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Launch of ‘Survivors of Symphysiotomy’ (SOS)

Published: Thursday, May 09, 2002

'Symphysiotomy was an operation performed on women during childbirth in Ireland by Catholic doctors during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. It resulted in permanently widening the pelvis in women who might normally require repeated Caesarean sections, so they could continue having children and would not require contraception or sterilisation' declared Joanna McMinn, Director of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI). 'The medical definition of a symphysiotomy is where a scalpel is inserted through the skin overlying the pubic symphsis and the joint is incised by pivoting movements, cutting the fibres and supporting ligaments' explained Ms McMinn. She went on to say that the NWCI organised the press launch to support SOS, a new organisation set up by women who underwent this operation. 'The medical research does not explain why this operation was carried out in Ireland, when Caesarean sections were available' declared Ms Minn. 'It does not explain why these women were not informed about the operation they underwent, nor why they were not given a choice' she added. 'The medical research does not tell us what were the consequences of this operation on women's lives. However, it is now clear is that the effects on some women's lives have been traumatic and lifelong' concluded Ms McMinn.