Tuesday 16th January 2018
In advance of this week’s Oireachtas debates on the Eighth Amendment, medical experts told parliamentarians that putting the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s recommendations into effect is critical for women’s health.
Chair-Elect of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Cliona Murphy, said she looked forward to a referendum where Irish people shape the law befitting a developed country in the 21st century.
Dr Murphy said the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists broadly welcomed the Committee’s recommendations. At a national educational meeting in November, 71.5% of consultant and non-consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists surveyed said the Eighth Amendment should not be retained.
“The current situation is unworkable,” said Dr Murphy. “Women in Ireland are accessing termination of pregnancy. They are doing so by incurring financial and emotional stress without the support of local healthcare professionals. Some are doing it alone in their homes with the worry about complications and discovery. They do not receive post-termination care and contraceptive advice.”
Commenting on the growing trend of women in Ireland accessing abortion pills illegally online, Dr Caitriona Henchion, medical director of the Irish Family Planning Association, said: “If we maintain the status quo, we will be unique among European countries in having illegal rather than legal abortion as the norm.”
Dr Henchion welcomed the Committee’s recommendation to allow for GP-led abortion care up to 12 weeks’ gestation. She said: “Implementing the Committee’s recommendations will facilitate proper regulation and medical supervision of abortion within the Irish healthcare system and allow open communication between women and their doctors. It will give women time to feel sure about their decision. It will ensure that women receive appropriate follow-up care after abortion – including contraceptive advice and provision – in a timely manner.”
Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Orla O’Connor, said decisions about care in pregnancy should be a private matter for a woman, her doctor and her family. GPs, doctors and midwives should be supported in caring for their patients without fear of prosecution. Calling on the Oireachtas to support the recommendations of the Eighth Amendment Committee, Ms O’Connor said: “We know from other countries in Europe that if we truly wish to reduce the need for abortion in Ireland, the best way is to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, including sexual health education and information and access to affordable contraception, to all women and girls in Ireland.”
Tuesday’s briefing was hosted by the All-Party Oireachtas Interest Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. Chair of the All-Party Group, Jan O’Sullivan TD, said: “It is critical that the forthcoming debate on the Joint Committee’s recommendations is calm, measured and most importantly grounded in the objective medical evidence that was presented to the Committee.”