O’Connell dis­plays as­ton­ish­ing in­sen­si­tiv­ity

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

Stand­ing be­side Si­mon Harris in the Dáil this week, Deputy Kate O’Connell com­pared peri­na­tal hospice care to the in­car­cer­a­tion of women in laun­dries and also said there was no em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence for abor­tion re­gret. The Ro­tunda Hos­pi­tal de­fines peri­na­tal pal­lia­tive care as “an ac­tive, to­tal, holis­tic ap­proach to care, fo­cused on en­hanc­ing the qual­ity of life of the baby and their fam­ily while recog­nis­ing po­ten­tial or in­evitable death, and should be of­fered from the time of di­ag­no­sis, whether be­fore birth (an­te­na­tally) or as a new­born (neona­tally)”.

O’Connell’s out­burst was shock­ing, given that Harris had launched Na­tional Stan­dards for Be­reave­ment Care Fol­low­ing Preg­nancy Loss just 2½ years ago. These stan­dards pre­scribe wrap­around care for the fam­ily from the mo­ment of di­ag­no­sis of a life-lim­it­ing con­di­tion to long af­ter the death of the child and say that ev­ery ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal in Ire­land should pro­vide it. Yet Harris re­mained silent as O’Connell de­clared that peri­na­tal hospice care sounds like one of those good ideas, but in fact, harks back to the 1950s.

In an as­ton­ish­ing show of in­sen­si­tive ig­no­rance, she seemed to think that peri­na­tal hospice is a place where women go to live rather than a co-or­di­nated set of ser­vices. She asked rhetor­i­cally that, given that she has three chil­dren, if she had “one of these preg­nan­cies . . . where are you go­ing to in­car­cer­ate me? Are you go­ing to open a laun­dry for these women?”

This model of care in­volves a ded­i­cated be­reave­ment mid­wife as part of an in­ter­dis­ci­plinary team, which en­sures, for ex­am­ple, that you are not sit­ting with all the other women car­ry­ing healthy ba­bies when you come for an­te­na­tal check-ups.

Grief de­nier

The be­reave­ment mid­wife is there to en­sure the fam­ily will be ush­ered in im­me­di­ately af­ter birth, that you have quiet, dig­ni­fied time with the baby and that the baby ex­pe­ri­ences no dis­com­fort, and per­haps that a pho­tog­ra­pher will be there to record the pre­cious few mo­ments and make me­mories that last a life­time. The ap­proach gives par­ents a chance to come through this ap­palling grief with a re­dis­cov­ered sense of be­ing able to be par­ents and ad­vo­cates for their lit­tle, dam­aged child, of finding mean­ing and clo­sure even while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing se­vere trauma and pain.

But O’Connell did not just cav­a­lierly dis­miss be­reave­ment care. She also tri­umphantly pro­duced so-called ev­i­dence that abor­tion re­gret is not a real thing, cit­ing Dr Abi­gail Aiken, who has openly cam­paigned for abor­tion in Ire­land for years. Have Aiken or O’Connell ever both­ered to lis­ten to the ex­pe­ri­ences of women who have talked about the pain of re­gret­ting an abor­tion?

Iron­i­cally, those same guide­lines for the peri­na­tal be­reave­ment ser­vice that O’Connell de­rides, talk about dis­en­fran­chised grief, which is de­fined as oc­cur­ring “when the im­pact of a death is not recog­nised. It oc­curs when grief is not openly ac­knowl­edged, so­cially val­i­dated or pub­licly mourned.”

When women who claim to be fem­i­nists proudly de­clare that you are not en­ti­tled to grieve your abor­tion be­cause there is no em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence for abor­tion re­gret, that also causes dis­en­fran­chised grief.

But O’Connell was not fin­ished. She de­clared to pro-life TDs, “We won. We’ll get our way . . . Ye can talk for as long as ye like . . . Ye lost. It must be hurt­ing.”

Those fi­nal com­ments show the new, ugly mood, where only com­plete sub­mis­sion to the dom­i­nant ide­o­log­i­cal frame will be tol­er­ated.

While O’Connell’s rant was in a league of its own when it came to tri­umphal­ism, the in­abil­ity to deal with dif­fer­ence was also in ev­i­dence at last week’s ex­tra­or­di­nary gen­eral meet­ing of the Ir­ish Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers (ICGP).

Hun­dreds of doc­tors had called for an egm to put for­ward mo­tions and to have a proper de­bate about whether abor­tion should be pro­vided by GPs at all. They also wanted as­sur­ances that doc­tors would not be threat­ened with the law of the land if they can­not in con­science fa­cil­i­tate a woman in tak­ing the life of her child or re­fer her to some­one else to do it. They want in­stead to of­fer holis­tic care for both mother and baby.

Hand­writ­ten sig­na­tures

But the ICGP first of all de­manded that all those ask­ing for the egm should have pro­vided hand­writ­ten sig­na­tures, an as­ton­ish­ing de­mand given that the cor­po­rate world has long ac­cepted dig­i­tal sig­na­tures. Then the ICGP said that they would hold an egm, but bizarrely, would not al­low any mo­tions to be voted on.

What ex­actly was the ICGP afraid of? That their lack of man­date to rep­re­sent GPs would be made ob­vi­ous if mo­tions were car­ried? Scores of GPs walked out be­cause there was no point in re­main­ing to dis­cuss how train­ing would be rolled out. Many GPs for many dif­fer­ent rea­sons want noth­ing to do with a sys­tem that pays ¤450 if you are will­ing to take life, but ¤250 for the care of a mother and baby all through preg­nancy. Re­fus­ing ac­cess to demo­cratic mech­a­nisms and dis­miss­ing the real grief and re­gret of women be­cause it does not fit your agenda are all part of the sti­fling, suf­fo­cat­ing, op­pres­sive cul­ture that is our new re­al­ity.

Kate O’Connell was not fin­ished. She de­clared to pro-life TDs, “We won. We’ll get our way . . . Ye can talk for as long as ye like . . . Ye lost. It must be hurt­ing”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.