The abortion debate

Sir, – We believe fatal foetal abnormalities should be included in the proposed Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013. Ireland argued in D v Ireland at the European Court of Human Rights in 2006 that fatal foetal abnormalities could be argued to be covered by Article 40.3.3. There is a moral responsibility on the Government to vindicate that position.

Dr Ruth Fletcher, of Keele University, in her submission to the Joint Committee on Health and Children, recommended that the unborn should be defined not to mean those foetuses which have lethal abnormalities and will not have a future independent life.

Every year, women with fatal foetal anomaly pregnancies face inhuman treatment by being forced to make the harrowing journey to the Foetal Medicine Unit in Liverpool; without compassion from the Irish State. They travel at significant personal, financial and emotional cost, often in isolation, abandoned by the Irish health services. Such women require non-judgmental care in a familiar supportive environment, yet must face the tragic bureaucracy of having to arrange the return of their child’s remains to Ireland, if they choose.

The stigma of travelling abroad may be heightened by the current wording of the Heads of Bill. This is because such Irish women will receive a medical treatment which is deemed a criminal offence if performed in the Republic, with up to 14 years imprisonment.


The Irish College of General Practitioners supported a motion at its AGM calling on the Government to include within the proposed legislation the provision that women who are pregnant with non-viable foetal anomalies have access to the choice of legal abortion in the Republic.

We request that the Joint Committee on Health and Children invite representatives of Terminations For Medical Reasons and Deirdre Conroy (D v Ireland) to make a presentation to the committee as soon as is possible.

Such women should not be forced to travel outside Ireland for a termination. Women's voices and experiences are entirely absent from the current abortion debate. We hope that the joint committee will redress this imbalance as a matter of urgency. – Yours, etc,
Dr PEADAR O'GRADY Doctors for Choice Ireland; CLAIRE FOGARTY, Nurses and Midwives for Choice Ireland; AMELIA REID & ROBERT OBARA, Medical Students for Choice Ireland; JANE FISHER, Director, Ante-natal Results and Choices London; Dr CLARE GERADA, Chairman, Royal College of General Practitioners; Dr WENDY CHAVKIN, Global Doctors For Choice, New York; MARGE BERER, Editor, Reproductive Health Matters London; Prof VERONICA O'KEANE, Trinity College Dublin; Prof WENDY SAVAGE, Doctors for a Woman's Choice on Abortion, London; JOYCE ARTHUR, Executive Director, Abortion Rights Coalition Canada; CASEY BURCHELL, Committee Member, Reproductive Choice Australia; LESLIE CANNOLD, President, ProChoice Victoria; JENNY EJLAK, President, ProChoice Tasmania; CAIT CALCUTT & KATE MARSH, Children by Choice, Australia; Dr MORGAN HEALY & ALISON McCULLOCH, Abortion Law Reform Association New Zealand,
C/o Parnell Square East, Dublin 1.

Sir, – There is grave concern among doctors across the specialties about the proposed legislation for termination of pregnancy in the case of threatened suicide on the part of the mother.

Many of us have practised in jurisdictions where such legislation was the first step towards what has become abortion on demand. Attempts to revisit legislation and reduce the number of abortions by restricting the grounds on which termination of pregnancy may be performed, such as gestational age, have been fraught and largely fruitless. Those who think there will be a second chance, whether by so-called sunset clause or otherwise, are naive.

We would like to make a clear statement to the members of the Oireachtas that there is no evidence that termination is the treatment for threatened suicide in pregnancy and that if they vote for the proposed legislation, they will be voting for the legalisation of abortion in this country.

Those members of the Oireachtas who believe that they are only doing what the Constitution permits since the X case judgment, should seek to examine the psychiatric evidence heard by the Supreme Court in 1992. They will find none.

They might alternatively examine the statements of the psychiatrists called before the Oireachtas Health Committee hearings in 2012, to see what evidence there is that might support the Supreme Court decision. They will find none.

We would also remind them that the World Health Organisation consistently places Ireland in the top five countries for women’s safety in pregnancy, out of 171 countries surveyed. This has been the case for the past 25 years and without abortion.

We would urge members of the Oireachtas respectfully, but robustly, to vote against the proposed legislation. – Yours, etc,
Dr ANN BARRY, GP, Dublin; Dr ANNE KENNEDY, GP, Mayo; Dr ANNE RYAN, GP, Kildare; ANNE-MARIE LEECH, GP, Wexford; Dr BRIDGET O'BRIEN, GP, Kerry; CLIODHNA DONNELLY, Palliative Care, Galway; Dr CRISTINA BORDINC, GP, Wexford; Dr DANIEL PURCELL, GP, Kildare; Prof DAVID RYAN, Maxillo-Facial Surgeon, Dublin; Dr DEIRDRE GLEESON, Occupational Health Physician /GP, Kildare; Prof EAMONN O'DWYER, Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Galway; Dr EILEEN REILLY, Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Galway; Dr EOGHAN DE FAOITE, NCHD, Dublin; Dr FELIM T DONNELLY, GP, Galway; Dr GEORGE FULLER, GP, Cork; Dr HELEN T O'BRIEN, GP, Dublin; Dr JAMES SHEEHAN, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Galway; Dr JANINA LYONS, GP, Dublin; Dr JOHN C KEHOE, GP, Kildare; Dr JOHN KEHOE SNR, GP, Kildare; Dr JOHN MONAGHAN, Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Galway; Dr JONATHAN JACOB, GP, Carlow; Dr JUDE McSHARRY, GP, Sligo; Dr MAIRE MIRIUM DUGGAN, Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Dublin; Dr MAIRE Nic GHEARAILT, GP, Wicklow; Dr MAIREAD MacCONNAILL, GP, Cork; Dr MARIE THERESE McKENNA, GP, Donegal; Dr MARIE TWOMEY, Palliative Care, Dublin; Dr MARY P CARROLL, Radiologist, Donegal; Dr MAUREEN BRENNAN, GP, Dublin; Dr MAURICE FAHY, GP, Kerry; Dr MICHAEL SALTER, GP Wicklow; Dr MIRIUM HOGAN, GP, Kilkenny; Dr MURROGH BIRMINGHAM, GP, Donegal; Dr MYLES MONAGHAN, Anaesthetics Trainee, Dublin; Dr OLIVE PIERSE, GP, Kerry; Dr ORLA HALPENNY, GP, Dublin; Dr PASCHAL O'DEA, GP, Carlow; Dr PATRICIA O'TOOLE, GP, Carlow; Dr PATRICK KELLY, GP Trainee, Waterford; Dr PATRICK McSHARRY, GP, Sligo; Dr PAULINE BURKE, Public Health, Limerick; Dr PAULINE KANE, GP, Dublin; Dr PETER QUINN, GP, Cork; Dr PHIL BOYLE, Fertility Specialist, Galway; Dr PHILLIP AHERNE, GP, Kildare; Dr RAVI KUMAR, GP, Wexford; Dr RITA O'CONNOR, General Medicine, Clare; Dr SEAMUS KENNEDY, GP, Mayo; Dr SEAN O'DOMHNAILL, Psychiatrist, Kildare; Dr SINEAD KELLY, Palliative Care, Dublin; Dr SUSAN DEACON-KING, GP, Kildare; Dr TREVOR HAYES, Obstetrician Gynaecologist, Kilkenny; Dr URSULA NUSGEN, Microbiologist, Dublin; Dr WILLIAM P FOX, GP, Westmeath; Dr WILLIAM PURCELL, GP,

C/o Doctors for Life Ireland,

Millennium Park,


Co Kildare.