a gen­er­ous es­ti­mate of 2,000 abor­tion pills be­ing con­sumed, based on fig­ures from sup­pli­ers such as Women on Web. (It is gen­er­ous not least be­cause the State was ac­tively and suc­cess­fully seiz­ing pills.) That’s a rate of just un­der 14 a day in 2018. It has now risen to more than 19 a day.

An Abor­tion Rights Cam­paign mem­ber refers to the fig­ures as 6,666 small vic­to­ries, which is grotesque, given that very few women cel­e­brate their abor­tions. Mean­while, Amnesty wants to ex­tend the grounds for abor­tion be­yond al­legedly fa­tal dis­abil­i­ties to other non-fa­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

We rightly mourn more than 1,700 Covid-19 re­lated deaths. The deaths of 7,041 of the small­est hu­mans pass al­most with­out com­ment, aside from de­mands to widen leg­is­la­tion.

Christo­pher’s par­ents are pro-choice. Un­like me, they sup­ported re­peal. But their dev­as­tat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has made them query leg­is­la­tion for abor­tion on the grounds of so-called fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­ity. Even when ac­cu­rately di­ag­nosed, it is im­pos­si­ble to know what life will be like for any in­di­vid­ual child. Some chil­dren with al­leged fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­i­ties live for years.

His par­ents won­der why so few have sup­ported their search for the truth of what hap­pened to their lit­tle boy. Fif­teen months on, no re­view has com­menced, no apol­ogy has been is­sued and it looks like very few peo­ple care.

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