The base narrative is that the 8th needs to be removed to save women’s lives and that the 8th is dangerous. Yet, when pressed, Dr Peter Boylan, could not cite one single case ‘off the top of my head’ where the 8th has caused a life to be lost.
According to the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Ireland is one of the safest places for women to have a baby- far safer than the UK and the US where abortion is readily available.
But Dr Boylan is not alone. He is joined by his successor as Master of Holles St maternity hospital, Rhona Mahony, and a raft of commentators and politicians.
Yet there are many pro-life doctors out there who can attest that the 8th amendment has not prevented them from intervening to save the life of the mother when needed.
After 35 years of the 8th Amendment surely they would be able to cite at least one case to provide justification to take away the last vestiges of rights from the unborn under the constitution?
Our Health Minister, Simon Harris and An Taoiseach are equally culpable of twisting the truth. And they are rarely, if ever, questioned.
On April 2nd, in the Times, Mr Harris said: “what I have heard in recent days has been quite concerning in showing a lack of understanding of the reality facing Irish women.” He challenged the media to put pressure on anti-abortion campaigners to set out what alternative for women in crisis pregnancies would be available if the public vote to retain the Eighth Amendment. As Health Minister, he should be challenged as to what he is doing under the status quo.
He asks: “Well what is your alternative proposal for a woman, for a child perhaps that has been raped?” Mr Harris misrepresents. There are alternative proposals already in place. They involve caring for both the mother and child. Mr Harris hides behind hypotheticals and picking the hardest and most difficult of cases: a child that has been raped- to justify his proposed regime.
Most abhorrent is Mr Harris attempts to link the 8th amendment with the case of a mother clinically dead, being kept alive: “to say things like it was noble for that situation in relation to that poor woman on a life machine to have to carry…”
The Minister is presumably referring to the Mullingar case of 2014. The 8th amendment DID NOT result in the woman being kept alive- the life support was in actual fact turned off and the 8th did not prevent that- through a ruling of the High Court, operating under the Constitution.
As Minister for Health he should know the details. Surely he does.
On March 8th, Minister Harris continued falsely linking the 8th with tragedies whose root cause lie elsewhere: “We stand here knowing the tragedy which befell Savita Halappanavar and her family. We remember you, Savita. We remember Miss X. We remember A, B, C & D. We remember Miss Y. We remember Miss P.”
Savita did not die because of the 8th. It is an abuse of her memory for a Health Minister to claim so. It is well known and ignored that the tragic death of Savita was down to medical misadventure/malpractice- and reported as such in three separate enquiries.
On its own, this tragedy demonstrates why Leo is wrong in claiming that we should ‘trust doctors’ absolutely. People make mistakes, often unintentionally and sometimes otherwise- which is why there are medical guidelines and regulations.
Miss P is the mother mentioned above who was not kept alive because of the 8th. Miss X is the case that has been addressed by the Supreme Court and, according to Fine Gael, by the 2013 Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill. None of these cases are impacted by the 8th Amendment.
The case of Miss D refers to a case of anencephaly and a complex and messy court judgment. Miss D is relevant because she was 14 and in the care of the State. Simon Harris makes no reference to the child with anencephaly or the fact that what he proposes is that a child with anencephaly has no rights. Nor does he mention that Miss D herself stated: ‘women should not be allowed to abort just because she doesnt want the baby.’
The cases of A & B were thrown out by the European Court of Human Rights. The case of C was successful but not against the 8th but because of a lack of clarity on procedures: in the same ECHR judgment it was reiterated there is “no human right to abortion”.
The case of Miss Y refers to an asylum seeker in Ireland who wanted an abortion but was assessed as not being suicidal under the 2013 legislation.
Mr Harris attempts to create a long list of women ‘wronged’ by the 8th. He cites their names or initials in the same way he cited numbers of women who travelled to England for abortions, county by county- as if this gives his position greater credibility.
An Taoiseach, on announcing the referendum, attempted a similar sleight of hand: “I do not believe that the Constitution is the place for making absolute statements about medical, moral, and legal issues.” He forgets that the Constitution, and not to mention the various human rights declarations, do declare on legal and moral issues. In fact, Article 40.6 states “The State guarantees liberty for the exercise of the following rights, subject to public order and morality”! So much for that point.
An Taoiseach, like his Health Minister and protégé, omits the second human in the equation, and resorts to soundbytes similar to those of Mr Harris.
“Safe, legal and rare. No longer an article of our Constitution, but rather a private and personal matter for women and doctors. No more X cases, C cases, Miss Ys or Miss A, Miss B, or Miss C.”
It was appalling to see Simon Harris deliberately refer to Miss C, a young girl who was forced by the government into an abortion, and who has grieved for her child every day since. An Taoiseach seems unaware that Miss C is not a victim of the 8th but of those that seek its removal.
Today, Miss C is a 34-year-old mother, but 21 years ago she was taken to the UK for an abortion by health board staff after being raped. This was permitted by the High Court under the earlier X-Case ruling because the court heard that she was suicidal. The abortion led to depression. Her parents had taken a legal action against the State to stop their daughter being taken to England.
Speaking in 2013 to the Irish Independent: "My name – the C-case girl – is brought up on radio and TV all the time these days as if I'm an ad for abortion. The X-case girl never had an abortion in the end so we don't know how it would have affected her, but, for me, it has been harder to deal with than the rape. It only really hits you after you have children. You never forget your missing baby. It plays on your mind every day. Any woman who has an abortion and then goes on to become a mother will know all about it afterwards. I didn't want to become a mother at 13, but I realise now that baby didn't deserve to die.”
It is repugnant for An Taoiseach to use the C case as an advertisement for an abortion regime. Whether by ignorance, or deliberate commission, he has acted against her express wishes and misrepresented her tragic story. He should apologise.