IMO rejects motions on abortion

Heated debate on abortion best attended at annual conference

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has rejected a motion calling for regulation in relation to the provision of abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

In a heated and occasionally bad-tempered debate at the organisation's annual conference in Killarney, doctors also voted against a motion calling for legislation to allow abortion in Ireland in cases of rape or incest. They also voted against a motion calling on the Government to legislate for the provision of abortion for women with non-viable foetal abnormalities.

The session on the abortion motions was the best attended at the conference.

The three motions on abortion were proposed by Cork GP Dr Mary Favier.

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Speaking on the motion calling for regulation on abortion where there is real and substantive risk to the life of the mother, she said the lives of Irish womenwere being compromised by the failure to address the need for abortion where a woman's life was being threatened by an on-going pregnancy.

Dr Peter Quinn, a retired GP from Cork, said Ireland was long known as one of the safest places in the world to have a baby and he wanted to take issue with Dr Favier on the issue of safety.

The motion was defeated by 42 votes to 32.

Dr Mark Murphy, a GP from Sligo who seconded the three motions, said women in Ireland who had cancer and were pregnant had to get on a flight to go the UK. He said obstetricians had asked for clarity. He said it was not opening the floodgates but rather was aimed at helping women who were extremely vulnerable and who had extreme ill health.

Dublin GP Dr Cyril Daly said he was reminded of German doctors before the second world war who decided that young children with conditions such as blindness or deafness had lives that were not worth living and who were subsequently killed with cynanide.

Dr Eleanor Corcoran, a consultant psychiatrist, said if the motion was passed there would be abortion on demand in no time.

On the issue of abortion in cases of rape and incest , Dr Favier said she wanted to ask doctors what they would do if they came across cases such as the girl in the "X" case who was raped at the age of 14 and became pregnant.

Dr Peter O'Sullivan, a GP from Dublin, said he could not remember a case where a patient wanted an abortion following a criminal act.

Dr John Keogh of Kildare said the motion brought the abortion debate to another level. "We are now talking about, despite the traumatic and dreadful situation regarding the conception, aborting normal healthy babies". He said conception should not be a criteria for abortion.

Dr Peadar O'Grady said that to reject the motion, doctors would be saying that they believed a a 14 year-old girl who was raped and who had made an informed choice to have an abortion should be forced to carry the pregnancy through. "It would put us as some of the most backward doctors in Europe. "

On the motion regarding foetal abnormalities, Dr Favier said the current situation was that women must continue until labour even when there was no prospect of a health surviving infant. "That is just cruel".

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent