ENTERTAINMENT

My baby heartache changed history


The worst thing for Amy Dunne is that she never saw her daughter's face. "I couldn't at the time. I had a choice and just couldn't do it. I stood next to the bed and touched her fingers and toes, but she was never in my arms and the blanket covered her face.

"I remember seeing the priest holding her to give her a blessing and being bitter and jealous that he was holding my baby. I think maybe I even knew at the time that I would be angry for the rest of my life because I was never allowed to see my child. "

Her firstborn Jasmine was born in Liverpool, but is buried in a cemetery near her home in Drogheda, north of Dublin. There was no birth or death certificate because Jasmine never took a breath. Officially, it never existed. Amy never forgot her.

"The coffin where she came back from Liverpool was too small to have a crucifix, which I wanted," explains Amy. "So they had to put it in a bigger one. I remember sitting in the big black car with my boyfriend and we were so worried about any bumps on the road.

30-year-old Amy Dunne (pictured), who made headlines about Ireland's abortion laws in 2007, remembers that she was at the center of a legal storm at the age of 17

"I couldn't stop myself from thinking that she was being hurled and injured. I know that is a bit silly, but I couldn't stand it. My friend broke to pieces in this car."

Amy was only 17 years old at the time, but she was known in the headlines all over the world as Miss D, the teenage girl whose pregnancy led to an extraordinary lawsuit and which drew international attention to Ireland's then inhuman abortion laws.

Amy was faced with a terrible situation: she was carrying a baby that doctors said could not survive after birth, but was legally prevented from having an abortion. Access to one meant taking legal action – and leading a number of demonstrators shouting "murderers" on the steps of the court.

A story from the dark age? Yes and no.

Thirteen years later, and thanks in part to the campaign work of Amy and others like her, no young woman should ever be in such a situation again.

Abortion has been legal in the Republic of Ireland for a year. However, in Northern Ireland – one of the last regions in Western Europe to be banned – things are cloudy. Although the UK Parliament voted to legalize abortion in Northern Ireland and the law was effectively amended on March 31 this year, local political problems have left gaps in care.

Minister of Health Robin Swann has been accused of using the pandemic to halt the process on his own grounds.

Amy, who became pregnant two months after losing her first baby, said women should have access to an abortion if they are under 12 weeks pregnant. Pictured: Pro Choice activists dress up as characters from The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale at a protest in Dublin

Amy, who became pregnant two months after losing her first baby, said women should have access to an abortion if they are under 12 weeks pregnant. Pictured: Pro Choice activists dress up as characters from The Handmaid & # 39; s Tale at a protest in Dublin

"Choking is a shame because time is of the essence when it comes to abortion," says Amy. “Scared women who need help are still in situations they shouldn't be. We may have moved on on paper, but not enough. According to the law, women should now have access to an abortion as long as the pregnancy is under 12 weeks. The fact that people are still debating it means that there is still a question mark there. It is still a gray area and it shouldn't be. "

Amy is now 30 and works as a promotional model. She is intelligent, articulated and informed. She is also a mother and became pregnant with her 12-year-old son Adam, just two months after losing her first baby.

"I always took him to Jasmine's grave, but he always only knew her as Princess Jasmine. I never used the word" daughter ". But one day one of his friends was with us – everyone here knows what happened – and spoke of Jasmine being Adam's sister, which confused him.

"I told him part of the story, obviously not the whole story, but I'll have to do that someday."

Amy's pregnancy at just 16 was no accident. It was planed. "I wanted a baby. I wanted to love someone who would love me. I loved my boyfriend. I wanted us to be a family. "

Amy discovered that her firstborn had a fatal anomaly that would cause her to die shortly after birth during her 12-week scan. Pictured: Amy with her mother

Amy discovered that her firstborn had a fatal anomaly that would cause her to die shortly after birth during her 12-week scan. Pictured: Amy with her mother

She was a teenager who knew her own thoughts, but Amy had had a difficult upbringing. Her mother had problems with alcohol and addiction, and Amy was effective in caring.

"I lived in a B&B – it wasn't a place for a teenager." I was still a child. “Her pregnancy seemed to be an escape. & # 39; I was so happy. It was the fresh start that I wanted. "

Her family and her friend's family were shocked but supportive. Both mothers enjoyed the 12-week scan of Amy's 17th birthday. But during the scan, the sonograph fell silent and then said she needed to consult a manager.

Amy's baby had anencephaly, a fatal anomaly that means the brain is not developing. The child would die soon after birth.

& # 39; I was shocked. For me it wasn't English. I had no idea what he was talking about. I panicked and ran down the street where my mother was waiting. "

She emphasizes that she has never thought about abortion. "At the time, I would have said I was for life, although I had never heard that term before."

When Amy came home, she googled anencephaly. Pictures can be terrible; She was mentally unprepared for what she saw.

Amy remembers the senior social worker who told her that she must have the baby and would be arrested if she tried to go to England to have an abortion. Pictured: Activists in Dublin in 2018

Amy remembers the senior social worker who told her that she must have the baby and would be arrested if she tried to go to England to have an abortion. Pictured: Activists in Dublin in 2018

"I remember thinking" I don't want her in there. I can not do that. "It felt like I had an alien in my stomach."

Abortion was illegal, but everyone knew that girls could travel to England for the procedure. Amy regrets the day she told her social workers she was pregnant – and wanted her help to arrange an abortion.

"It was the only time I tried to do things right," she says. "I really thought they would help. Instead, all of their Catholic views were expressed. They were horrified. "

The stubborn dealings with Amy are shocking. "The chief social worker, a man, told me I should have the baby and if I tried to go to England I would be arrested for murder and anyone who helped would be an accomplice." I could go to jail. "

His threats were unfounded, but Amy walked away, startled.

"Now I know that was ridiculous and crazy, but I was petrified at the time. It wasn't a selfish thing – like I got pregnant and changed my mind. The baby would not survive. But I was treated like a criminal.

“We later found that the social worker called the guards (Irish police) and tried to get them to keep me going. The guards said they couldn't do it. The passport office said they could not interfere, but the fact that they were asked shows how determined the social services were to stop me. It was cruel. It was wrong. & # 39;

Amy said the social workers went into town to cause trouble between her and her mother when she went to court. Pictured: Amy with her mother

Amy said the social workers went into town to cause trouble between her and her mother when she went to court. Pictured: Amy with her mother

A personable social worker advised Amy and her mother to find a lawyer. "I called and explained what happened," Amy recalls.

Then suddenly I was in the high court. Everything happened so quickly. "

Amy's lawyers contested the right of the local authority to stop her trip to the UK for an abortion. The legal challenge was timely – Ireland's abortion laws (some of the most draconian in Western Europe at the time) have already been examined, and this would prove to be a significant case in shaping public opinion.

Amy was in the middle of a legal storm and was ill-equipped to be there.

"There were hundreds of people. Lawyers in wigs and robes, journalists, street people – it was an open court. You couldn't report my name, but everyone saw me. There were demonstrators outside. I only saw people with banners that said “murderer”. A man tried to pray over me when he called me a murderer. People shouted about Satan. "

Amy's life was exposed – her troubled relationship with her mother, her ranks.

“My mother is now my rock and she was in court every day, but the social workers went into town to cause trouble between us. They broke up our family and separated me from my mother, at the point where I needed them most. "

Amy explained that even before the judge's verdict, she knew she couldn't make it to the UK to have an abortion. Pictured: activists in Belfast in 2017

Amy explained that even before the judge's verdict, she knew she couldn't make it to the UK to have an abortion. Pictured: activists in Belfast in 2017

The government defense team argued that Amy was unable to make decisions about her own life or her unborn child.

"They were determined to prove that I was crazy and suicidal," she says.

Her stomach swelled as the litigation continued for three weeks. “I actually felt it flutter for the first time on the way to court. I started connecting to Jasmine. She was no longer that thing in my stomach. She was my baby. "

This is another source of anger – that the legal arguments have forced her to connect with a baby who could never live. "I didn't have the opportunity not to love her."

The court ruled in Amy's favor. The judge denounced her treatment and said she could go to the UK to have an abortion. A few days later, now 20 weeks pregnant, Amy was in a Liverpool hospital. But not for an abortion. "Before the verdict, I knew I couldn't cope with it. I googled it and watched a video. At the stage when I was pregnant, the baby should have been torn out of me with tweezers. What I did I was horrified. "

She opted for an induced birth. This would mean going through work and giving birth to a child who would die shortly thereafter. Her introduction was planned and she was preparing for labor. However, recent scans revealed that Amy's baby had died.

Amy said everything changed after her daughter was born because some neighbors openly supported her. Pictured: Amy and her mother

Amy said everything changed after her daughter was born because some neighbors openly supported her. Pictured: Amy and her mother

"There was no heartbeat, but I was about to work, so they didn't tell me. They knew it would torture me. They told my mother, but withheld it from me."

"When she was born I can't remember anything else but being so tired. I went to sleep. Later they told me that she died in me. They were very good. They took their fingerprints and footprints, which I am so thankful for because they are all I have. "

At home, Amy noticed that everything had changed. Although she had not been identified, "everyone knew or at least knew part of the story."

Some neighbors openly supported her, but she felt that others were "still being judged." "I was ashamed. I had this guilty secret, something too taboo to even talk about. "

But last year, as the abortion reform movement picked up speed, Amy bravely decided to share her story publicly in Ireland. She was overwhelmed by the answer. “People came up to me on the street – women, men; Couples – tell me their stories. "

She supported the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution, which allows abortion in certain circumstances, but insists that it is in no way pro-abortion. "I'm still struggling with it. But I'm pro choice. Nobody makes these decisions lightly and you have to live with the decision for the rest of your life. "

Amy revealed that she didn't regret saying anything, even though things were more difficult than if she had stayed under the radar. Pictured: activists in Belfast in 2019

Amy revealed that she didn't regret saying anything, even though things were more difficult than if she had stayed under the radar. Pictured: activists in Belfast in 2019

The IPO also brought problems. She had to reset social media accounts due to unwanted online messages. In Ireland, a man was charged with alleging that he broke into her home and molested her. Legal proceedings are active, so she cannot go into more detail about them. Suffice it to say that its popularity was a “double-edged sword”.

"Things were more difficult for me than if I had just stayed under the radar," she says. "But I still don't regret speaking out because women of my generation have to protect those who get behind us."

Perhaps the most unusual thing about her story is that she has found the strength to rebuild her life. The birth of her son gave her a focus.

"I was scared all the time, but when he was born it was the best moment. Having him was the best thing I've ever done. "

She didn't stay with Adam's father. "We weren't strong enough to survive everything that happened," she says, but they remain on good terms. And her relationship with her mother is stronger now than ever.

One day she will tell Adam the whole story of his sister. Until then there is a simpler version.

"I told him that Princess Jasmine is my baby too, and now she's an angel and she's in heaven. He's happy with that for now."

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