Press Statement 16th May 2018

Re: Health care and the Referendum of the 8th Amendment


Those pressing for repeal of the 8th amendment are presenting their case in the language of ‘healthcare’. We believe that to present the case for repeal in such terms is fundamentally misleading because under the law as proposed by the Government, the vast majority of abortions would involve healthy babies and healthy women. This is not ‘healthcare’ but something else entirely.

The Government does not pretend that abortions in the first three months of pregnancy will need a health ground in order for them to take place. This makes it even more misleading for Government spokespeople or pro-choice advocates to continually present abortion as a form of ‘treatment’. It is worth pointing out that about 90 percent of abortions take place during the first three months of pregnancy.

After 12 weeks, the proposed law will conform closely to the law in the UK, where a health ground must be offered as a justification for abortion, before and after 12 weeks. The ‘health ground’ can be physical or mental.

As consultant psychiatrists, it is the so-called ‘mental health’ ground that particularly concerns us because we know from official UK statistics that 97pc of the almost 200,000 abortions which occur annually in the UK, take place under the ‘mental health’ ground.

In fact, these abortions are almost always for socio-economic reasons, something the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution itself admits in its report published last December. (See paragraph 2.38 of the report).

Referring to Irish women who take the abortion pill here or travel to the UK, the report says, “What became clear during evidence is that the majority of terminations are for socio-economic reasons”.

This is yet another reason why it is so dishonest to justify the proposed and radical change to the current law as ‘healthcare’.

Given the experience in the UK, we can confidently say that abortions taking place in this country after 12 weeks will be authorised under the ‘mental health’ ground. As in the UK, there will be little or no justification for this in the great majority of cases. We do not want to see spurious appeals to ‘mental health’ being used to justify post-12-week abortions.

We are also concerned that, as in other countries, the ‘mental health’ of the mother ground will be used to justify aborting babies with disabilities, including those with Down Syndrome.

To use ‘health’ as a justification for abortion, when the vast majority of abortions do not take place on any kind of health ground, inverts the true purpose of medicine and doctors who value their calling should have nothing to do with this. Our Minister for Health, for his part, must defend the true purpose of medicine.


Prof. Patricia Casey,
Dr. Richelle Kirrane,
Dr. Mike Reilly,
Dr. Enda Hayden,
Dr. Anne Doherty,
Prof. Eugene Breen,
Dr. Ian Moloney,
Dr. Bernie McCabe,
Dr. Martin Mahon,
Dr. Ciaran Clarke,
Dr. Amir Niazi,
Dr. Seamus O’Flathartaigh,
Dr. Martin O’Sullivan,
Dr. Brian Houlihan,
Dr. Keith Holmes,
Dr. Stephen McWilliams,
Dr. Eleanor Corcoran,
Dr. Claire Craven,
Dr. Jacqueline Montwill,
Dr. Jim O’Boyle,
Dr. Lorcan Martin,
Dr. Victor O’Loughlin,
Dr. Kieran O’Driscoll.