Referendum on the Eighth Amendment


Sir, – Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan (February 6th) writes, “The data show (depending on who you read) that abortion causes mental health problems.” He goes on to cite the work of Fergusson et al (2006) as evidence.

In relation to this work, the American Psychological Association cautioned that “several design features limit conclusions that can be drawn from this study” (APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, 2008).

In terms of “depending on who you read”, I am happy to trust the work of the American Psychological Association (2008 and 2009), the UK Academy of Royal and Medical Colleges (2011) and the Irish Crisis Pregnancy Agency (2007), among others.

In its comprehensive literature review, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency found that, “The majority of the reviews of the literature conducted into abortion and psychological effects have come to the same conclusion: that legal and voluntary termination of pregnancy rarely causes immediate or lasting negative psychological consequences in healthy women.” – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.

Sir, The Fergusson article continues to be misread and untenable extrapolations of its findings – rejected by Fergusson himself (owing to the study’s limitations and shortcomings, to which Fergusson explicitly adverts in the paper itself) – continue to be made.

Meta-analyses (ie studies of the studies, weighted according to the rigour of their methodology) on the impact of abortion on mental health carried out by the American Psychological Association and the Johns Hopkins University show there is no statistically significant causality, all things being equal, between abortion and negative mental health outcomes.

This larger-scale research, which takes in all the best available data on the matter, is ignored as representing an inconvenient truth by anti-abortion voices, who prefer to isolate individual papers, misrepresent their findings and ignore the overwhelming weight of the evidence in the round. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I wish to congratulate Laura Kennedy (“The referendum will be decided in living rooms, at bus stops, on lunch breaks”, Life, February 7th) for her very clear understanding of this most sensitive debate. I find myself in that part of her article where she talks of those “who engage in bad faith”.

It has made me realise that my strong views on this subject are only my views and I cannot regard those who do not agree with me as less than worthy with their views.

I am happy to say that my mind is made up, and to those who are still on the fence, I say, listen to all points of view and make up your own mind. It is called the democratic way. And having a vote is useless unless you use it. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – When it comes to legislative change and a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, it is simply not true that a 12-week gestational limit is not the aim of campaigners, as articulated in “Abortion on request will follow shortly after repeal of amendment” (Fr Chris Hayden, Opinion & Analysis, February 6th).

The National Women’s Council of Ireland, in our “Every Woman” model to provide affordable, accessible healthcare options for all women and girls, has called for a protected period in early pregnancy to ensure that unregulated abortions will become regulated and safe, and ensure access to compassionate, accessible healthcare options for women and girls.

The protected period of 12 weeks will be the only workable option to provide abortion care to women who have become pregnant as a result of rape.

This protected period of 12 weeks where a woman who needs to end her pregnancy can access abortion care in consultation with her doctor is not an increment but is informed by the lived reality of women in Ireland as well as best medical practice.

It is also the case that across Europe when countries have introduced a period in early pregnancy they have not extended it at a later stage.

Twelve weeks is the minimum for a considerate and compassionate process where pregnancy can end as early as possible and at the same time ensure that no woman’s decision is rushed.

Twelve weeks will provide for the majority of women seeking abortions, as at least 90 per cent of Irish women access abortion within this time.

Where a wanted pregnancy turns into a crisis pregnancy at a later stage in pregnancy, we must allow for legislation that would allow for restricted access to abortion where it is considered medically necessary to protect the mental and physical health of the woman, and where there is a nonviable pregnancy.

These “protected treatments” will allow medical professionals to care for women in sometimes extremely difficult and distressing circumstances and support women, couples and families in making these decisions. – Yours, etc,



National Women’s

Council of Ireland,

North King Street,


Dublin 7.