More than one thousand doctors from across Ireland have called for a Yes vote in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment, saying repeal will make healthcare "safe and regulated" for Irish women.
The coalition of doctors gathered in Dublin on Saturday to sign a public declaration of their support of a repeal of the Eighth Amendment which will be held on May 25th.
Standing in front of a projection of the more than 1,000 names of the doctors who have signed up to the campaign, Monaghan GP Dr Ross Kelly warned the current legislation had led to a breakdown of trust between women and their doctors.
The Eighth Amendment never stopped abortion, it made it hidden and dangerous
“Women need our support,” said Dr Kelly. “The law forces us to turn our back on them to the point where they often don’t involve us. Or you see a woman for a first pregnancy visit and they you never see her again. With the Eighth Amendment the trust between the doctor and the patient is undermined.
“The Eighth Amendment never stopped abortion, it made it hidden and dangerous. This referendum is about do we treat women properly with care and compassion.”
Obstetrician Dr Louise Kenny said the Eighth Amendment had made “excellent clinical practices illegal” and underlined the legal obstacles faced by doctors trying to provide healthcare to their patient.
“In 25 years I’ve never met a woman who wanted a termination but I’ve met many who needed one. Under the Eighth I can’t be the doctor my sick patients need me to be. Repealing the Eighth will allow us to be the doctors were trained to be.”
Dr Anna McHugh, a GP practising in Donegal, said she was "shocked and disappointed" to discover people were still speaking about women's healthcare in "hushed tones and with stigma" when she returned from Australia three years ago.
Dr McHugh reflected on conversations with young women who chose to take abortion pills alone in their bathrooms rather than approach a medical professional for help.
“When I look to a career of 40 years ahead of me, I want to know that when a woman comes to me in a crisis pregnancy situation, she feels unafraid to do so,” said Dr McHugh at Saturday’s meeting. “That I can support her completely without fear.”
Minister for Health Simon Harris, who attended the event, said the debate around the referendum had been marred with misinformation and called on doctors to inform patients, friends and family of the facts.
“This debate must be grounded in truth, fact and reality,” said Mr Harris. “The draft legislation we’ve published did not fall from the sky. It came through an extraordinarily engaging process where we asked citizens of their country to listen to expert views and to make recommendations. It’s a piece of legislation that has restrictions, that has safeguards but that is grounded in reality and compassion.”
National spokesman for the Doctors Together for Yes Dr Mark Murphy said the document, which had been signed by 1,080 doctors across all specialities by Saturday morning, showed the “overwhelming majority” of medical professionals would not stand over unsafe abortion in Ireland.
“We are doctors from every country, every speciality, who have come here today to say we want change.
“When the door closes and the woman and her doctor are alone in the consultation room we cannot have the eighth amendment in that room. This is not a vote of Yes or No. It’s a vote of whether or not we want to make healthcare safe and regulated.”