Sir, - Mary Holland (Opinion, February 7th) accuses the Irish Government of having a hypocritical approach to the issue of abortion. On the contrary, by introducing this referendum, Ireland is a virtual pioneer in the global discussion in this area.
By voting Yes we will acknowledge that we owe women a better alternative in their most vulnerable time. We acknowledge the very real difference between an abortion, which sets out to take the life of the baby, and the unintentional death of a baby as a side-effect of medical treatment.
In this way pregnant women will continue to receive the attention that has seen Ireland rank as one of the countries that provides the best medical care for pregnant women. Most importantly, a Yes vote signifies our acceptance of the Government's commitment to find a realistic alternative to abortion, a matter which those who intend to vote No have studiously ignored to date. - Yours, etc.,
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Sir, - Much attention has been given to the fact that the Taoiseach promised an abortion referendum and has now delivered. Can I take this opportunity to remind readers that he also promised in the 1997 Fianna Fáil manifesto to "undertake a major programme of action on women's health. . .create a healthcare system that is women-friendly, and which operates on the principles of respect, consultation, involvement, empowerment and choice. We will engage in ongoing consultation with women in all sectors of society."
How can the Taoiseach claim to have made good on this promise given that the Women's Health Council, a statutory body set up to be consulted on all aspects of women's health, was not asked for its advice on the health implications of the forthcoming referendum and has since outlined seven very serious causes for concern should it proceed and be passed?
It seems that when it comes to election promises that some are considered more important than others. It is clear that promises to women are of less value than promises made to ensure Fianna Fáil stays in power. - Yours, etc.,
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A chara, - Recently I sent letters to some papers in which I argued for a Yes vote in the abortion referendum. On further examination and consultation I find that in conscience I cannot vote Yes to a Bill that, among a number of other objectionable elements, would provide a loophole (to become eventually an open door) to deliberate, intentional abortion.
I have consulted a top (perhaps the top) legal expert - Mr Rory O'Hanlon, former professor of criminal and constitutional law, former president of the Law Reform Commission, and a former High Court judge. Mr O'Hanlon concludes his analysis of the Bill with these words:
"It is my carefully considered legal opinion that the Abortion Referendum Bill 2001 constitutes a morally grave measure which, if enacted, would inevitably increase both the occurrence of actual abortions by substantial numbers in Ireland and the numbers of abortions not subject to penal law prohibitions.
"This proposed measure is clearly intrinsically evil and would greatly worsen the legal protection afforded unborn human beings subject to the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland."
For this reason I must therefore vote No. This matter must be thought out again and not rushed through. Yours, etc. -
Father TOM INGOLDSBY,