Women should have option of abortion in event of rape or incest, group claims

Removing Eighth Amendment will reduce shame associated with being victim of sexual assault, says Together for Yes

Margaret Martin,  Maeve Eogan, Niamh Ni Dhomhnaill and Orla O’Connor at the publication of a position paper by Together for Yes on the  proposal to allow access to abortion up to 12 weeks. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Margaret Martin, Maeve Eogan, Niamh Ni Dhomhnaill and Orla O’Connor at the publication of a position paper by Together for Yes on the proposal to allow access to abortion up to 12 weeks. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Women should be given the option to terminate their pregnancies if they are the victim of rape or incest, the Together for Yes campaign has said.

Maeve Eogan, medical director of the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) at Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, said women who conceive as a result of sexual violence currently have two options available to them - to travel abroad or to continue with their pregnancy.

Many women choose the latter option but there should be a safe and legal alternative available to them in this country, Ms Eogan said.

Speaking at the publication of the group’s campaign position paper outlining the key reasons why abortions in Ireland should be made lawful up to 12 weeks, she said there is no “suggestion that there would be mandatory terminations of pregnancy for women who conceive as a result of sexual violence”.

However it is very important that the person who is carrying that pregnancy is “enabled to heal physically, psychologically and emotionally”, Ms Eogan added.

The Together For Yes group said it fully supported the proposition by the Government to legislate for access to abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, in the event the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

A referendum on whether the Eighth, which protects the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn, should remain part of the Constitution will take place on May 25th.

Legislating for a specific rape ground is not a compassionate or workable means of supporting women and girls in these circumstances because it is not possible to prove rape occurred through a medical examination, the group said. Ms Eogan said there is no physical finding that conclusively demonstrates that unwanted sexual contact has occurred.

Victims of sexual assault should not be bound to detail their abuse before procuring an abortion, the Together For Yes co-director Orla O’Connor added.

Ms O’Connor said there will always be a reason for accessing terminations but removing a requirement to reveal that reason is really important in accessing compassionate care.

Women’s Aid director Margaret Martin said since 2002 the organisation has received 2,417 disclosures of rape by current or ex-partners. Last year, it heard 607 disclosures of sexual violence which included 323 reports of rape.

Ms Martin said women who report to the organisation state they have been “beaten during sex; have had sexually explicit images and videos made without their consent; are denied access to family planning; are drugged and raped while unconscious; are sexually assaulted with weapons and are forced to carry out humiliating and painful sexual acts”.

She added: “Women also tell us that they have been coerced into sex with their abusers friends and/or forced into prostitution. We also hear from women who feel they can’t say no because they fear repercussions from their partner.”

Men often seek to monitor women, find out her online and bank account passwords and keep track of her whereabouts. These tactics impact on her freedom of movement, her privacy and her ability to source abortion pills outside Ireland, Ms Martin said.

Removing the Eighth Amendment will reduce the stigma and shame that is associated with being a victim of sexual assault, she added.

Abortion: The Facts

Read now