An Irish couple have live tweeted their journey to the UK to have an abortion on Thursday.
The couple posted on Twitter from the @itstimetorepeal account – a reference to Ireland’s Eighth amendment, which makes abortion illegal under most circumstances in the Republic of Ireland.
The husband and wife, posting anonymously as Heartbroken & Punished, said they made the decision after learning that a fetal abnormality meant their child if carried to term, would likely die within hours after birth.
The couple’s first child, now aged 3, was born with a genetic mutation and has spent much of his life in and out of hospital. The couple says he will require full time care for the foreseeable future.
They said that the journey was one they never wanted to consider – let alone share with others – but they wanted to bring attention to what couples in their position face under Ireland’s abortion laws, which are among the most restrictive in Europe.
“Sharing the devastation we feel is not something we wanted to do as we are both quite private people and never wanted to involve our families, who have been incredibly supportive, due to the stigma that remains in our country,” the couple told CNN, while they were waiting for the procedure to take place at a Liverpool clinic.
“We felt that we had no option but to draw attention to our journey and the countless others that are being made to leave Ireland instead of being cared for by our own,” they added.
Abortion in Ireland is almost entirely illegal. Since 1983, the Irish constitution has placed the “right to life of the unborn” on an equal footing with the right to life of the pregnant woman. Two referendums to repeal the law have been put forward since - they’ve both been rejected.
The couple join thousands of women who have already made the trip across the Irish Sea this year for an abortion. Last year, 3,451 Irish women traveled to England and Wales for the procedure, according to the UK’s Department of Health.
This June, the UN’s Human Rights Committee called on the Irish government to reform its restrictive abortion legislation, after ruling that it subjected Amanda Mellet, a dual Irish-American national, to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Mellet and her husband traveled to England in 2011 to have an abortion after learning their baby was diagnosed with congenital defects.
The landmark ruling called on Ireland to introduce “accessible procedures for pregnancy termination” to prevent similar violations in the future. In September, an estimated 20,000 people took to the streets of Ireland’s capital, calling for a referendum on abortion laws.
The couple live tweeting on Thursday “Heartbroken & Punished” said they had “no other option” but to travel to Britain.
Before the procedure took place, the couple was moved into a room especially designed for women carrying fatal fetal pregnancies.
The couple say they have been surprised by the positive reaction online.
“We never expected the reaction to be anything close to what it’s become… It’s time to trust women with their own bodies,” they added.
On Thursday, Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris told the Irish radio station Today FM that he was “saddened and frustrated” that women carrying fatal fetal pregnancies couldn’t access abortion in Ireland.
“This is a constitutional matter, and if there is to be change in this area it will have to come about by the vote of the Irish people. I would like to see change – I’ve made the point that my generation have never had a say on this issue before, and I would like my generation to have a say. But the process is very clear and it is that of the Citizen’s Assembly.”
Cora Sherlock, a spokesperson for Ireland’s anti-abortion campaign told CNN that while “everyone would have sympathy for a family in their position,” comments by the Minister for Health would be “deeply hurtful to families who continued with their pregnancies.”
“They are happy that their children’s lives are valued under the law in Ireland and would prefer the Minister to put his energies into making Ireland a center of excellence in perinatal palliative care,” Sherlock said.
The couple is the second to live tweet their abortion in England this year.
In August, an Irish woman and her companion live tweeted their abortion story, directing their detailed experience to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Prime Minister of Ireland.
The posts quickly went viral, collecting over 25,000 followers in a day, as well as support from celebrities around the globe.
Kenny’s office did not respond to the tweets and has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.