Pros and cons of abortion law change

Sir, – The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment has recommended the repeal of Article 40.3.3 from the Constitution, the introduction of abortion on demand without any restrictions up to 12 weeks, and the legalisation of abortion pills which could be prescribed by GPs. This would mean that the Irish laws on abortion would be virtually identical to those in France, so it is important to examine the effect that such a system has had in France.

In 2013, the most recent year for which full statistics are available, there were 216,697 abortions performed in France, compared to 779,883 live births. In other words, 22 per cent of all recorded pregnancies in France ended in abortion. Incredibly, the abortion rate in France is actually higher than that in the UK (21 per cent) where there are fewer restrictions.

If changes to our laws led to a similar rate of abortion as in France, then the number of abortions being performed on Irish women would rise from 3,500 per annum at present to over 15,000 every year.

And this is a regime which the members of the Oireachtas committee consider to be “restrictive”.


Members of the committee would no doubt respond to say that such a huge increase in the number of abortions would never happen in reality, however this is exactly what happened in France once their current laws were introduced in 1975. The number of abortions performed there quadrupled in the space of just 12 months, rising from 33,454 in 1975 to 134,173 in 1976 and has grown steadily every year since.

In fact, France is a good example of how once abortion is introduced on supposedly restricted basis, no amount of regulation or restriction can prevent abortions being granted on ever wider grounds within a short space of time.

Unsurprisingly, there was no discussion of these facts at its recent public hearings. – Yours, etc,


Harolds Cross, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The committee has spoken. It is now up to the Houses of the Oireachtas to decide what choices they’ll offer us in next year’s referendum. Or more specifically, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil must decide what wording will cause them the least inconvenience.

Though I should not condemn them for the expediency to come.

The ultimate recommendation of the committee was itself an act of expediency. Calling for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks was not a positive recognition of a woman’s right to control her own body. It was instead a recognition that the one thing the Irish people overwhelmingly agree on, is that women who are the victims of rape should not be forced to give birth. And if this exception could be written into law, then that is what Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin would be pushing for.

But it cannot be legislated for. Therefore, the committee has decided on a wager. They have bet on the Irish people so wanting the victims of rape to receive the medical care they wish, that they’ll endure the price of “undeserving” women also having access to the medical care they want.

And that will be the theme of this referendum, if Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin decide to respect the conclusions of the committee.

Can middle Ireland, the fabled centre, those respectable people who we dare not startle, be convinced that to help a rape victim, we must also help women who dare to have sex for fun? – Yours, etc,


Lixnaw, Co Kerry.

Sir, – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has told us that the church is actively raising money to fund the Pope’s visit to Ireland next year. He also says that he wants a fair debate on the pros and cons of repealing the Eighth Amendment. How is it fair to allow one side of that debate to raise funds with no limits while the other side cannot accept donations above €2,500 per donor, as these are “political” activities?

Thus we will see a well -funded church campaign to oppose repeal. We will see a €20 million visit from the Pope to visit the Taoiseach and to openly appeal for a No vote, all funded by the generosity of Catholics in Ireland and abroad.

Meanwhile the Yes campaigners must follow the Standards in Public Office guidelines and limit their “political” fundraising.

The church is not forced to follow these same guidelines even though their activities are highly political. A fair debate indeed.


Northport, New York, US.

Sir, – I write as a person committed to the sacredness of human life. In my youth I campaigned against the death penalty and joined the “Aldermaston” march against nuclear weapons. But I confess that I do not believe like Professor Martin Clynes (Letters, December 19th) that a woman’s egg, whether fertilised or not is a viable separate human being, and cannot be unless and until it has developed a functioning brain and heart. Therefore, if my daughter had been raped as a young teenager, I would have had her egg removed, whether fertilised or not, in the same way that any other part of her body could be removed if necessary.

I imagine the four- month period is a significant “biological fact” and I will be voting for that. But could the drafters of the new “amendment” please be careful to avoid further confusion? Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Tom Gillen (December 19th), a “long time Fine Gael voter”, in flagging publicly his intention to change allegiance on the back of Micheál Martin’s utterances on the abortion issue, demonstrates limited awareness that political allegiance in Ireland, in particular as between the two main parties, isn’t a matter of life and death, it’s much more serious than that. – Yours, etc,


Sutton, Dublin 13.