Dr Peter Boylan has strongly defended an assertion that a clear majority of members of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists support repeal of the Eight Amendment.
Dr Boylan is the chairman of the institute and has also been a leading campaigner for the Yes vote.
He has repeatedly said that the 80 per cent of institute members back repeal.
This week an internal row has emerged as to whether Dr Boylan’s views are representative of the institute. Seventeen obstetricians based in the south and south west wrote to Dr Boylan saying his position as chairman was incompatible with advocating on the issue.
The obstetricians, based in Cos Cork, Tipperary and Kerry, wrote that as the “public face” of the institute he should refrain from public advocacy. The letter said Dr Boylan should “temporarily stand aside as chairperson” if he wished to continue to campaign.
He said the letter was rushed out to the media before he got a hard copy of it. 'Now that is playing dirty'
The letter said the view of its signatories was that the institute should reflect the diversity of opinion by not campaigning on either side.
Dr Boylan, a former master of the National Maternity Hospital, responded that he was being asked to stand aside at a time “he was standing up for Irish women and getting them the proper treatment”.
He said the letter was rushed out to the media before he got a hard copy of it. “Now that is playing dirty,” he said.
The assertion that four-fifths of obstetricians in the institute back repeal has been challenged by some obstetricians campaigning for a No vote, and by the Love Both campaign.
Dr Boylan told The Irish Times yesterday that 18 or 19 members of the institute’s national executive had backed repeal at a meeting which specifically discussed the referendum earlier this year.
He also referred to a Survey Monkey form which was distributed to all members of the institute, seeking their views on the referendum and on its related proposals for reform. He said that 79 or 80 members responded, of whom 81 per cent supported repeal.
According to its website, the institute has “close to 200 members, who are experienced consultant obstetricians/gynaecologists and leading experts in their fields”.
Dr Trevor Hayes, an obstetrician campaigning for a No vote, last night contended the institute was more divided on the issue than the results of the survey indicated.
He said that there was a tight timeframe to respond to the survey and added he did not believe its findings were representative of the institute as a whole. He based this on his view that fewer than half of its members had responded.
Dr Hayes said Dr Boylan was a highly respected obstetrician but he should not be campaigning as chairman of the institute as he was “taking a solo run”.
Love Both spokeswoman Dr Cora Sherlock said the letter from obstetricians was “an indication that he does not speak for all professionals involved in the care of pregnant women in Ireland”.