Referendum on the Eighth Amendment

 

A chara, – While medical staff should certainly have complete freedom of conscientious objection to any involvement in aborting a baby, surely also the same freedom should be accorded to those tasked with drafting abortion legislation, chairing and facilitating committees whose terms of reference is to plan and draft such legislation.

Would the Minister for Health Simon Harris publicly declare that the conscientious objection rights of civil servants and lawyers being employed by the Government to this end is being fully respected? – Yours, etc,

JOHN M LEONARD,

Corbally,

Limerick.

Sir, – Dr Reggie Spelman (February 13th) underestimates the capabilities of GP colleagues. Medical termination of pregnancy (MTOP), involving the administration of oral medications and monitoring of the patient’s progress afterwards, is well within the capabilities of GPs. Your letter-writer mentions issues such as ethical objections by some GPs, time constraints and harassment by anti-abortion groups. I have no doubt whatsoever that if a GP is committed to providing the service, and if he has the back-up of his local hospital, there is no issue that is insurmountable in providing the service. However, if a GP does not want to provide the service, for reasons of time, ethics, image or money, there is no force that can compel him to do so. We need a clear statement from GP organisations as to what their collective position is. – Yours, etc,

Dr TOM O’ROURKE,

Gorey,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – Statistics show that 55 per cent of Irish women having abortions in the UK are already parents; two-thirds are married or in a stable relationship. These are Irish mothers, wives and partners.

A total of 66 Irish girls were under the age of 18 when they accessed UK abortion services in 2016, and 10 of these were under 16 years of age. These are our Irish daughters and granddaughters, sisters, nieces.

The reality is that the Eighth Amendment has not prevented Irish abortions; rather it has made what is already a stressful time more difficult and dangerous for our Irish girls and women. It has forced them to undergo medical procedures away from home, away from the support and care they need, and it has left them with a stigma and guilt imposed by our country’s criminalisation of procedures which are considered basic healthcare in the rest of Europe.

Irish women deserve better from their government, from their country, from us. They deserve our trust. Repeal the Eighth Amendment. – Yours, etc,

BERNIE LINNANE,

Dromahair,

Co Leitrim.

Sir, – Regarding the debate about when human life actually begins, I myself had three miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, all around six to eight weeks, and I was told at the time that early miscarriage is just a normal thing. It doesn’t mean you won’t have a successful pregnancy next time. (My fifth pregnancy did in fact result in a fine healthy baby.) The statistic I was given was that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage before 12 weeks.

If up to a quarter of early pregnancies abort spontaneously, shouldn’t that give us pause for thought? When I had the early miscarriages, I didn’t find it helpful to think of each of those as a tiny person (about the size of my thumbnail) who had died. I tried to think of them as having had the potential for personhood, but it just didn’t work out.

And what about the ectopic pregnancy? A fertilised egg growing in a woman’s Fallopian tube will kill her if it is not removed. Clearly no gynaecologist would say “I’m not going to operate, because human life is sacred from the moment of conception”. They just get it out as soon as possible, before the tube ruptures and causes massive internal bleeding.

Every pregnancy is different, and unique. So is every miscarriage, and every abortion. I think it is important to get away from futile attempts at black-and-white certainties, and move into the grey area of actual human experience, informing the debate by listening attentively to individual women’s stories. – Yours, etc,

JANET SHEPPERSON,

Belfast.