The Impact of Insensitive Doctors and the 8th Amendment

By Patrick Brogan

We have heard much in the way of commentary in the media leading up to this referendum. Those with disabilities are often cited as a reason to vote one way or the other. Do young women with disabilities consider abortion? The reality is they do. We spoke to Saoirse. She is a regular contributor to The Navigator Media. She also has cerebral palsy.  What started out as a general discussion about the coverage of the referendum so far soon turned to a discussion about Saoirse’s own experiences and the judgement she had to endure from a insensitive doctor. This is not intended to tarnish the medical profession, far from it, but this highlights what women with disabilities some times have to put up with.
1) What have you made of the coverage of the Repeal debate so far?
-I don’t think they consider the issues when the child will not survive and how traumatic it would be for the woman who knows that her baby will die. I saw the Pat Kenny interview and how the woman went through her options and spoke to her doctor who couldn’t do anything and she had to pay €3000 to go over to the UK to doctors who don’t know her to do it. It wasn’t something she did on a whim, it was painful. Also, they brought up disability in UK and how it wasn’t a good thing to have a disabled child years ago but I think that attitude has changed. Disability isn’t the worst thing.
-2) How do you think a Yes/No will impact people with disabilities?
-I don’t think it will have much of an impact because you can’t test for disabilities unless you pay €500 to get a test done at 9 weeks privately or 10 weeks public and by the time  results come back it’s too late to abort and plus people with my condition aren’t seen till after 12 weeks.
-3) Do you see anything in the proposed legislation that affects people with disabilities
I saw a video where unless the child has a fatal disability it wouldn’t be considered but I’d double check on that.
-At this stage, Saoirse tells me of her own experience;
-I was away in Spain with my boyfriend of the time (who is able bodied). I was 23. When we were away, unfortunately, a condom broke, when we were having sex. I couldn’t get any birth control due to reacting badly to different types. A well as that, I had the bar, which made me anaemic at the time, so I was looking for different things and we tried to get the morning after pill, but because we were in Spain there was a language barrier, so we were struggling to find any. We were naturally very scared, but luckily enough, we were going home the next day. We had to stop-off in Norway of all places because of the way the flights were booked. Literally, the day after we got home to Ireland, I went to the pharmacist to get the morning after pill. Unfortunately, I had missed it by a day, so we had to get a different form of tablet. They said I had to get it from my GP.
So, I phoned my GP and said I need the tablet and they said fine. My doctor at the time wasn’t there and they had another doctor filling in so I went to him. He didn’t know me. I told him I was there because I needed a tablet and couldn’t get the morning after pill. He was quite an older man and he looks at me and says; “Why weren’t you more careful?” I looked at him and I told him I was careful. I didn’t go into detail. If it was my own doctors, they wouldn’t have said anything like that. They knew me, they knew the situation.
I felt ashamed. He made me feel ashamed and so bad about it. It was an accident and accidents happen, unfortunately. It was horrible. I told my mam about it and I was nervous because my mam is Catholic. She supported me. She said if anything happened, we would sort it out. I told her that if I had gotten pregnant, I wouldn’t want it and she said that’s fine. Part of the reason I’m thinking of voting yes is I was thinking how would I afford to go to England and how I felt about that doctor and how me made me feel. I wouldn’t want any woman to feel that way.

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