What started as a film exploring the experiences of pregnant women in Kenya rapidly became a historical journey into the shocking cruelty suffered by some Irish women during childbirth in the 1950's and 1960's. Symphysiotomies involved breaking the woman's pelvis during childbirth - using a hacksaw. This break would enable the pelvis to be stretched wider - with disastrous consequences for the mothers.
Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) are a group of women campaigning for recognition of their suffering and disability through this procedure - they live in constant pain, walk with a permanent limp, suffer chronic back pain and incontinence.
The Irish mothers who underwent symphysiotomies had no idea what the procedure involved and many of them believed they had been given a C section. They claim that the hip-breaking was carried out without prior knowledge or consent “mainly for religious reasons, by obstetricians who were opposed to family planning.”
Nora Clarke recounted how the nurses present at her symphysiotomy looked sick and some were physically sick.
“I saw the hacksaw, I know what hacksaws are. He started cutting my bone and my blood spurted up like a fountain.” She remembers that the doctor looked annoyed that her blood had splattered on his glasses. Until she spoke to her son Wayne about it many years later, Nora believed she had gone through a C-Section.
Marie O'Connor, chairperson of SOS, describes symphysiotomy as “arguably the biggest human rights scandal in Ireland since the foundation of the State”.
Survivors have been seeking truth and justice for over a decade. Successive governments have stonewalled, forcing our members to resort to the courts.
How Can You Help Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS)?
Like SOS on Facebook, Post your comments on You Tube, forward the film link to other women you know to do the same, highlight the story of the cruelty of symphysiotomies from these women. We'd hate to think that the authorities are simply waiting for this cruel story to fade away with time.
Lets make sure it doesn't.
Source: The Journal - Caire Kavanagh
YouTube Film Credit: Anne Daly and Ronan Tynan, Esperanza Film: Mothers Against The Odds