A 15-year-old girl gives birth, alone, beside a holy statue in a church yard.
A couple of hours later three teenage boys, using the church grounds as a shortcut home, noticed a body curled in a ball on the ground, beside a statue.
On closer investigation, the boys discover the body of a girl, presumed to be younger than themselves, with a tiny new-born baby cradled in a coat.
The rain has been lashing down and the baby appeared to be dead.
The young girl was not. She was still breathing, though very cold. The boys knew her name.
They ran for help, and encountered a local man who knocked at the church entrance to alert the priest.
The priest noted that a it was a doctor that was needed. However, he didn’t contact anyone, instead taking his relics and preparing to offer the last rites to the young girl on the ground.
Eventually, at the intervention of a doctor, the young girl was taken in an ambulance to the nearest hospital.
The small town was buzzing with the news; the boys have become a source of scandalous information. Within days the media were to descend upon the town, and eventually the story spread across the whole country.
The baby was declared dead, presumed still-born. The young girl was declared dead the following morning.
She could not tell anyone she was pregnant out of fear.
She could not tell anyone she was pregnant out of shame.
She could not save herself, she could not save her son.
She went to the church, perhaps to a place where she felt the religion she had grown up in might comfort her, or care for her.
This happened in 1984, with details gathered primarily from the Limerick Leader and various media reports. Ann Lovett had been alive for 15 years, nine months, and 25 days before she took her last breath.
Ann Lovett would be 50 years of age on April 6th, her son, born six and a half pounds, would now be 35 if he had survived birth.
Her cause of death was noted as acute shock and haemorrhage.
Her son’s death at full term, is listed as still-born.
As Simon Harris announced the date for a referendum which will deal with crisis pregnancy for May 25th, and as both sides set out their pitches in pro-choice and pro-life campaigns, the reality of concealed pregnancy, for whatever reason has not gone away.
A study conducted by Sylvia Murphy Tighe and Professor Joan Lalor of Trinity college Dublin indicates that concealment pregnancies are not a thing of the past.
The report finds that concealed pregnancy is a significant public health issue and can be antecedent to adoption, abandonment and neo-naticide.
Concealment pregnancies have made news in recent years. In May 2015 a baby girl was found at the gate of a field on the Steelstown Lane in Rathcoole.
The baby, found by passers-by, was wrapped in a black plastic bag and a baby blanket, when discovered.
Tighe noted in an Irish Health magazine interview that the media’s treatment around stories of concealed pregnancy or baby abandonment do nothing to help alleviate the fear for the mother who leaves her baby: “Media reports surrounding cases of concealment can be sensationalist and emotive in tone. There were repeated calls for reunification of the mother and infant in the case of Baby Maria and yet no helpline numbers were offered in media reports”.
“This demonstrates a serious lack of understanding in relation to concealed pregnancies and the difficulties involved. Indeed, little to no consideration was given to the fact that another individual may have been responsible for leaving Baby Maria in Rathcoole,” she commented.
The case of Baby Alannah in 2016, where a deceased baby was found as a worker was sorting waste at a Greenstar plant in Bray, was greeted by the media with the same salacious zeal.
The Tighe–Lalor report notes, that psychological and sociological descriptions of concealment exist. Noting that “individuals sometimes withhold sensitive information about themselves and this behaviour may lead to poor health outcomes e.g. isolation and depression”.
A concealment of pregnancy does not mean that the pregnancy is concealed for the entire term. It alludes to the woman keeping her pregnancy secret for a significant amount of time, enough that it could be warranted as being dangerous for both mother and baby.
A change in how we treat women in this country may be on the horizon, and incidents where a woman or a girl must hide in fear and shame of pregnancy may be consigned to history, pending a constitutional change.
Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty said in a Twitter post in March: “Ann Lovett was a victim of an Ireland of secrets and lies and layer upon layer of toxic shame. And this was not some other Ireland. It still resonates today. We still punish women and girls like Anne. At least 12 a day.”