(Image by Dan Evans from Pixabay)

Content warning: description of infant death

When we think of children in danger of neglect or abuse, we probably don’t always think of children still in the womb. Figures provided by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD show that Tusla put 726 unborn children on its Child Protection Notification System – so reported Extra.ie last month. A Tusla spokeswoman described infants as an ‘especially vulnerable group’. According to Extra.ie,

The spokeswoman for Tusla said it provided a range of supports for prospective parents in this situation, including medical and nursing supports offered by maternity hospitals, public health nurses and hospital nurses. She said: ‘In many instances parents are linked into supports in the community around issues such as addiction, domestic violence and disabilities.’

In response to the figures, Deputy Tóibín remarked: ‘I think it is incredibly sad that so many unborn children are deemed to be at risk even before they come into the world. What we need to do is put in place all the necessary support for parents so they are supported and equipped to raise their children to the best degree they can.’It was also reported last month that Cóilín Ó Scolaí and Irene Kavanagh had settled a High Court action over the death of their baby daughter, Laoise Kavanagh Ní Scolaí, in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital eight years ago. The Irish Examiner reported:

Laoise and her twin brother Cuán were born by caesarean section on January 22, 2015. Both developed respiratory distress. They were diagnosed as having developed a build-up of air in the pleural cavity. A decision was made to insert a chest drain to relieve pressure on the infant’s heart and lungs. Baby Laoise deteriorated quickly and, after being transferred to another hospital, she was pronounced dead at 4.45pm on January 24, 2015 [her heart having been pierced with plastic tubing].

While the hospital subsequently admitted liability, their initial attempts to change their version of events and protect their reputation, rather than acknowledge their fault and apologise, added considerably to the parents’ trauma. Mr Ó Scolaí said: ‘Even after we got to some truth at the inquest it still took four months to admit liability, again adding to our pain and suffering. Then, even after admission of liability, we were told that we had to prove that we were affected by our baby’s death’. ‘This has been a very long and painful journey that could have been avoided. Something needs to change’, he said.

Finally, The Critic recently published a thought-provoking article by Portia Berry-Kilby entitled ‘The poverty of choice’. Drawing attention to the startling statistic that in the first two weeks of this year, the number of abortions in the UK was 47% higher than in the same period in 2022, Berry-Kilby observes ‘a dearth of concern’ from the UK public. Yet, as she points out, this is something which should concern everyone – ‘pro-lifers, pro-choicers and pro-whateverers’.

How many abortions are needed before people realise that something is awry? A 50 per cent increase in the number of abortions should not signal a triumph for women’s rights but reveal a broken culture and a system that fails women. More needs to be done to cultivate conditions conducive to raising a family in the UK. More needs to be done to help women realise that a baby is not a burden too great to carry.

Perhaps this statistic might spark a conversation with someone who considers themselves pro-choice but finds that they are uncomfortable with this dramatic increase. This could be a way to find agreement that society should try to alleviate social and economic factors that push women towards abortion where, in other circumstances, those same women might feel supported and well able to parent their child. We hope that we’ve provided tips for such conversations in past blogs; our appeal to reluctant repealers might also act as a starting point.