Belfast Telegraph

Maternity hospitals 'have duty'

Masters of maternity hospitals have a duty of care to women being forced to travel for an abortion, it has been claimed.

Three women, who told of their harrowing experiences of having to go to the UK for a termination after being diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities, have called for a meeting with the medical chiefs to discuss the issue.

Amanda Mellet, Ruth Bowie and Arlette Lyons are campaigning for a change in the law to legalise abortions in Ireland when the life of the child is in danger.

They gave politicians first accounts at a briefing last week where they detailed the distressing experience they each had in being denied an abortion at home even though they knew their babies would not survive.

"We know that legally your hands are tied in the services and information you can give us but feel that you equally have a duty of care to us and other women who will unfortunately go through this in the future," the women said in a letter to the masters.

They said that every year hundreds of women are forced to travel to the UK for an abortion in similar tragic circumstances.

The correspondence has been sent to the Chris Fitzpatrick, Master of the Coombe, Rhona Mahony of the National Maternity Hospital and Sam Coulter-Smith of the Rotunda, calling for an immediate meeting.

"We want to work with you to tell you how you could make our awful experiences better," the women said. "Our desire would be that the law would change so you would be able to provide this service to us in our country in the near future."

The three women have no affiliation with pro-choice groups or any political party but they supported a Private Member's Bill to reform abortion law in line with the 20-year-old X case ruling last week.

The proposed law, tabled by TDs from the Technical Group, involved the legalisation of abortion in circumstances when the woman's life or that of the child is at risk. The legislation stemmed from the Supreme Court ruling which said abortion laws could be changed to apply in life-threatening circumstances.

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