Thursday, July 12, 2012

Irish Senators debate prenatal and perinatal care for families whose unborn babies are diagnosed as having or likely to have a terminal condition or a severe disability at birth

The Irish Senate on Wednesday July 11th looked at the issues of prenatal and  perinatal care and support for pregnant women whose unborn babies are diagnosed with serious illnesses.

The issue was raised following a briefing by ‘One Day More,’ a group of families who each had babies diagnosed with a terminal condition and/or severe disabilities prior to birth. The event, which was co-hosted by Senators Rónán Mullen, Darragh O’Brien and Mary Ann O’Brien was attended by over 60 Senators and TDs.

The importance of the issues were highlighted by number of Senators, some of whose statements are reprinted here below

Senator Darragh O’Brien in his intervention told the Senate, 
“I ask that we would have a debate in the House very early in the new session on perinatal care. I thank Senator Rónán Mullen for arranging a most thought-provoking presentation from the One Day More group of parents whose children, unfortunately, survived only a very short time after they were born. Any of us who were present were very moved by the frank and honest personal accounts these men and women gave today. It gave us a very different perspective about the joy experienced by families and their friends, even in such a difficult situation when their children, who were born with major disabilities, had only a short lifespan.

They deserve, and I am sure the Leader will arrange, a proper and considered debate in September on the issue of perinatal care. I was struck, particularly in regard to the mothers who spoke today, by how well they were treated and what an experience it was for them to bring their children into this world, even if it was, as one mother recounted to us, just for the 17 minutes the child survived after birth. We need to look at how we might improve on that for parents and for the children who were born, and look at the whole area of perinatal care. I ask the Leader to arrange that debate early in the next term to see how the House can assist these very brave people, whom I commend. I again thank Senator Rónán Mullen for organising the presentation.”

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú told the House, 
"I compliment Senators Rónán Mullen, Darragh O’Brien and Mary Ann O’Brien on co-hosting a briefing by One Day More this morning. A number of Deputies were also involved in this very moving cross-party event. One Day More comprises families with children with severe disabilities and who lost a child shortly after birth because of severe disabilities. In times of difficulty we look for stories of inspiration and hope and we need look no further than the seven parents who spoke at the Hibernian Club this morning. They shared their personal experiences and did not show bitterness or regret. It was about showing the love they had for their children. Even though they had died, they were still very much part of the parents’ lives. It would be a lovely experience if the Leader could arrange for the seven parents in question to discuss the matter in the Chamber. Over 50 Deputies and Senators turned up at a very early hour this morning. If the parents were to appear in the Houses, every Deputy and Senator would be overawed by their stories. I compliment everyone involved, but I would like their stories to travel further than the large attendance this morning".

Senator Mary Ann O’Brien said 
"I, too, commend Senator Mullen, who was the catalyst for this morning’s One Day More event. The elephant in the room is the word “abortion”. The lives of the babies we heard about this morning would have been terminated. I did not speak myself this morning because it was a time for the parents but I too had a baby that died at two years of age, who I could have terminated when he was in my tummy. His name was Jack Irwin. Because of him we have raised €36 million for the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation. By the way, it has nothing to do with me. I do not do any of the work. My husband, Jonathan, his foundation and all the lovely people throughout Ireland do the work. This shows what can happen. I wish everyone had been there this morning to hear how fragile life is and that we are here to respect human beings. There was great sadness but great dignity portrayed this morning by those wonderful parents."

Senator Paul Coghlan told the House, 
"I fully agree with Senator Darragh O’Brien and the remarks of Senators Ó Murchú and Burke with regard to the One Day More group we heard from this morning on perinatal care. It is remarkably important. I gather great advances have been made in this area. I compliment the Senators who arranged the event, including Senator Mullen, Senator Mary Ann O’Brien and others. They gave moving accounts. That would not normally be my scene at that hour of the morning, or any morning, but it was moving and it opened our minds to the tremendous value of human life, even for such a short time. It was good that so many Members were there to hear their stories. Will the Leader indicate whether there is any way we could advance this, spread it or hear more about it in greater numbers in the Oireachtas? Any way we can advance it would represent a good day’s work and I sincerely commend all involved".

Senator Jim Walsh also agreed and told the House, 
"I join those who complimented Senators Mullen, Darragh O’Brien and Mary Ann O’Brien and thank the Senators for their invitation to us to hear what was a story of integrity, courage, parental love and a lesson to us all in how to face adversity. I join Senators Ó Murchú and Paul Coghlan who stated they hoped there would be a follow-on. I encourage the three Senators to have further initiatives because it is important everybody in this House hears their stories. It is part of the enlightenment we should have in the process of formulating legislation".

Senator Maurice Cummins in response told the house, 
"Senators Darragh O’Brien, Labhrás Ó Murchú and several others referred to One Day More, an organisation that held a breakfast information meeting this morning, and called for a debate on prenatal care. I will seek to arrange such a debate in the new session".
We conclude this report by linking to the perinatal hospice video on which we recently reported