Things have finally changed for women in Ireland since the Mother and Child controversy of six decades ago.
Women now expect to be able to exercise autonomy over where and how they give birth. Yet the thinking behind the infrastructure of our maternity services is as archaic as the buildings where more than half the women in Ireland are giving birth.
How can a government shoehorn a hospital, the National Maternity Hospital, into accepting a deal which could have been drawn up by Archbishop McQuaid himself in 1952?
In all these decades there was only one officer in the Department of Health, the chief medical officer of the late 1940s, Dr James Deeny who had the courage to speak up and speak out, to make the connections about institutions like Bessborough and about what women needed by way of better maternity services which had to be truly, unambiguously without contradiction, publicly accountable.
In this last week, that singularly courageous medical voice has been joined at last by other professional voices. They see how flawed and clinically questionable the plan is which has been imposed on the NMH by the current Minister for Health and are prepared to speak out: Dr Peter Boylan, Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith and the wonderfully clear and sensible voice of the deeply experienced midwife, Patricia Hughes.
Think, Minister and think again.
This story is being picked up by the international press who are mesmerised with official Ireland making the same mistake as was made half a century ago, now revealed on the international stage alongside all the horrors of Tuam and the other mother and baby homes in which the state was absolutely complicit.
The urgently needed new maternity hospital must be owned by us, the citizens. You need to plunge into 21st century democratic pluralist realities. Not only must we own this hospital, it must be entirely removed and be held safe from the damning, secretive and injurious past of church and state which brought so many decades of women to utter despair and abandonment.
The women of today will honour their mothers, aunts, grandmothers and distant relatives who suffered so deeply. We will make known how we feel about this debacle at the ballot box.
Think again, Minister and try for Plan B.
Dr Jo Murphy-Lawless,
Sociologist, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin
This statement was given to AIMSI from Dr Jo Murphy Lawless for our Press Conference on the proposed NMH move on 28th April 2017
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