Dr Peter Boylan: No late-term abortions in case of Repeal

He rejected claims that terminations will be performed up until late stages of pregnancy

Dr Peter Boylan former Master of The Maternity Hospital, Holles Street during the launch of Together for Yes campaign on Thursday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Peter Boylan former Master of The Maternity Hospital, Holles Street during the launch of Together for Yes campaign on Thursday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A claim that doctors in Ireland will perform late-term abortions if the Eighth Amendment is repealed is “plainly wrong”, the chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has insisted.

Peter Boylan rejected claims that legislation to allow for terminations when a mother’s life, health or mental health is at risk will result in abortions being carried out up to full term.

Speaking at the Together for Yes campaign launch, Dr Boylan said that once viability is reached, the pregnancy would be delivered rather than terminated.

“The proposition that there will be abortion up to term in this country is without foundation and plainly wrong, ” added Dr Boylan, the former master of the the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street.

Gestational limits

In the event of the Eighth Amendment being removed from the Constitution, the Government has proposed legislating for terminations when a mother’s life or health is at risk and in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities with no gestational limits applying in these circumstances.

Those opposed to repealing the State’s abortion laws claim this could lead to terminations being carried out up to the end of the pregnancy.

However, Dr Boylan rejected that argument and said he expected this would be reflected in medical guidelines issued in the event abortion services are provided in this country.

Dr Boylan told the launch of his experiences with the Eighth Amendment and referred to the case of ‘Ms P’, a woman in her 20s who was 15 weeks pregnant.

She was declared clinically dead but was kept on somatic life-support treatment due to the concerns her doctors had about the rights of her unborn child, which are contained within the Eighth Amendment. Her family sought court orders stopping the treatment and to allow her die with dignity.

Dr Boylan said that case could never have been foreseen by those who sought to insert the Eighth Amendment into the Constitution 35 years ago.

“I was the medical witness in the case and I cannot tell you how distressing it was to hear the pain and anguish of her family, in particular her two small children,” he said.

“As her organs swelled and deteriorated, her nurses applied make up in an effort to hide what was happening, for the sake of her children...This case was rightly described as grotesque and it only happened because of the Eighth Amendment.”

Misery

Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness told the event she had campaigned against the insertion of the Eighth Amendment into the Constitution and nothing that had happened since had changed her position.

Ms McGuinness said she remembered the misery of the campaign in 1983 and hoped this time around would be respectful and rational. Judges have felt their hands have been tied by the Eighth Amendment, Ms McGuinness added.

“It is time to turn away from a law which has driven women into flight, shame and secrecy.”

The former judge also told the event it was a fairytale and a gross hypocrisy to suggest abortion is not happening in this country.

The Oireachtas is this country’s law-making institution and it should be allowed to legislate in this area, she added.

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