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'I felt a termination was the only option for me'

Helen Linehan is now the mother of two healthy children - but she has no doubt that her life would be quite different if she had not terminated her first pregnancy.

Helen had been overjoyed at the news that she was pregnant shortly after her marriage to comedy writer Graham Linehan. She had told people and sent out cards with a little picture of a baby drawn on them.

Then came the hammer blow.

"We discovered the problem at the first scan; I guess it was 11 weeks. I wasn't showing too much yet but I was about to and I was having morning sickness," she said.

"Almost as soon as we got pregnant I was puking and retching. So we had this scan at 11 weeks and it was awful, the baby would not survive birth by long and was likely to spontaneously abort.

"I dreaded continuing having to go out to the shops and meeting other pregnant women. The appearance of a heavily pregnant woman gives people an excuse to stop and chat and comment.

"It is not just a physical effect; it is a mental effect for the heavily pregnant woman and the husband. It affects everyone, the family, and the friends. Then there would be the birth and coming back empty handed, getting your body into shape to start again."

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Helen, who was living in England at the time, said: "I can imagine the depression I would have sunk into if I had been resident in Ireland and had to complete the pregnancy. I couldn't have physically or mentally continued with the pregnancy knowing that it was going to end fatally for the baby pretty much as soon as it was born."

Helen is supported today by Sarah Ewart, who travelled to England from Northern Ireland for an abortion in 2013. The foetus was diagnosed with anencephaly, in which the baby has too little skull or brain to survive.

However, some mothers carry such children full term in order to hold the baby and arrange a burial. Ms Linehan defends their right to do so.

"I respect the decision of parents who want to deliver the baby, to meet it and bury it but my personal choice deserves respect too. Having the option should be allowed," she said.

"It is a very old fashioned law and it should be changed."

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