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Sinn Fein man Cathal O hOisin's tears for his baby with fatal abnormality as he urges a 'humane' change to abortion law


An emotional Cathal O hOisin yesterday at a conference organised in Belfast by Amnesty International

An emotional Cathal O hOisin yesterday at a conference organised in Belfast by Amnesty International

An emotional Cathal O hOisin yesterday at a conference organised in Belfast by Amnesty International

A Sinn Fein politician has revealed how the death of his second baby immediately after birth has made him passionate about allowing pregnant women diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality the right to have an abortion in Northern Ireland.

Cathal O hOisin, an East Londonderry MLA, said he supported a change in the current abortion law as he spoke emotionally in public for the first time about his experience - something he says he "carries with him".

"Since that time I've been advocating the rights of women to choose to terminate pregnancy with fatal foetal abnormality or, indeed, to continue her pregnancy if she so wishes," he said.

"It has been a long journey coming here. It is something that I feel passionate about and carry with me.

"Myself and my wife were married in 2000. We were married nine months and 10 days before our son was born. We were very, very proud."

Speaking yesterday at the launch of an Amnesty International report that calls for a change in current abortion law in Northern Ireland, he said the couple were delighted when they discovered they were expecting a second child.

"Weeks and months passed. There was nothing terribly awry. She also had this woman's intuition that it was a daughter.

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"So she went for her 16-week scan. That morning she said: 'Go you to work, I'm fine. I'll ring you'. She did ring but she was distraught - she was actually hysterical. My first thought was she was involved in a road traffic accident."

The next day the couple went to see the consultant and were told the baby had a fatal foetal abnormality called anencephaly.

"From day one they said this is not survivable, this is not tenable, your baby will die or will be born dead or will die immediately at birth," he said.

Mr O hOisin said they were advised to take their time over whether they wanted to continue with the pregnancy or not.

"This went on for six weeks and she sat down and said: 'Listen, I want to continue this'. Our baby was born and died in the same minute, in the same second, in the same instance. We gave her a name, took her home and had a service. She has a name. She has a grave."

But he said he became "horrified" by what couples faced if they choose to have an abortion.

"It was only when I looked into the options that we would have had, had we decided to go for a termination.

"I was absolutely horrified that had we decided such, first of all, it wouldn't be available - and second of all, we would have to go across the water (to England)."

He said he later broke down while driving in his car listening to a radio interview with a woman called Sarah Ewart who had to travel to England to have an abortion.

Her baby had not developed a skull and was brain dead, but could not access a termination in Northern Ireland because of the current legislation.

"I was absolutely distraught in the car because I could relate to what Sarah's experience had been," he said.

"There's a need for a change in the laws here. There is a need for a change in attitudes. There is a need for compassion.

"This is not just a women's issue. It is a human issue."

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