Voting on the Eighth Amendment

 

Sir, – We can hardly be surprised that the authorities that exported our cervical cancer screening to the lowest bidder in US and turned a judicious blind eye to our abortion-seekers going to UK, have now delegated authority to regulate online advertising of our constitutional issues to California.

Is there no end to the dissipation of our national sovereignty? – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL ANDERSON,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – It is a simple truth that if the Yes side were winning the online campaign Google would not have taken this action and there would not be a word about it. – Yours, etc,

PAUL CONNOLLY,

Cavan.

Sir, – The ban by Google on further advertising concerning the Eighth Amendment is to be welcomed (Front page, May 10th). It is a responsible commercial action, although it would be preferable if promotion of either side by advertising could be properly regulated by public authority instead of relying on social media voluntarily to do the right thing, however belatedly.

I was surprised by the ubiquity of online advertising in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment in contrast to nothing appearing from the pro-repeal side.

Over the past 32 days I have tested the results of Google searches on the “Eighth Amendment Ireland” using a variety of browsers and from different IP addresses using different laptops, tablets and two different smartphones, using different email logins and from different geolocations. I was struck by the fact that, whatever the online search medium, location, or IP address or email login used, the top 20 search results always decisively favoured the pro-retain side in frequency and priority. I took screenshots to show the consistent pattern.

It seems that it is possible to ensure that search results can be optimised to favour one side over another in the referendum campaign. This might be an issue for examination by various governments.

Certainly, it would not be sustainable to assert that search results are neutral. Some neutral sources, such as the Referendum Commission, have slightly improved in recent days, in terms of their ranking, which is a modestly positive development.

I hope that the integrity of the referendum result will not have been undermined or manipulated by exploitation of social media. The lack of transparency is a cause for concern. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY LAYNG,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Can I take it that an Irish attempt to rig a referendum is where both sides of a campaign have the same number of cable ties and have equal access to social media? Ballot boxes are rarely equal. – Yours, etc,

DERMOT O’ROURKE,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – We have heard loud complaints from the No camp following the refusal by Facebook and Google to carry certain types of advertising for the remainder of the referendum campaign.

It has been claimed that the No side now has no platform from which to address its supporters directly.

We in the Leitrim Together for Yes campaign have a very effective platform to reach the voters of our lovely county — we call it a doorstep. – Yours, etc,

BERNIE LINNANE,

Dromahair, Co Leitrim.

Sir, – In the early days of the campaign, about 40 per cent of the Love Both No posters I was responsible for putting up disappeared overnight.

A small number had been inadvertently placed on ESB lamp posts which had electric cables attached above the lamps. An ESB crew was subsequently photographed removing these few posters and I was able to contact the ESB depot where a very gracious employee explained the danger of electric shock in mounting posters on ESB poles. He happily returned the posters to me, but explained that in future there might be a fee for collection of similarly removed posters.

However, in the past few weeks, countless Yes posters have gone up on a myriad of ESB poles in my own and other constituencies, including on some of the poles that my No posters were originally removed from, but these posters have not subsequently been removed by the ESB as mine were.

Between poster removal of one kind or another, the paucity of one to one debates and the bizarre “regulation” of online and offline discussion, in the immortal words of Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going on?” – Yours,

BRENDAN CONROY,

Dublin 14.

A chara, – I refer to John Glennon’s letter (May 10th) in which he declares that pregnancy should be a shared joyful experience for a woman and her husband or boyfriend.

On this I agree with him, but the fact remains that sometimes this is not, or cannot, be the case.

Sometimes the pregnancy is not viable, sometimes the woman’s physical or mental health prevents this from being a joyful experience. In these instances we are burdening these families with stress and trauma additional to an already difficult decision. The only way to allow these families to be catered for at home, in a loving and supported setting is to vote Yes on May 25th. – Yours, etc,

GINA DOOLEY,

Loughrea, Co Galway.

A chara, – Micheál Martin should think twice before he criticises other people for “dishonest and offensive” campaigning after his own performance at a Lawyers Together for Yes event (Home News, May 10th).

In his speech, he claims, unbelievably, that a Yes vote on May 25th would not lead to “unlimited abortions”, nor to “abortion on demand”. This is an astounding assertion, given that the Government’s proposed legislation is described, accurately, in none other than The Irish Times’ own Editorial (May 9th) as “unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks”.

In 2016, the UK Department of Health reported that 3,265 abortions took place in England and Wales by residents of Ireland. 92 per cent of these were under 13 weeks of pregnancy. If Micheál Martin gets his way and these 3,000-plus terminations happen in Ireland instead, does he really expect us to regard this statistic as either limited or rare? – Is mise,

DAVID CARROLL,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I am convinced that a good number of voters have no idea as to the methods utilised in order to carry out an abortion. Young people, in particular, have no idea regarding the details. Also, no information has been given as to how the clinics dispose of the remains of the baby aborted.

I am aware that the Yes side will say that we are being sensational, but if these details were well known I feel that many voters would choose to vote No. – Yours, etc,

DAVID KELLY,

Carrick-on-Suir,

Co Tipperary.

Sir, – As former chairs of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, we have been horrified at some of the statements made by colleagues during this referendum campaign in relation to maternal care in Ireland.

We are particularly appalled by the comments of Dr Rhona Mahony in the Together for Yes campaign video where she states “In Ireland today, we play medical roulette with women’s lives”, and those of Dr Peter Boylan in the same video where he claims the Eighth Amendment “makes it difficult for us to treat women with compassion and give them the proper care that they need”.

These comments are simply not true. We call on them to withdraw these statements.

Each of us has had extensive experience over around 40 years in the specialty of obstetrics and gynaecology. In addition, in our privileged position as Chairs of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, we have fought to improve the standard of care for mothers and their newborn babies.

Ireland is a very safe country in which to be pregnant. The Eighth Amendment does not prevent Irish women receiving care of the highest possible standard. This is why our maternal death rate is so low. Recent Maternal Death Enquiry reports confirm that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to be pregnant.

Each one of us can stand over the care we have provided in our careers. Four of us who practised in this jurisdiction have carried out necessary surgery which resulted in termination of pregnancy in order to save and protect Irish women. We had no difficulty in so doing, and the Eighth Amendment did not prevent us from performing an ethical and medically indicated procedure.

On May 25th, Irish people will be asked to vote on whether the right to life of an unborn baby should be withdrawn. If the answer is Yes, it is the stated intention of Government to introduce legislation to enable ending the life of a perfectly healthy growing baby, in a perfectly healthy pregnant woman. That is a matter of conscience for each voter.

What this referendum is not about, and what it has never been about, is maternal healthcare.– Yours, etc,

Prof JOHN BONNAR, Former Chairman, Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Dr EAMON MCGUINNESS, Former Chairman, Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Dr CONOR CARR, Former Chairman, Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Dr JAMES CLINCH, Former Chairman, Institute of Obste-tricians and Gynaecologists; Dr MICHAEL O’HARE, Former Chairman, Institute of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, C/o Newry, Co Down.

A chara, – Sarah Bardon comes to the conclusion that the claim that abortion will be legalised up to the sixth month of pregnancy under the proposed legislation is only partially true because such abortions will only be allowed under certain circumstances (Fact Check, May 9th). Or, to put it another way, it is entirely true that abortion will be legal up to six months provided the conditions laid out in the legislation are met. – Is mise,

Revd PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

A chara, – Ensoulation involves speculation about when a soul gets attached to a zygote, to foetus, to developing baby. This matter has been dealt with by philosophers from Aristotle to Aquinas and today’s contributors. It is not an oddball subject.

I am surprised to note that the subject is receiving little or no attention in the debate on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

The issue is important because if a soul has not linked up with an early developing foetus to be a full persona, body and soul, then it cannot be equated to the full persona of the normal woman.

The equal right to life comes into question. When the Eighth was underway I became fascinated with the notion of millions of souls floating around spiritual space following the natural aborting of early foetuses.

All of this depends on Christian and other religious beliefs: if there is no God and no Soul nil aon bri ann cor ar bith.

Given the strong views held by very active religious groups, they cannot ignore the role of the soul in the argument. I took this matter up with my now deceased next door neighbour, Monsignor, Professor (triple doctorate) Maurice Sheehy, former adviser to Archbishop McQuaid. After a night devoted to this subject with the help of a half litre of Paddy, we concluded that the good Lord in his wisdom would only assign a soul to a developing foetus/child if the birth process went to completion, to the stage where independent life was possible.

This conclusion has major implications for our present debate. In a short letter I can only raise the question. Does the “beo, gan breith gan Anam” equate to the full pearsa/persona of a mother? – Is mise,

Prof NOEL MULCAHY,

CoWicklow.