The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – As a host for the Abortion Support Network, along with other volunteers, I provide accommodation, transport and food for Irish women forced to travel to England for abortions.

Just after Christmas, a woman needed a last-minute place to stay. I picked her up from the station, tried to get her to eat some dinner, provided her with a warm room for the night, and then took her to the clinic in the morning.

This experience brought home to me the barbarity of outsourcing abortions to another country. If I were in her position, I would have made an appointment with a clinic at most a few miles from my home. My husband or best friend would have accompanied me. They would have assisted me in working out the route, and helped me find my way from the station. They would have sat with me, all day, in the clinic, cheering me up or just providing comfort. They could have spoken to doctors and nurses for me, allaying any fears and finding out any information I wanted. They would have come home with me afterwards. They would have been alert for any problems, and able to call for help in the unlikely event that I needed it. We would have talked, and I could have shared my thoughts with a person that I loved.

I felt so moved that this woman had to go through this experience on her own in a strange place.

Outsourcing the care of these women, relying on the help of English strangers, is a heart-breaking thing. Repeal the Eighth. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Many of those, including many of our senior politicians, who are campaigning for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, are endeavouring to frame the debate as a battle between church and state, between outmoded religious convictions and modernity.

On even a brief examination, this proposition does not stand up. Regarding the reality of abortion in the world today, it is science, not religious faith, that has revealed the inconvenient truths that so many who call themselves pro-choice choose either to deny (eg the “clump of cells” assertion that equates the human embryo to a cancer) or to ignore. What, then, are those inconvenient truths that science presents us with?

First, the science of genetics has put it beyond argument that from the moment of conception, as soon as the sperm cell and the ovum merge and their DNA unites, before a single cell division, the blueprint for a unique human individual, not the father, not the mother, has come into being.

Second, the science of embryology has elucidated the development of that single fertilised cell into a fully formed human person. It has identified when the heart begins to beat, when the brain begins to function, and when the unborn individual begins to react to stimuli and becomes sensitive to pain.

Third, medical science has pushed back the potential viability of the baby in utero in one case as far as 21 weeks and five days. What was born was certainly not “a clump of cells”: it was (and is today) a human person.

So let’s not pretend that opposition to abortion is somehow backward and unenlightened, outdated and irrelevant to modernity. On the contrary, it is soundly based on the solid (if inconvenient) science that those seeking repeal would like us to deny or ignore. Just who is being Luddite here? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.

Sir, – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin both tell us that their thinking on abortion has “evolved” over recent times from a pro-life position to a position of advocating repeal of the Eighth Amendment and introducing legislation to facilitate unrestricted access to abortion in Ireland during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

As a biologist I understand evolution. One defining characteristic of evolution is that all changes happen slowly and gradually. This contrasts starkly with the “evolution” of Mr Varadkar’s and Mr Martin’s opinions on abortion from a pro-life position that affords protection to the unborn baby to the polar opposite position that affords no protection whatsoever to the unborn baby.

The concept of evolution is invoked by the Taoiseach and Mr Martin presumably to suggest that the change in their position on abortion is nuanced and moderate. But the truth is that they have suddenly and completely reversed their positions. They are entitled to have such a radical change of mind of course but not to pretend that it is not a complete volte-face. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Biochemistry,

Waterfall, Co Cork.