Her pregnancy ended but Ireland denied her an abortion

By Shiromi Pinto

Lupe needed an abortion. But she lived in Ireland, where abortion is banned unless you’re in danger of dying. Lupe chose not to risk her life. This is her story. 

From the very beginning, Lupe* – originally from Spain – knew something was wrong. Even when her doctor was congratulating her on her pregnancy, she wasn’t quite convinced.

Just over 11 weeks in, she started bleeding. "I went to my GP,” she says. “He tried, but couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat.”

The doctor sent Lupe to the hospital, saying she should be given a scan immediately. In fact, she wasn’t given a full vaginal scan for weeks.

Faced with delays and worried about what was going on, Lupe paid for a scan at a private clinic. By then she was nearly 13 weeks pregnant.    

He tried, but couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat.
Lupe

No heartbeat, no life

The news she received confirmed her worst fears. “There was no life. There was no heartbeat,” she says.

Even with this scan, Lupe was not given any treatment to remove what was left in her womb. Instead, she was told she needed yet another scan, delaying things even further.

“At last they did the vaginal scan,” she recalls. “We could see the embryo perfectly. It was a tiny 3mm embryo… dead, I was destroyed. The embryo stopped growing when it was four or five weeks. That means I had had a dead embryo inside my womb for more than two months.”

Emotionally drained, Lupe was also worried about the impact this was having on her health. “You can have an infection or something,” she says. “Only three months before this, this was the hospital where… you know Savita Halappanavar—they just let her die with septicemia—she was having a miscarriage.”

Lupe wanted the remains of the foetus removed, but the doctor told her she needed another scan to make sure the embryo was not growing.

“These people would let me die”

Lupe was incredulous. “How could it be growing if it was dead?” she asks. “Were they expecting a miracle or something?

“The doctor was like ‘do you understand’ and I told her ‘no, I don’t understand’ and then she told me – this was really a good one—that there was an international [recommendation] that says that you cannot stop a pregnancy if the embryo is smaller than 7mm. That you need to have two scans.”

Lupe pointed out that she had the two scans, but was told that “the first one was done in a  private clinic, not the hospital, so they couldn’t accept it.”

Now, Lupe was really scared. “It became clear to me that if any complication arose, these people would let me die, just as they did with Savita,” she says. “I was not feeling like a human being anymore because I was not being treated as a human being.”

I had a dead embryo inside my womb for more than two months.
Lupe

Forced to leave Ireland

Determined to take the situation into her own hands, Lupe returned to her home country, Spain, for treatment. Just before she set off, she went into spontaneous miscarriage.

“We made the trip to Spain on Sunday, a 16-hour trip in total, by car, plane, train and taxi,” she says. “I was bleeding all the way… As soon as we got to sleep I began feeling the contractions.” Lupe’s miscarriage ended at a local hospital.

“That’s the story of my nightmare,” she says. “I’d been in hell for several weeks.”

“Now I believe that when a woman gets pregnant in Ireland she just loses her human rights. Doctors there just don’t know the proper way to monitor a pregnancy,” she says.  “Now I realize that the first time I was in my GP’s to get the pregnancy confirmation, the day he congratulated me, my embryo had already been dead for one month.”

*Not her real name. Support Lupe and others like her. Tell Ireland to change its abortion law. She is #notacriminal.

This article also appears in the July-September edition of WIRE magazine