Graham Linehan and his wife on why their abortion convinced them to campaign for reform in Ireland

Helen Linehan and her husband Graham, the comedy writer, have spoken about the heartbreaking decision they made ten years ago to have an abortion to help campaign for reform of the law in Ireland.

They found out in 2004 at a 12-week scan that the baby would survive no longer than an hour after birth due it was diagnosed with a condition that meant the skull was not developing over the brain.

Doctors advised termination was the only option and Helen had an abortion at a hospital near their London home days later.

But it was the realisation later when they moved to Ireland that Helen would have gone to jail if she had undergone the abortion there that sees them lend their voices to a new Amnesty International campaign.

Graham, the writer behind Father Ted and The IT Crowd, has produced a short film called Chains, calling on Ireland to repeal the eighth amendment that criminalises abortion.


Terminations in Ireland can only be legal if there is imminent danger to the mother's life, even if the foetus is the result of rape or incest, or, as in the Linehans' case, the foetus has a condition that means it will not survive outside of the womb.

Graham said:

Ireland's abortion laws are among the most restrictive and punitive in the world and that is why it was important to me to make this film.

There are many reasons why people might need an abortion. My wife, Helen, and I, had our own reasons, and although we had excellent care in the UK, it's shocking to me that we would have had a very different experience in my home country.

Had we been in Ireland when we found out that the foetus Helen was carrying would not survive, she would have been forced to carry the baby to term. Getting the same procedure that she received in the UK would have led to her receiving a 14 year jail term.

Helen said:

It was absolutely devastating. And when faced with something like that, the very least you should be able to expect is proper medical care allowing you to move on. It is unthinkable that, had we been living in Ireland, I would have been forced to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to a baby that would be dead within minutes.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty UK campaign manager said:

Women are suffering unnecessarily under Ireland’s repressive abortion laws. Thousands of women are forced to leave Ireland every year to access healthcare services to which they are entitled. It’s time Irish political leaders stopped turning their backs on women and committed to a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.

You can watch an interview with Helen and Graham Linehan below:

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