I AM proud to have worked as a medical doctor in Cork for the past 12 years. During my training to become a GP, I have been fortunate enough to work in many different specialities, including palliative care in Marymount Hospice, and in obstetrics.
I have had the privilege of observing the majesty of life at all stages of human development from before birth to natural death.
In my practice of medicine, and observing the Medical Council’s Code of Practice, I am guided by two basic principles of care.
The first is to do no intentional harm. The second is to practise medicine which is based on scientific evidence. I am proud to practise medicine in a country which values the equal right to life of a mother and her baby, and which respects the two-patient model of care which underpins our maternity services. Observation of these principles has created the reality that Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world for women to be pregnant and for children to be born.
The Eighth Amendment is the Constitutional expression of this two-patient model. It means that both mother and baby share an equal right to life and are equally deserving of our care.
No doctor or nurse can adhere to these guiding principles and participate in abortion. It is for this reason that I cannot support the upcoming referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
It is important to be truthful about this simple point: abortion is not healthcare. It is never needed as a medical treatment and is not the cure for any disease.
Abortion is the deliberate destruction of a baby in its mother’s womb.
The only guaranteed outcome of an abortion, in medical terms, is that a child’s heartbeat is stopped and its life is ended. This is a fundamental violation of the first principle of care.
By falsely presenting abortion as a treatment or cure, pro-abortion campaigners seek to compel doctors to breach the second principle as well, since there is no evidence-based scientific rationale for this position.
On May 25, we will be asked if we want to repeal the Eighth Amendment and replace it with a regime whereby abortion on demand would be available without restriction for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and up to birth on vague grounds of the health of the mother or in cases of babies with life limiting conditions.
The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, says that he expects this service to be provided by GPs. In other words, I will be obliged by law to carry out an abortion, or if I refuse, I must refer the woman to another GP who will do it. In essence, if I refuse to end the life of one of my patients — the unborn baby — I will be legally obliged to refer them to another doctor who will end their life.
As a GP, I find this abhorrent. It strikes against the very heart of what the medical profession is about. It is no surprise then that 70% of GPs are opposed to the proposals, as shown by a survey published in The Irish Independent.
If GPs refuse to carry out abortions, then our overstretched hospitals will have to perform them. In one part of our maternity hospitals, doctors will be doing everything in their power to bring life into the world and protect it, while at the same time in another part of that same hospital, a doctor will be working to stop a baby’s heart and end their lives.
The Eighth Amendment has been accused, most unfairly, of having caused the deaths of pregnant Irish women. Nothing could be further from the truth. For the record, no woman has died as a result of the Eighth Amendment, though this falsehood has been repeated time and again.
Where it is probable that there is a risk to a mother’s life, she is entitled to whatever treatment is necessary to avoid this risk, irrespective of the effect it may have on her unborn baby.
Doctors do not have to wait until she is dying to give her necessary medical care. In the UK and the United States, where abortion is widely available, the rates of maternal death are higher than those in Ireland. 1 in 5 of all pregnancies in the UK are aborted. Is that a model of care which we should aspire to here in Ireland?
The Eighth Amendment recognises and protects what the official Irish translation has termed the ‘beo gan breith’, the living human who has not yet been born.
At 21 days each of our hearts began to beat for the first time. By six weeks, our eyes, nose and mouth had formed. At seven weeks we could be seen moving on ultrasound and by 12 weeks, we began to suck our thumb, swallow and yawn.
Each human being, regardless of age, gender, disability or circumstance, has an equal and irreplaceable value and dignity and is recognised and protected by our Constitution. If as a society we decide to pick and choose which human lives are worthy or unworthy of protection in law, we diminish respect for all human life, born and unborn.
Put simply, the Eighth Amendment means that a mother’s life is always protected. It means a doctor’s hands are never tied, and that we can work to achieve the best possible outcome for mother and babies.
That is why I will be voting to retain the Eighth Amendment, and why I will vote No on May 25 (Ironically, International Missing Children’s Day).