Sinn Fein MLA Cathal O’hOisin has spoken emotionally about the moment his baby daughter died as soon as she was born 12 years ago.
The Dungiven man spoke about what it was like to lose a baby to fatal foetal abnormality when he addressed a conference on Northern Ireland’s abortion laws hosted by Amnesty International at the Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast on Thursday.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’, the East Derry representative said he and his wife were told the baby would not survive after birth. They made the decision to go full term with the pregnancy.
“Our baby was born and died in the same instance, and it was a very difficult time, particularly for my wife, but also myself and it’s something we have lived with for so long,” said Mr O’hOisin.
“Since that happened I have been lobbied, and women and couples have come towards me and told me their stories - both of going full term and of termination and the absolute horror that that is because it involves going to England, paying for the termination and going ino the abortion clinics where people who want abortions are there and, in most cases, and I’d say nearly every case of fatal foetal abnormality, the child that is there is a wanted child, maybe even a planned child, and it’s a completely different circumstance and, yet, this woman has to go through all that trauma and, indeed, her partner as well.”
Mr Ó hOisín says he fully supported his wife to carry their baby for the full-term of her pregnancy, but says the “central point of all of my interest in this is it should be the woman’s choice, particularly in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. There has to be some leeway in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, and also then rape and incest.”
The assemblyman hopes by sharing his family’s experience will contribute to the ongoing debate about whether the abortion law in Northern Ireland should be amended to reflect cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
“Out of all of this, I suppose, it seemed for many a long day it was a fairly hopleless situation there might be some hope now,” he said.
Currently, Justice Minister David Ford is consulting on changes to the criminal law on abortion - the first legislative change on abortion in more than a century.
Abortions are only permitted in Northern Ireland in certain circumstances, including when the life of the mother is in grave danger. Members of the public have been asked for opinions on amending the law in cases of lethal foetal abnormality.
Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis in Derry next week will debate whether current abortion law should reflect cases of fatal foetal abnormality.