Debunking the myths of the 8th

In his recent controversial Hot Press Interview, D Pete Boylan debunked the vast majority of lies being peddled by the No side.

And now Fine Gael members campaigning for a Yes vote in the Referendum on 25th May today moved to debunk a number of myths in relation to the Eighth Amendment.

Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was joined by her Fine Gael colleagues and Prof. Fiona De Londras, Irish academic and Professor of Global Legal Studies at the University of Birmingham UK, to call out mistruths and misinformation and state the facts.

Speaking after canvassing commuters in Dublin City Centre this morning, Minister Madigan said: “Many people are rightly considering very carefully before voting to make a change to our Constitution. I understand and respect that this referendum involves issues that are very sensitive and personal.

“People deserve to have the full factual information in order to help them make their decision. It is wrong that some people are deliberately propagating mistruths and misinformation and today we are calling out these ‘myths’ and instead giving people the facts, plain and simple.

“The reality is abortion is already a reality in this country. It is already a reality for the 170,000 women who have travelled abroad, under a cloud of shame, afraid and alone, since 1980. Today 9 women will travel abroad for a termination and 3 more will take illegal abortion pills with no medical supervision, alone and scared.

“Voting Yes on May 25th is the only way to change this appalling situation and to put in place a doctor-led, regulated, and a legal framework for the termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances while remaining unlawful in all others.

“Our goal is a system that is caring and compassionate and understands and supports women in crisis.”

Prof. de Londras said: “The 8th Amendment was a constitutoinal experiment that has proved to be bad law for women who are forced into illegality and secrecy if they decide to end pregnancy and for their doctors who can only intervene where a woman’s life is at real and substantial risk and are impeded in their ability to care properly for their patients.

“Repeal of the 8th Amendment would empower the Oireachtas to strike a better balance between protecting unborn life and protecting both the life and the health of pregnant women. It would put the regulation of healthcare back where it belongs: in the democratically accountable Houses of the Oireachtas.”

Prof. de Londras went on to debunk a number of myths which are designed to scaremonger and mislead people including:

1. ‘Repealing the Eighth Amendment will lead to unrestricted abortion up to 6 months’

Not true. The proposed legislation will be clearly restricted;

- By placing strict time limits on access to termination on request i.e. 12 weeks LMP

- By narrowly restricting the grounds on which termination is lawful after 12 weeks

- By always requiring one doctor’s certificate to access termination up to 12 weeks

- By requiring a waiting period of 3 days between certification and termination in the 12 week protected period

- By narrowly restricting the grounds on which termination is lawful after 12 weeks

- By making abortion illegal once a foetus has reached viability

- By making it a crime to provide an abortion outside of the law

2. ‘The proposed legislation and in particular the 12 weeks, will be the most liberal in Europe’

Not true. The proposed legislation will be on a par with other European countries;

- International evidence supports the provision of regulated termination services up to 12 weeks without indication

- 36 countries in Europe allow terminations without indication with a time limit usually of 10, 12 or 14 weeks; 12 weeks is the average across European comparators

- The 12 week limit was recommended to care for women who have experienced rape or incest. There is no medical test to prove incest or rape has occurred and forcing a legal process before accessing a termination service would re-traumatise rape victims, place doctors in the position of assesing truthfulness of a claim of rape, and jeopardise criminal justice proceedings

- Prohibiting abortion does not stop abortion; instead it forces women who need abortion care to access it illegally and clandestinely

- Women are purchasing abortion pills illegally online and taking them with no medical supervision and in an unregulated environment

- The requirement for Irish women to travel abroad for terminations results in some women having later terminations, and often having unnecessary/preventable surgical procedures whereby allowing 12 weeks without indication will put an end to these unsafe and distressing situations for women and will lead to earlier, safer terminations

- Where countries introduce lawful abortion, including an early period of abortion on broad grounds or without specific indication, abortion rates often fall. We see this in Spain, Portugal and Switzerland whch have seen a reduction in termination rates due to the comprehensive provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare including crisis pregnancy prevention measures in conjunction with the legalisation of abortion. This is proposed also in Ireland.

3. ‘We are bringing in UK abortion’

Not True. The proposed legislation in Ireland will be much more restrictive than in England. The proposed Irish law is more restrictive in terms of time limits, grounds, and procedure:

Health ground: In Ireland terminations after 12 weeks would be in exceptional, strictly controlled circumstances, i.e. where there is a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman, and in circumstances of fatal foetal conditions. The maximum cut off is viability, and two doctors must certify that abortion is ‘appropriate’, one of whom must be an obstetrician. If a foetus is viable, live delivery will take place; an abortion would be a crime in Ireland after viability.

In England (i) if there is a risk of injury to the health (physical or mental) of a pregnant woman or her children that is greater than the health risks of continuing a pregnancy abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks;

(ii) if there is a risk of serious injury the woman’s health (physical or mental) abortion is allowed without any time limits. This is significantly more liberal than what is proposed in Ireland.

B. Non-fatal foetal anomaly: abortion is lawful without time restriction in England where a foetal anomaly is diagnosed whether that is fatal or not. In Ireland abortion will only be allowed after 12 weeks if there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal anomaly. Again, this is much more restricted than in ‘the UK’.

4. ‘The new law will lead to abortion of children with disabilities’

Not true. The new law does not allow for abortion on the basis of disability.

There is no disability ground under the proposed Irish law.

All the expert advice tells us that it will not be possible to diagnose disabilities before 12 weeks.

Private screening tests are available from 9 weeks but they do not provide diagnoses, they only provide indicates of the likelihood of a chromosomal disorder.

Furthermore, we already know from evidence of Fergal Malone and Rhona Mahony that a far lower proportion of parents who receive such a diagnosis in Ireland choose to terminate their pregnancies than is the case in England and Wales: there is nothing to indicate that a dramatically high increase would follow repeal, especially as ‘abortion for disability; will not be allowed by the law.

5. ‘There will be no protection for unborn babies if we repeal the Eighth’

Not true. The Supreme Court said in February 2018 that protecting foetal life is part of the common good and the state is allowed to do it through law. Repeal of the 8th Amendment would mean that the foetus is protected in a different way, but not that it is unprotected.

The proposed new law does this in four main ways:

• Waiting period in the first 12 weeks (3 days)

• Very limited abortion after 12 weeks (life, serious risk to health, FFA)

• Cut-off point of viability (usually 23-24 weeks; only FFA after that—otherwise live birth)

• It will be a crime for someone to give an abortion except in line with the new law (NB: it will never be a crime for a woman to have an abortion)

In addition, a comprehensive package of consent classes, sexual education, free contraception, and increased support for parenting are being rolled out to make sure anyone who becomes pregnant and wants to be able to parent will be supported in doing so.


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