- 25 Apr 18
In a major Hot Press Interview, the former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Peter Boylan – who was a key witness in inquiry into the tragic death of the Savita Halappanavar – talks in depth about the vital issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights, including the importance of repealing the Eighth Amendment.
He is absolutely clear in identifying at least three women, whose lives have been lost directly as a result of the Eighth Amendment.
"Savita Halappanavar died as a result of the Eighth Amendment,” he tells Hot Press. "Michelle Harte, who was looked after by Professor Louise Kenny, died as a consequence of the Eighth Amendment. Sheila Hodgers died as a consequence of the Eighth Amendment. We have the Miss P Case."
Dr Boylan reveals that he used to be opposed to abortion himself, as a young doctor. However, his understanding was changed radically, after witnessing first-hand the pain and suffering many women are forced to endure with pregnancies involving fatal foetal abnormalities, life threatening situations or crisis pregnancies.
Dr Boylan also explains in detail the reality that doctors do have serious difficulties operating under the regime imposed by the Eighth Amendment – pointing out that they can face up to 14-years in prison under Irish law for carrying out any type of abortion, if there is a possibility that they might be accused of failing to comply fully with what are stringent yet dangerously grey legal strictures.
“How close to death does a woman have to be before we can intervene?” he asks, in the course of an interview, which reflects a high level of both wisdom and compassion. The truth is that, under the Eighth Amendment, which equates the so called right to life of the foetus with that of the pregnant woman, no one can possibly know.
He also unpicks the numerous distortions and falsehoods which are being widely advertised by the Anti-Repeal side.
Among these, he is asked about the claims made by the ’No’ side that one in five pregnancies in the UK end in abortion. He is very clear that this is false. “That’s wrong,” Dr. Boylan states. "That’s a lie. And there’s posters up all over Dublin saying that. The true figure is about one in ten. And the reason why’s it’s one in ten is because they exclude miscarriages from their definition of pregnancy.”
There is much more of this focussed, forensic material in what is a very powerful and persuasive interview. Dr Boylan – who has delivered over 6,000 babies in the course of his career as a consultant obstetrician – also explains fully why he believes that women should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy without limitation as to reason, up to 12 weeks, as recommended by the Citizens Assembly, and supported by the Oireachtas Committee and the Government. He also explains why he doesn’t believe a pregnancy becomes a ‘baby’ until “the time of viability onwards”.
One year on, Dr Boylan also reveals to Hot Press’ senior editor Jason O’Toole that he is still not on speaking to his sister-in-law, Rhona Mahony, the current Master at Holles Street Children Hospital, over their radically different views with regard to the future of the National Maternity Hospital.
Dr. Boylan also explains the process through which he eventually decided that he’d had enough of the Catholicism with which he had grown up. And he talks passionately about his own experiences of helping women to deal with crisis pregnancies.
• Also in the new issue of Hot Press: in light of the controversy over its decision to instruct the Project Arts Centre to remove the celebrated Maser Repeal mural from the walls of its building, Hot Press editor Niall Stokes asks the Charities Regulator if he is going to instruct all religious institutions with any form of charitable status, or links to charities, not to comment in any shape or form on the Amendment campaign and not to preach for a ‘No’ vote. Plus, more on Facebook and the Eighth Amendment...