Belfast Telegraph

Couple facing heartbreaking decision over twin daughters who won't survive outside of the womb make personal plea to Health Minister on abortion

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

Health Minister Edwin Poots has been challenged to help a couple who want to abort twin daughters who stand no chance of survival after birth.

In just over a week, the distraught couple will likely travel to London to terminate the pregnancy in a harrowing repeat of what another young mother had to face just days ago.

The couple contend that they should be able to have a termination in Northern Ireland "in our own country, along with our own people".

That's not possible with the law as it currently stands in Northern Ireland and does not allow for terminations of babies with serious abnormalities.

Abortions can only be legally carried out here if the pregnancy threatens the mother's life, or if there is a long-term or permanent risk to her physical or mental health.

Draft guidelines to be finalised by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) also underline the 'grey area' under which healthcare professionals here operate should they even provide advice to women seeking abortions outside Northern Ireland that would be viewed as illegal here.

Now Mr Poots has said he will meet the Public Prosecution Service to discuss the issue of potential prosecutions for health care staff involved in abortion.

Yesterday, the couple who come from the Lisburn area, came forward to reveal their plight after Sarah Ewart's story re-ignited a debate on abortion law in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Ewart, who is now recovering after her termination, urged the minister to change the abortion law to allow for terminations to be performed legally where there are severe foetal abnormalities.

She decided to go public with her sad case on the Nolan Show on Radio Ulster on Wednesday.

It was hearing what Mrs Ewart and her family went through that spurred the second couple, known as Chris and Laura, to challenge the minister's department to help them from having to go to London. In both cases, ultrasound scans detected the lethal abnormality of anencephaly in the foetuses, whereby the babies' brains have not developed and there is no hope of survival on delivery.

Chris and Laura, who is nearly 22 weeks pregnant, only found out at her five-month scan last week that she was expecting twin daughters.

The next day they learned the devastating news that both babies had anencephaly and had malformed brains.

"We were told that both babies were pretty much brain dead, that they don't have a brain stem, they don't and won't have any form of life," said Laura.

"Yes, they have a heartbeat, but the only thing that's keeping them alive is me, they will not function if they reach full term.

"They might pass before they are born but either way the outcome will be the same, the babies will die."

Laura said that she and her partner Chris would be trying to get the money together to fund the trip to London to have the termination.

It will have to be done within the next week or so to meet the 24-week deadline for abortions to be performed.

Her partner Chris said that he hoped that the minister would listen to their plight and help them before they had to travel to London.

Like Mrs Ewart, this couple said that they too would have been against abortion until they faced this impossible decision.

Dad Chris said: "It's a disgrace that the system here in this country, that it can't be done here.

"The healthcare professionals are great, they would love to help us. But you can see it in their faces, they keep having to stop themselves and say that they can't help you and they can't do this."

He added: "I just think the ministers and politicians are scared of the issue as it's contentious and it might lose them votes. That's what they are more worried about, rather than the actual cases."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph