Helen & Graham Linehan's Amnesty video damns Ireland's barbaric abortion laws

In 2004, Helen Linehan terminated a pregnancy she had conceived with her husband, IT Crowd/Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, after discovering that the fetus had acrania and could not survive for more than an hour after the birth. As sad as the occasion was, the pair were more traumatised when the moved to Ireland shortly after and discovered that if Helen had had her abortion there, she'd have faced 16 years in prison.

Ireland has one of Europe's most backwards abortion laws. Under Irish law, women must carry fetuses to term, even fetuses resulting from rape and incest, even nonviable fetuses, even when the mother's life is endangered. Women who leave the country to have an abortion abroad risk arrest, forced pregnancy, and long prison sentences.

There is a large and growing movement to protect a woman's right to choose in Ireland. The Linehans' collaboration with Amnesty International resulted in a powerful short film that brings the issue home in a way that's impossible to ignore.

“In Ireland, Helen would be a criminal to have undergone the termination. She would have had to carry the child knowing it would die in great pain shortly after she had given birth to it,” he said. “I have always been very proud to be Irish but I am embarrassed by Ireland’s abortion laws. This is just something you can’t be proud of. It’s barbaric.”

Graham and Helen have collaborated with Amnesty on a short campaign film calling on the Irish government to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution, which puts the foetus’s right to life on the same footing as a woman’s.

Helen said she was prompted to make the film by a sense of outrage at how she could have been criminalised for a difficult decision had she not been living in England at the time. She would have found it very hard to have been forced to carry a baby to term in the knowledge that it was going to die as soon as it was born.

“It would have been life-changing. To endure the full-term pregnancy, and to come home empty-handed and with the physical changes that come with pregnancy – it would have been awful. I don’t know how I would I have got through that, mentally or physically,” she said.

How heartbreak led Helen and Graham Linehan to campaign for abortion in Ireland [Amelia Gentleman/The Guardian]

Notable Replies

  1. There's a couple of inaccuracies in the article. Women in Ireland have the right to travel to the UK or mainland Europe for an abortion, and for the last 20 years or so it's been legal for doctors and women's health clinics to distribute details on how to do so.

    Also, the jail sentence for "illegally procuring a miscarraige" is 14 years, and came into law in 2013, and only covers abortions that take place in Ireland. In practice the only people who will be liable for the sentence are women who manage to smuggle the abortion pill past customs and can be proven to have taken it in order to terminate a pregnancy.

    The same law - the protection of life during pregnancy act - is meant to allow for abortions in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, but its first challenge came last August from a refugee who was raped before she arrived in Ireland and discovered she was pregnant after. She threatened to kill herself and went on hunger strike and eventually the HSE agreed to allow an abortion. They then dithered until she was 24 weeks gone and instead gave her a c-section.

    Since then, about a year ago doctors refused to remove a brain-dead pregnant woman from life support, against her family's wishes, for fear of being prosecuted. Eventually a court order was issued that lead to disconnection.

  2. The respect for "life" when it comes to women is quite evident.

  3. Oh absolutely. The Pro-lifers here lauded Migrant Y's premature baby as "baby Hope", giving it a feminine name even though we didn't know the gender, and claiming this was a great victory. Never mind that this child has something like a 5% chance of surviving to adulthood in good health, and the mother has physical scars to go along with her emotional ones. (EDIT, and they stopped talking about the baby as soon as the story fell out of the news cycle, of course)

    Even leaving aside the horrible way her attempt to get an abortion was handled, it's another damning case of Ireland's neglect towards asylum seekers and migrants. Don't google Direct Provisioning unless you enjoy getting angry.

  4. Liam Neeson to Ireland be all like...

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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