Graham Linehan and his wife Helen have taken the brave step of putting their private life in the public spotlight in support of Amnesty International.
Shortly after they were married in 2004 the couple were delighted to find out that they were expecting their first child. They happily told everyone, only to discover at their first scan that there was something fatally wrong with the foetus; it had a condition known as ‘acrania’, which meant that its skull had not closed over the brain. Helen was advised to have an immediate termination, because doctors knew that the baby wouldn’t be able to survive longer than an hour after birth.
The termination took place shortly afterwards in London. “It was terribly sad and devastating, but it was handled well,” Helen said.
A few months later, they moved back to Ireland, and discovered that if they had been living there at the time, Helen would not legally have been able to have had an abortion. She could have faced 14 years in prison, had she gone ahead. Abortion is illegal in Ireland, even in cases where there is no chance for the foetus to survive.
Their experience has prompted the couple to speak out as part of a campaign by Amnesty International calling for decriminalisation of abortion in Ireland. “In Ireland Helen would be a criminal to have undergone the termination.” said Graham. “She would have had to carry the child knowing it would die in great pain shortly after she had given birth to it. I have always been very proud to be Irish but I am embarrassed by Ireland’s abortion laws. This is just something you can’t be proud of. It’s barbaric.”
Graham and Helen have collaborated with Amnesty on a short campaign film calling on the Irish government to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution, which puts the foetus’s right to life on the same footing as a woman’s.
You can see their interview below, along with the campaign film beneath. To find out more about Amnesty International and to support their causes please visit their website.