THE Tánaiste has described the current wording of the Eighth Amendment as a straitjacket that doesn’t allow for proper treatment of women in Ireland.
“Anyone who looks at the facts of the number of people travelling and putting their own lives at risk [taking pills] without medical intervention, would have to contend that the status quo is not okay,” Tánaiste Simon Coveney said.
He was speaking at the Cork launch of Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote, at a meeting attended by numerous party politicians, doctors and others promoting repeal.
The Tánaiste believes many voters, possibly as much as 30%, remain undecided and said convincing them would be crucial to success.
“I think most people in Ireland know the status quo is not ok and needs to change but they want to understand what that change will look like,” he said.
“It is about getting the balance right. We want to respect women and treat them with compassion, not send them abroad, but also recognise the significance of the decision to terminate a pregnancy. A lot of people want to know that side is part of the legislation and it is. We have a protocol around fully informed consent.
“There will be a detailed conversation with a doctor around making sure that all the options are understood and the significance of the decision is understood. And then there will be three days to reflect on the decision.”
A number of Cork doctors also spoke about their reasons for supporting repeal.
Professor Richard Greene, Clinical Director of Maternity Services at CUMH, said the Eighth Amendment muddies the waters. He described a number of individual cases where it impacted on his ability to provide treatment and led to additional trauma for his patients. “I trust Irish women, the women I have looked after in pregnancy and I can honestly tell you they make good decisions after much consideration,” he said.
“The Eighth amendment is affecting women and doctors providing good healthcare. I am supporting a yes vote for that reason.”
Dr Trish Horgan, a GP working on the northside, said it also had a profound impact on her work and said it was time to ‘repeal the harm’.
“The Eighth means many of my patients have travelled abroad to receive unknown treatment from unknown doctors. As their GP, I do not receive any information about their treatment and many won’t attend me for follow up treatment because they are afraid.”
This was echoed by Dr Liz Barry, who said she found it ‘devastating’ that her patients could not come to her for care and support during a crisis pregnancy. “To think that they need to conceal such a huge part of their healthcare from me goes against the very essence of general practice. As doctors we need to be supporting these patients, not exporting them.”
MEP Deirdre Clune said we could not continue to ‘bury our head in the sand’ on the issue of abortion and said men as much as women needed to engage on the issue.
“I have heard men say it is a matter for women but it is their Constitution too. Men can be affected and they need to listen to the information. This is a generational issue, it is 35 years since the last vote, and I appeal to men to take it seriously.”
Minister Jim Daly mentioned the case of Ann Lovett, who was born in Cobh and died in tragic circumstances, alongside her baby, after giving birth in a grotto aged 15.
“What kind of a society do we want for young women and girls in Ireland? The question we have to ask is do we in Cork care enough to repeal the Eighth, do we have the compassion to make sure we don’t continue to cast a cold eye and make criminals of young girls? I sincerely hope we do.”