Referendum on the Eighth Amendment

 

Sir, – A letter-writer (February 2nd) asks the Taoiseach to look at the Swiss abortion statistics.

If the Taoiseach were to take that advice, he would note that the Swiss law on abortion changed in 2002 to allow abortion without indication in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This was supported by 72 per cent of Swiss voters.

Following this reform of the law, the Swiss abortion rate decreased in 2003. It has continued to decrease year on year up to 2016 and is now among the lowest rates in Europe.

This pattern echoes the evidence of World Health Organisation to the Oireachtas Committee on the Eight Amendment: legal restrictions on abortion care do not lead to fewer abortions and that conversely laws which facilitate access to abortion do not lead to an increase in the abortion rate.

Those who defend the Eighth Amendment ignore all the evidence that legal restrictions have not reduced our abortion rates while disregarding the impact that the amendment has had on pregnant women’s health. – Yours, etc,

NIALL BEHAN,

Chief Executive,

Irish Family Planning

Association,

Solomons House,

Pearse Street

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Dr Peter Boylan has suggested that the extremely high rate of abortions after a diagnosis of Down syndrome elsewhere are not relevant to the debate here in Ireland (“Focus on Down syndrome in Eighth debate wrong, leading medic says”, Janaury 29th).

Non-invasive prenatal testing currently available in Ireland can detect Down syndrome with a simple blood test from nine weeks gestation.

These tests are rapidly expected to become more easily available.

Independently of this, the median age of expectant mothers is increasing. Since the incidence of Down syndrome increases with age, testing is frequently presented as routine – as is considering an abortion if such tests are positive.

The issue of whether or not tests happen before the end of any proposed 12-week cut-off point is, in any event, of limited relevance. The proposals currently under consideration are that abortion will be available after an initial 12-week threshold not only on grounds of risk to the life of the mother but also risk to the physical and mental health.

In Germany, where the law does not specify that abortion can be carried out for reasons of disability, but where abortion can be carried out because of a risk to the mental health of the mother, more than 90 per cent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.

It is a distressing but undeniable fact that, in most jurisdictions where abortion has been introduced, a disproportionate number of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. In Britain, the National Down Syndrome Cytogenic Register shows that 90 per cent are aborted: in Denmark a similar register shows that rate to be 98 per cent.

If we are to have an informed debate on the effects of legalising abortion, the effect in other jurisdictions on those with a disability is highly relevant. Denying that reality deprives the electorate of key information to which they are entitled. – Yours, etc,

Dr. JOHN MONAGHAN,

Consultant Obstetrician

and Gynaecologist;

Dr EAMON Mc GUINNESS,

Consultant Obstetrician

and Gynaecologist;

BENEDICT Ó FLOINN, BL,

Athlone, Co Roscommon.

Sir, – A letter-writer (February 1st) claims that “voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment in no way affects the rights and sensitivities of those who disagree with abortion for their own reasons”. Pro-life advocates have made it abundantly clear that it is not their own untrammelled rights and sensitivities that they are concerned about, but the endangered rights and sensitivities of the unborn. – Yours, etc,

COLIN WALSH,

Templeogue, Dublin 6W.