The Eighth Amendment
A chara, – With the upcoming referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, I have been contemplating how the Irish electorate may vote. The Irish people have long been known and loved for their “soundness”.
This soundness is an inherent part of our nature: to always lend a smile, help those in need and wave to every person you meet on the road. We are not a judgmental lot.
While our institutions have let us down and treated our most vulnerable in awful and horrendous ways, we have not let this dampen our compassion and empathy for one another.
Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. Due to the shame and stigma perpetuated by these very institutions, we are now in a position where there is a lack of understanding regarding the underpinning reasons why a women may need to choose an abortion.
We now need to break down these barriers and come to understand what might lead a person to make such a decision. We need to arm the Irish public with the real stories behind abortions, real people navigating real and difficult circumstances. I would urge anyone wanting to make an informed decision to seek out real stories.
I believe, as in the marriage equality referendum, our soundness will shine through once again. We will show ourselves and the world that we have well and truly shaken off the bonds of our repressed and judgmental past. We are a people of love and compassion. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – A letter-writer (February 21st) writes that “those of us who want to repeal are not seeking to remove the right of a person to continue a pregnancy regardless of their circumstances. We do not want anyone to ever be forced into aborting a pregnancy against their will”.
This tiresome argument continues to crop up. Like many others advocating for removal of the Eighth Amendment, your letter-writer misses the point. Repeal campaigners will at some stage have to grasp the nettle – which they have consistently failed to do to date – that voters will vote against repeal of the Eighth Amendment not because they have a problem with a woman’s right to choose (or continue with a pregnancy), but on the basis that a 12-week-old foetus’s right to life should not be extinguished on request.
Choosing to ignore the other side of the argument is a recipe for failure.
Moreover, continuing to do so will make people wonder why they seemingly do not wish to address it. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Senator Catherine Noone, the chairwoman of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, has said that neither she nor the secretariat of her committee could find any GPs who supported the retention of our current laws on abortion, saying that “there was no single GP who offered, or any way indicated, that they wanted the status quo to remain” (News, February 20th).
This is an astonishing claim, given that the evidence of several GPs who oppose any change to the law was included in the report of the Citizens’ Assembly which Senator Noone’s committee was established to examine in the first place.
On March 5th, 2017, Dr Orla Halpenny, a practising GP, gave a presentation to the Citizen’s Assembly on behalf of “Irish Doctors for Life”, outlining its strong opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
This entire presentation was reproduced verbatim in the report of the Citizens’ Assembly, and yet the chairwoman of the committee and its staff appeared to have missed it in its entirety.
If reading the report of the Assembly was not sufficient, then a simple Google search would have allowed the committee to identify a large number of GPs who hold similar views, including, for example, the 38 GPs who wrote to your newspaper to oppose the last legislative intervention in this area (May 29th, 2013).
Senator Noone’s statement gives further credence to the allegation that the committee had predetermined the outcome of its deliberations and arranged its business accordingly.
In its own report, the committee rubber-stamped the Citizens’ Assembly proposal to introduce abortion on demand up to 12 weeks by means of a service to be provided by GPs. It would clearly have been highly inconvenient for the committee to have heard evidence from a cohort of GPs who opposed such a measure, and so – conveniently – none could be found, despite the evidence being, quite literally, under their nose. – Yours, etc,
THOMAS RYAN, BL
Sir, – Regina Doherty is right about one thing. There is a “job of work to be done”.
All those who do not want to see UK-style abortion being administered at your local GP, nearest hospital or private abortion clinic will have to do everything they can in the next few weeks to convince people of just how tragic and irreversible that outcome would be.
And we won’t have news bulletins, radio and television presenters, anonymous newspaper editorials and countless media columnists to re-echo every clarion call of the pro-repeal side to “get with the programme”.
Instead, we will just have to use our own limited and often fragile resources to talk to people one-to-one with gentleness and compassion, or maybe even to get involved with others who are organising at grass-roots level, to say “Not on our watch”.
No multibillionaire saviour is going to come to our aid here. It will be ordinary women and men who know that fundamental human rights should never be up for grabs, and who will have to work their socks off to copper-fasten that universal principle. – Yours, etc,
Newmarket on Fergus,