The Government Minister heading Fine Gael’s Repeal the Eighth campaign has been sharply criticised for sharing a platform with a pro-choice activist who sent a tweet celebrating the death of former TD Peter Mathews.
The participation by Culture Minister Josepha Madigan in the Roscommon launch of the Together for Yes campaign has been labelled an “error of judgment” by No campaigners.
She is due to speak at the event with Janet Ní Shúilleabháin, an abortion activist who was formerly part of the Abortion Rights Campaign. Ms Ní Shúilleabháin previously greeted the death of former Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews by tweeting: “Frankly I am glad he is dead.” Mr Mathews was a pro-life politician who lost the party whip when he voted against the Abortion Act of 2013. At the time, columnists asked why Ms Ní Shúilleabháin was not vilified for her comments when others were hounded out of their positions for remarks regarded as equally egregious.
An American Professor of Law has strongly challenged the argument by pro-choice lawyers that the Oireachtas could still enact protections for the unborn child and thereby restrict abortion in the event of the Eighth amendment being repealed from the Constitution. In a letter to The Irish Times, the 60 lawyers and law students claimed that despite the ruling by the US Supreme Court in Roe v Wade in 1973 , State legislatures could still “regulate abortion access” and that, as a result, “many American States now have very conservative abortion laws”.
However, in an opinion piece in today’s Irish Times, Carter Snead, professor of law and political science at the University of Notre Dame in the US, said this is simply not the case. Indeed, not only has the US Supreme Court repeatedly struck down the attempts of individual States to impose even modest restrictions on abortion law, but it has rendered the US regime among the seven most extreme in the World, along with the likes of China and North Korea, according to a recent fact-check by the Washington Post.
The science columnist for the Irish Times has published a letter debunking claims made by pro-choice activists. William Reville is an emeritus professor of biochemistry at UCC. He wrote that pro-choice activists often claim that ‘The foetus is not a human being’. However, he wrote, “it is a biological fact that the foetus, from conception, is a human being. Conception is the start of a continuum of human development that ends eventually in death in old age. At every stage along this continuum the human being has the characteristics appropriate to that stage”.
He also said that the often heard pro-choice slogan ‘My body, my choice’ is also “biologically incorrect”.
“Although housed in and dependent on the mother’s body, the developing baby is not part of the mother’s body. It is a genetically unique human being entirely distinct from the mother”. And he added, “of course, this slogan offers no choice to the foetus”.
He also tackled the pro-choice claim that ‘Abortion should be safe, legal and rare’, but noted that abortion is not rare anywhere it is legally available. “For example, 20 per cent of pregnancies are aborted in the UK, 20 per cent in the US, 25 per cent in Sweden and 14.5 per cent in the Netherlands”. Finally, he tackled the claim that “Irish legislation would set a 12-week limit for abortion”, and asked how long would this limit last?
“Some prominent pro-choice campaigners have said that, if the Eighth Amendment is repealed, they will campaign for a longer limit, eg the UK-style draft legislation prepared by the Labour Party in 2016”, he wrote.
Hundreds of pro-life campaigners packed a hotel yesterday in Clontarf in what was billed as a ‘Monster’ pro-life meeting of those opposed to repealing the 8th amendment. “You are the army, you are the people to bring that message to metropolitan, modern Ireland,” Niamh UiBhriain of the ‘Save the 8th’ organisation said to enthusiastic applause from the crowd. “When you decide as a nation that you have the right to kill another human being there is no going back,” she said. “There is nothing compassionate or progressive about killing children,” she added. “This is a step too far for Irish people.”
Writer John Waters quoted former Labour leader and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte warning of ‘shock tactics’ being used by the No side in the campaign. “But shock tactics means the truth,” he said. The former Irish Times journalist accused pro-choice campaigners and the media and of using ‘sleight of hand’ tricks “to conceal the truth”. “We don’t have a press anymore,” he said to raucous applause. “Everything is lies, everything is twisted. That’s that you have to get across to people,” he added. He likened the very notion of holding the referendum on repealing the 8th to the sinister prospect of holding a referendum on exterminating the homeless as a means of dealing with the homeless and housing crisis. “We don’t have the right to tamper with these things,” he said. “If you mark yes (on the ballot), that pencil becomes a knife,” he concluded to a standing ovation.
Other speakers included Vicky Wall, of the parents association ‘Every Life Counts’ and businessman Declan Ganley.
An Irish doctor who practiced medicine in a maternity hospital in Africa never once had to take the life of a baby via abortion in order to save the life of a mother. Writing in the Irish Independent, Sr Dr M Duggan, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said: “As head of a maternity department that delivered approximately 10,000 babies a year for more then 30 years, I have never had to take the life of a baby to save the life of a mother. The conditions in which we worked were far more arduous than those in Ireland. In exceptional circumstances, it meant long hours of caring for the mother and closely monitoring the pregnancy, and intercessory prayer for the safety of the mother and baby. Maternal deaths were minimal and mainly due to a ruptured uterus and a delay in getting to the hospital”.
She said that statistics showing the rarity of maternal deaths in Ireland, as reported recently by Professor Michael O’Hara of the Maternal Death Enquiry, supported this contention. He added that the vast majority of those who go to the UK to access abortion, do not do so for reasons of physical health.
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has issued an unprecedented fundraising appeal to raise money for the TogetherForYes campaign who are seeking to repeal the Eighth Amendment and introduce a radical abortion regime into the country. It is believed to be the first time a sitting Taoiseach has ever used his position to help raise money for a group in a referendum campaign.
Writing on his personal @campaignforleo twitter account, the Taoiseach asked his 152,000 followers: “Can you make a donation? Here’s how:” and included a link to a TogetherForYes financial appeal. That link read: “We hit €350,000, and we can’t stop now!! For the FINAL ask in this crowdfund, will you help us raise €500,000 to get our caring and compassionate YES message into houses across Ireland, with a booklet answering the most common questions people have??”
Finola Bruton has called for a No vote in the forthcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Speaking at a meeting last night hosted by the Iona Institute, she said a vote to repeal the amendment on May 25th would be “the first time in history that a constitutional right is being taken away”. Mrs Bruton is a former pregnancy counsellor and wife of ex-Taoiseach, John Bruton.
She said a profoundly utilitarian view of human life was entering into public life and “determining our ethical and moral understanding of what it is to be human”. Ms Bruton said the right to life was “the first and most fundamental of all human rights, without which there can be no others”.
“One cannot exercise any other human right, if one is not allowed to exercise the right to live. We cannot say this often enough. Without being allowed to be born, one can have no civil rights, no free speech, no right to bodily integrity,” she said.
In her speech, Ms Bruton was also critical of the media and of journalists who have spoken about abortion from a pro-choice perspective. She criticised the “dismissal” of what she claimed were “long-term consequences” of abortion to women by professionals, doctors and psychiatrists, describing them as “patronising”.
A former chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has reiterated that the Eighth Amendment never affected his ability to provide the best healthcare that women and their babies expect and deserve, even including terminating a pregnancy where necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. Dr Eamon McGuinness said a doctor’s primary duty lies in saving the mother and “giving her all the help she needs, even if that means that the life of the baby is at risk.
“I have had to do that myself, working under the auspices of the Eighth Amendment. Where a woman has developed a uterine cancer for example, it has meant that I have had to advise and carry out an early termination of pregnancy. Nothing in the law prevented me from doing so.”
He also said the misconception under current law that a woman has to be dying before doctors can intervene to end a pregnancy is untrue. The Medical Council guidelines which all doctors had to adhere to were very clear, he said. “Section 48 stipulates that even if a threat to the mother’s life is not immediate or inevitable it can be acted upon.” Dr McGuinness described as “very disturbing” what amounts to a campaign of fear and misinformation deployed to tarnish the image of Irish medicine and make Irish women fearful of the treatment they might receive.
The leading authority on maternal deaths in Ireland has said there is no evidence of a higher risk of maternal death in Ireland due to the Eighth Amendment. In a letter to the Irish Independent, Michael O’ Hare, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and the Chairman of the Joint HSE/Institute-of-Obstetrics-and-Gynaecology Working Group on Maternal Mortality based at University College Cork wrote that he was “concerned about misinformation being circulated in the media in respect of an alleged contribution of the Eighth Amendment to maternal mortality and morbidity in Ireland”. The Working Group, MDE Ireland, found that , “the maternal mortality rate in Ireland has not been statistically significantly different from the UK” and, regarding maternal morbidity, “Irish rates compare favourably with published Scottish data”. He said it was important to note that “none of the consecutive reports published by these two national audits of obstetric practice raises any concerns in relation to the Eighth Amendment”. He continued: “The conclusion is obvious – there is no evidence whatever of a higher risk of maternal mortality or severe morbidity in Ireland as a result of the Eighth Amendment”. For further details on the MDE, see this link.
Another leading Obstetrician and Gynecologist has taken issue with reports suggesting that pregnant women’s lives are being put at risk by the Eighth Amendment. Writing in today’s Irish Independent, Dr Mary Holohan, a consultant obstetrician in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, states: “I am concerned that recent statements are causing unnecessary fears for women. They suggest that obstetricians are curtailed in their ability to care for pregnant patients who are seriously ill.” She said across the world, only a tiny proportion of terminations of pregnancy are related to obstetrical care and “Ireland’s law fully provides for the small number of cases relating to necessary obstetric interventions”.
She continued: “Where it arises, the duty to intervene to save the woman’s life is clear. Under the present law we have full freedom and support for the requirements of ethical and safe practice”. She also made the point that in such situations, the threat to the woman’s life “does not need to be imminent” in order for a doctor to intervene, and concluded: “We have the scope of practice needed to guarantee best international standards of care to women in pregnancy. Indeed, Ireland has an excellent record, with very low numbers of women who die in pregnancy.”
Dr Holohan was appointed to the expert group which advised the Department of Health on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. She was also the medical director of the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in the Rotunda for many years and is currently Director of Examinations and chairperson of the Examinations Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.