Every Life Matters Conference

24th February 2014


Every Life Matters Conference
On the 24th February 2014, Precious Life organised the ‘Every Life Matters’ Conference at Stormont, which was sponsored by the All Party Pro-Life Group of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This very important conference provided a platform for parents, whose children had been diagnosed with terminal conditions, to talk about their individual experiences and to encourage better provision of perinatal hospice care. 

The Chair of the APPLG, Mr Pat Ramsey, introduced the conference highlighting the current threat of legalisation of abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities in Northern Ireland. The Justice Minister, David Ford, has announced a public consultation to consider whether legislation should be introduced to allow abortion when a baby has a fatal foetal abnormality. Mr Ramsey spoke of the media frenzy who are advocating for the legalisation of abortion. He said that we must stand firm and protect unborn children in Northern Ireland from such legalisation.

Our first speaker was Cliona Johnson from Dublin. Cliona’s baby boy, John Paul, lived for just 17 minutes after birth. Cliona emphasised that modern technology can tell you what your baby can’t do, but it can’t tell you how much you’ll love your baby. She stressed that the care she received at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin was akin to perinatal hospice care. I was very lucky in the care I received. This care needs to be more standardised in our maternity hospitals. With perinatal hospice care, everyone benefits: the baby, the mother, the family, and society. 

Our second speaker was Ryan Gamble from Belfast. Ryan’s baby boy, Rory, was diagnosed with anencephaly and lived for just 3 days after birth. 

‘Being told at the 20 week scan that ‘there’s no hope’ and ‘most people in your situation will abort’ was the worst moment of my life. My wife and I were distraught. As soon as we got home we googled ‘anencephaly’ and were faced with the worst case scenario, and we did wonder, ‘what if our child would suffer if we don’t abort?’It was a very difficult position. But have no guilt. I have pain and suffering, and no regrets. If we had aborted, we wouldn’t have had the precious time with our son.’ 

Our last speaker was Derbhille McGill from Ballymena. Derbhille’s baby girl, Clodagh, was diagnosed with trisomy 13 and lived for just 33 days after birth.

‘The consultant referred me to a specialist hospital in Belfast. We never received any support. We just went in for scans and were sent home. When we declined the amniocentesis test, I felt like I was a burden on them. I didn’t feel my baby’s life was valued in that hospital. [...] Clodagh spent the 33 days of her life at home with her family, and every minute of every day is engraved in my heart. Every minute was SO precious.’

A DUP Assembly Member, Mr Paul Givan, who is also the Chair of the Justice Committee, called for the people in Northern Ireland to ask their clergy to stand firm in their pro-life position, and stressed that no political or religious boundary should ever get in the way of being the voice for unborn children in Northern Ireland. This is an issue that crosses the divide.

Precious life spokesperson, Bernadette Smyth, said, "the ‘Every Life Matters’ Conference provided an opportunity to recognise the need for perinatal hospice care in Northern Ireland", which allows for a continuum of support from the time of diagnosis until the baby’s death. Parents, when given loving support, freedom from abandonment and careful counsel will choose the alternative of perinatal hospice care, however brief that time may be. 

Mr Ramsey concluded the conference with a call for the people of Northern Ireland to contact their Assembly members to oppose the Justice Minister’s proposal to legalise abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
 — at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast

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