Referendum on the Eighth Amendment

 

Sir, – In answer to Senator Catherine Noone, who chaired the Oireachtas abortion committee and who criticised my comments on abortion and suicidal ideation, I wish to state that there is no literature which shows abortion is accepted by any authority as a reputable evidence-based treatment for suicidal ideation.

Suicidal ideation is used as an excuse to abort, but no data shows it to cure such ideation and the Irish College of Psychiatrists do not accept (not to mention endorse) it as a recognised treatment. The data show (depending on who you read) that abortion causes mental health problems. See Ferguson et al. on this topic. I quote from their study published in 2006: “Certainly in this study, those young women who had abortions appeared to be at moderately increased risk of both concurrent and subsequent mental health problems when compared with equivalent groups of pregnant or non-pregnant peers.” (“Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health”, published in Child Psychology and Psychiatry, volume 47, issue 1, 2006).

The women who founded the organisation Women Hurt (by abortion) or Rachel’s Vineyard will testify that for them abortion seriously affected their lives in many ways, including their mental health. These women often find it hard to have their voices heard in public. For example they were not invited to speak in front of the Oireachtas committee. – Yours, etc,

Bishop ALPHONSUS

CULLINAN,

Bishop’s House,

John’s Hill,

Waterford

Sir, – In Pennsylvania three years ago a doctor who was licensed to carry out abortions, and had performed 16,000 legally, was sentenced to life in prison for taking the life of babies after birth. Abortion is legal there up to 24 weeks.

Nonetheless, later-term and after-birth terminations were carried out as demand does not stop, even at 24 weeks.

The shocking account of this, written by two Irish journalists, one of whom had been pro-choice, is hardly covered in Ireland.

In the trial of this doctor the prosecution called an “eminent” obstetrician and gynaecologist to explain abortion. To establish his professional credentials, he was asked how many legal terminations he had personally carried out. “At least 40,000”, was his reply

The defence called a witness to support the prosecuted doctor.

She said she had every confidence in him and had demonstrated this by having 18 abortions by him.

Since Roe v Wade, 55 million abortions have been carried out in the United States. There has been a comparable number in the UK and 180 million women are missing from the world’s population because of gender-based abortion.

I see no reference to these figures in the Oireachtas committee’s report.

To allow the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks is unacceptable to me. Moreover, I have no doubt that, in time, 12 weeks will become 16 and then 20, etc.

Have any forecasts of the number of abortions likely to arise here been attempted? Should we not have some information on this before we decide?

Will this draft legislation be accompanied by spending proposals to support mothers and families in crisis pregnancies, as my private member’s Bill “The Care of Persons Board” did?

The children and adults who are now walking about and living full lives because their mothers did not terminate their crisis pregnancies have not been heard. Why?

I find it extraordinary that an Oireachtas committee can agree that doctors can discern when an abortion is allowable because a woman is suicidal but that doctors are not capable of establishing a prima facie case that a rape has taken place.

Whether one agrees with it or not, to allow for abortion in cases of rape or where the baby cannot survive birth, or where there is a serious threat to the health of the mother, can at least be argued. There is no ethical case for abortion on demand.

We have led the world on gay marriage and in electing a Taoiseach who is openly gay. Let’s lead the world on ethical life issues by rejecting abortion on demand.

I was campaign manager for five referendums. Two of these were voted down and, in time, rerun when people’s concerns were addressed.

If we reject the current proposal, it will be possible to find a more humane one. – Yours, etc,

GAY MITCHELL,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Dr John Monaghan, Dr Eamon McGuinness and Mr Benedict Ó Floinn are simply wrong in their claim that non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) “can detect Down syndrome with a simple blood test from nine weeks gestation” (February 5th).

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued a Q&A statement on January 29th (published in full in The Irish Times) in which we outlined the processes for diagnosing chromosomal abnormalities, including trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). We took particular care to explain the difference between screening and diagnostic tests.

The NIPT (Harmony, Panorama) is a screening test not a diagnostic test. The NIPT test analyses free foetal DNA in the mother’s blood stream. It can only be performed from nine weeks onwards.

There is no facility in Ireland to analyse the samples so they have to be sent to the UK or the US. Results are generally available within two weeks.

This result does not give a diagnosis, but indicates the chance of chromosomal abnormality.

A further, diagnostic, test (chorion villus sample) is required if the woman chooses that option. A full chromosomal result from a CVS takes three weeks, while a more specialised analysis for chromosomes 13 (Edwards syndrome), 18 (Patau syndrome) and 21 (Down syndrome) requires the sample to be sent to the UK and the result is available in three to five working days. It is clear, therefore, that diagnosis of chromosomal abnormality, while technically possible, can rarely or realistically be achieved before 12 weeks.

The website for the Harmony test makes it absolutely clear that the test is not diagnostic, stating that “The Harmony Prenatal Test measures a woman’s risk of carrying a baby with chromosomal conditions such as trisomies 21, 18 and 13. If your test indicates a high probability result, talk with your healthcare provider about what further diagnostic testing is needed to confirm the result.”

The website for the Panorama test cautions that “A high risk result does not mean the baby has a chromosomal abnormality; rather, it indicates a very high probability that your baby may have that condition. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you speak with a genetic counsellor and/ or maternal foetal medicine specialist. You may be offered invasive diagnostic testing such as amniocentesis or CVS. No irreversible pregnancy decisions should ever be made based on a Panorama result alone.”– Yours, etc,

Dr PETER BOYLAN,

Chairman,

Institute of Obstetricians

and Gynaecologists,

Setanta House,

Setanta Place,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – An Taoiseach referred to the issue of abortion as a “grey area”, stating that it is not black and white. Grey being the middle ground is reflected in the pro-choice campaign which holds the middle ground in the debate around the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, rather than being the polar opposite of the pro-life campaign.

Thinking in terms of a sliding scale, one end could be seen as forcing all women to continue a pregnancy, the other end forcing all women to have an abortion.

Pro-choice in the middle of the scale is doing exactly as the name suggests, pushing for women to have a choice in their maternity care and for the right to know their own mind as to whether or not they can continue a pregnancy.

It is possible to feel that one would never personally opt for an abortion but to understand that it is not anyone’s place to say what another woman can endure.

Again, to quote the Taoiseach, “We’re asking people to trust women”. – Yours, etc,

SIAN EUSTACE,

Carron,

Co Clare.