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Dad of woman who had to bring dead baby home in cooler bag pleads for Northern Ireland abortion reform


The couple's baby was diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormality.

The couple's baby was diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormality.

Dr Caroline Gannon. Pic BBC

Dr Caroline Gannon. Pic BBC


The couple's baby was diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormality.

The father of a woman who had to bring her baby's remains home in a cool bag after an abortion in England has made an emotional plea for Northern Ireland's politicians to change the legislation.

It comes after a senior Northern Ireland doctor told how she was forced to resign over abortion interventions.

Dr Caroline Gannon told the BBC the final straw was having to tell a couple they should use a picnic cooler bag to bring their baby's remains home to Northern Ireland.

The couple's baby was diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormality.

It is illegal in Northern Ireland for an abortion to be carried out on the grounds of such a diagnosis and the couple had to travel to England for a termination.

And the only means they had to transfer the child home were by in a cooler bag with ice packs.

They requested a post-mortem from the paediatric pathologist to understand the baby's diagnosis.

The woman's father spoke on Wednesday afternoon and made a direct appeal to Northern Ireland's MLAs to consider how they would feel if this happened to their own family.

He said: "If we can change the legislation in Northern Ireland it would be one good thing that would come out of all this terrible trauma that my daughter has gone through."

The father told how 12 months before this ordeal the same thing had happened to his daughter - but she was able to get treatment in Northern Ireland. They couldn't believe it when a year later they got the same phonecall.

He told BBC Talkback: "Twelve months before this happened the same problem occured. In that case the heartbeat of the baby ceased at about 14 weeks and she was taken in to hospital.

"There was a great team of people, terrible experience but it was all done in Northern Ireland and she was trying to get over it.

"A year later she had the 12 -week scan and had the same phonecall and couldn't believe it. It's a very, very unusual situation.

"So the weeks went by and the heart rate dropped, and the weeks went by and my daughter was suffering terribly with the mental strain of it all

"So we had to take the decision to go to England."

His daughter and her husband travelled first and were followed by her father and mother who carried the cool bag.

"We were to bring it back to save them having to do that. It was a traumatic day and night.

"We got the foetus and put it in the cool bag and started driving at 2am in the morning up the motorway."

However they got a phonecall to say she had collapsed and was being rushed to hospital.

"We had to turn the car and drive for 20 miles to turn around to see how she was.

"We got to the hospital where she was being looked after really well. I had to sit in the car with the engine running to keep the cool bag cool. I hadn't slept for nearly 24 hours.

"At 6am we headed home and got to the Royal at about 8 o clock  to hand it over."

The father appealed to Northern Ireland's politicians to change the legislation so that no other family has to go through what they have.

He said: "If the legislation could be changed, if those MLAs could picture their own daughter when the vote comes around. I wish this on no-one. I don't know if Mr Larkin has a daughter, I hope he would never have to go through what my daughter and her husband went through and my wife and I have gone through.

"It is a horrendous and a terrible shame that Northern Ireland in this day and age has to look people in the eye around the world and say this is the way we deal with things."

The heartbroken father says he hopes that one day his daughter will "have the child she so desperately wants".

He said: "I'm a Christian all my life and I see nothing wrong at all with what we did. It's the greatest form of humanity that one can do for one's daughter, is to try and end the terrible pain she is suffering.

"We pray every day she'll have the child she longs for. We are getting tests done on the basis of the foetus coming back.

"We hope that one day she will have the child that she so desperately wants.

"The last thing she would ever do is end the life of a child if there was an alternative.

"I hope this will change the legislation because at least something good will have come out of the most awful experience we have had as a family this last number of months."

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