Tragic story highlights short-sightedness

Tragic story highlights short-sightedness

It was inevitable – every time abortion is introduced into a country, horror stories follow. And it’s not like people weren’t warned.

The story broke last Thursday but on Today With Seán O’Rourke (RTÉ Radio 1) last Friday; the host’s introduction summed it up – “abortion of baby that did not have a fatal abnormality”. The circumstances of the case are hugely sad for all involved, especially for parents and baby. Keeping in mind that the full story has yet to come out, it seems a termination was carried out on a baby of 15 weeks gestation after initial tests suggested a so-called ‘fatal foetal abnormality’.

A later test showed the baby did not have the abnormality – a huge injustice, but, curiously, without the usual intense outrage in the media.

That show featured Dr Fergal Malone, Master of the Rotunda, explaining the medical technicalities. I was glad to hear him using the terms “baby” and “foetus” interchangeably, as is normal when anything but abortion is discussed.

Then, the ‘b’ word sticks in many gullets – I’ve heard pro-choice  activists, arriving at a point where the word ‘baby’ is obviously the next word, and they pause, divert and obfuscate.

The discussion was useful in providing background on the various forms of screening and diagnosis, and the desirability of not acting on the initial test alone. However Dr Malone, I thought, was too much in reassuring mode but his euphemism “full treatment options” wasn’t at all reassuring.

More worryingly, he told us that in the Rotunda, around two-thirds of those with diagnoses of what are perceived as ‘fatal abnormalities’ opted for terminations. Good grief, despite all the platitudes about inclusiveness we aren’t very welcoming of those with serious disabilities.

The issue of inaccurate or inadequate diagnoses was raised during last year’s referendum, but didn’t gain much traction (the media didn’t push it). Yet what has happened is so predictable and was, indeed, predicted.


This story contrasted sharply with an item on BBC Radio 4’s Today show earlier that morning – here we got the celebratory and life affirming story of  keyhole surgery on a baby in the womb to ease the effects of spina bifida – the operation in the womb could make the difference between the child being able to walk or not.

On another one of the controversial social issues, I haven’t heard much media debate of the divorce related referendum.

In a way it’s understandable – once the electorate has given up on the idea that marriage is a lifelong commitment, or that marriage is between one man and one woman (yes, gender balance fashionable everywhere but in marriage), or that new life is a gift not to be terminated, those with reservations must feel deflated and lacking in the energy to complain or campaign.

The issue surfaced on The Last Word (Today FM) on Monday evening of last week, and it was one of the better discussions. Margaret Hickey, described as “faith and social commentator” was calm, cool and collected in raising concerns about the proposed constitutional change. Journalist Karl Dieter had interesting angles on the financial aspects, while Minister Josepha Madigan defended the proposed change.

She also appeared on Ireland AM (Virgin Media 1) on the Wednesday morning, in debate with Mark Hickey, described as a “marriage campaigner” but this was too short and a more aggravational affair, with  lots of interruptions and the participants talking over each other.

On last Monday’s Morning Ireland  (RTÉ Radio 1) the chairperson of the Referendum Commission, Ms Justice Tara Burns stressed that primarily we were voting on whether to give the Oireachtas the power to change divorce legislation as politicians see fit, within the limits of other constitutional protections for marriage, rather than specifically on reducing the four-year wait to two years – that’s only what the current Government proposes, and for all we know they may not be in power long enough to effect this change.

But then, shortly after, the host introduced the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) stating that it was about reducing the four years to two.

Worse still the show had a ‘personal story’ where the woman interviewed urged a ‘Yes’ vote. After text complaints about lack of balance, Kenny said he had David Quinn on recently arguing against the change. So, an emotionally-charged story on the week of the vote is balanced by a more intellectual argument well before it?

I think not.


BBC1, Sunday, May 26, 1.15 pm

Second semi-final of the Young Choir of the Year.

EWTN, Monday, May 27, 2.30pm, also Friday, May 31, 10 pm

Exploring the Glendalough settlement founded by St Kevin, the relics of St Valentine and the history of the Legion of Mary.

Channel 4, Thursday, May 30, 7.20 pm

The whole family meets Fr Hubley  to uncover what – and who – is to blame for the constant bickering between them.