The Eighth Amendment

 

Sir, – Posters on my street for the No campaign state that the rate of terminations in England is either one in four (25 per cent) or one in five (20 per cent), depending on which poster I look at. It is also interesting to note that these data only refer to England. The reason for this is that if you include official 2016 statistics for Scotland and Wales, the overall rate drops to 14 per cent. Now 14 per cent is a long way from 25 per cent and doesn’t look good for the No campaign. So voters need to be aware of how statistics are being manipulated to encourage a no vote. – Yours, etc,

THOMAS G COTTER,

Crosshaven,

Co Cork.

Sir, – On Thursday Minister for Health Simon Harris and the chair of the Institute of Obstetricians Peter Boylan warned there are significant dangers to the unsupervised use of abortion pills, while calling for a Yes vote in the abortion referendum.

They said the widespread use of “illegal” and “unsupervised” abortion pills presented a compelling case for repealing the Eighth Amendment, and legalising the pills so they could be used under medical supervision.

This application of back to front logic should be extended to solve other intractable problems. We must start by banning the sick from attending A&E thus solving overcrowding. Permitted blood-alcohol levels should be raised to reduce prosecutions for drink driving, and burglary and assault legalised to reduce crime levels. Why has this not been understood before? The possibilities for progress are endless. – Yours, etc,

JOHN CRONIN,

Terenure,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Everybody knows that abortion already exists in Ireland, even the ones who pretend it doesn’t. We know the figures: more than 3,000 women travel (that euphemism) every year, and another thousand take abortions pills – on their own and without medical supervision. And the question everyone should be asking themselves is, are we going to look after these women, or not? It is as simple as that. And your answer will be your vote on May 25th. – Yours, etc,

INGRID SEIM,

Frankfield,

Cork.

Sir, –Those claiming that abortion is murder seem to be very comfortable with the 13th Amendment to our Constitution, which protects the right of pregnant women to travel to other countries for terminations.

They are not calling for repeal of that amendment, nor are they calling for trade boycotts or other sanctions towards the many, many countries which allow something they believe to be cold-blooded murder.

Might I suggest that their real issue is not to do with the procedure but with whether a woman must take a bus or a plane to her appointment? – Yours, etc,

CLAIRE HENNESSY,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – I have a number of concerns relating to conscientious objection and abortion.

The recently published heads of Bill define termination of pregnancy as “a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of the foetus”.

If the referendum is passed, this is the procedure that will be available on demand for any reason up to 12 weeks and after 12 weeks on vague health grounds.

First, it is of great worry to Irish practitioners that doctors, nurses and midwives cannot avoid participation in abortion in an increasing number of jurisdictions, including Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Bulgaria.

Second, in the UK supreme court, two midwives lost their battle to be treated as “conscientious objectors”, and to be excused from participating in abortions.

The midwives were told that while they could refuse to carry out the procedures themselves, they were obliged to delegate these duties to other staff and to supervise the staff during the abortions.

Many doctors and nurses consider that if their conscience prevents them from intentionally ending the life of the foetus, they should not be required to supervise and organise this same act.

The legislation proposed if the Eighth Amendment is repealed will oblige GPs and other healthcare professionals who conscientiously object to transfer care to another doctor and to inform the patient in writing that they may seek review of the objecting doctor’s decision.

Third, in 2013 a resolution to restrict the right of doctors and nurses to conscientious objection was narrowly defeated in the European Parliament. Some Irish MEPs voted for this. In the recent Dáil debates some politicians argued against a doctor’s right to avoid participation in abortion.

We have seen how one political party expelled a number of members for voting with their consciences in 2013 and how another party suspended one of the youngest female TDs in Dáil Éireann for exercising her conscience in a vote last month.

Fourth, some academic campaigners have been arguing for the removal of conscientious objection across Europe, claiming that it can be used as a “subtle method for limiting access to abortion”.

Finally, under Minister for Health Simon Harris’s plans for abortion, GPs and others will not be entitled to conscientiously object to participating in the intentional destruction (not delivery) of the foetus where there is a risk to the life or health of the patient in an emergency.

No evidence has been produced to show that intentional destruction of the foetus is necessary to avoid risks to the life or health of a pregnant patient.

I would urge GPs and our colleagues from other disciplines who are also in the front line of patient care to inform themselves fully of the implications for the practice of medicine should this referendum be passed. – Is mise,

Dr ANDREW O’REGAN,

(General Practitioner

and Senior Lecturer),

Killarney,

Co Kerry.