One year on from repeal of the Eighth Amendment the cultural and human impact of that decision is quickly coming into focus.
According to information that has emerged from a Freedom of Information request, an estimated 10,000 abortions are expected to take place annually under the new law.
This is so far removed from the soothing rhetoric of government ministers before the referendum that repeal of the Eighth Amendment would not give rise to a dramatic increase in abortion rates.
Time and again the Taoiseach and government ministers repeated the claim that abortion would be ‘safe, legal and rare’ in the event that people voted for repeal.
These days you don’t hear them saying that so much, and sure why would they, given how extreme the law has become, contrary to what was promised.
In fairness, they have to contend with other things like the fact that there is huge resistance from doctors to the ‘abortion is healthcare’ philosophy.
Five per cent of GPs
The most recent figures provided by the HSE suggest that just over five per cent of GPs have signed the abortion services contract. And there are growing calls from doctors for proper freedom of conscience protections. At present, the new law obliges GPs who don’t wish to perform abortions to oversee that the abortion takes place through referral to a medical colleague who will carry it out.
It is wholly unacceptable that doctors who don’t want to be involved in something that has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine healthcare are now forced by law to facilitate abortion.
It’s one area I believe will continue to plague the government until they accept that they can’t compel doctors to go against their conscience and do something that is not evidence-based medicine but simply a law sanctioning the taking of human life.
Instead of the present system of fast-tracking all abortions, women are entitled to hear about positive alternatives to abortion before proceeding with the procedure that can never be undone.
Many women deeply regret their abortions and lament that they were never told about the supports that were available for women who continue with their pregnancy. Most people assume that the Government has set aside resources to promote and provide positive alternatives to abortion, but the truth is that no such resources exist.
This along with securing freedom of conscience protections for healthcare workers is an area where a government rethink needs to happen without delay. Women and their unborn babies deserve this at the very least.
Holles Street heartbreak
Most recently, our country has also witnessed the heart-breaking tragedy of the unborn child who lost its life in Holles Street following a prenatal misdiagnosis of Trisomy 18, or Edwards Syndrome. From what has emerged in reports, it appears that the parents felt ‘guided’ toward termination of the child’s life despite never having raised the prospect with their clinician.
It adds weight to a view often repeated that when wide ranging abortion is introduced, both direct and indirect pressure on parents to terminate mounts.
What this case also demonstrates is the double standards applied to cases that ‘support’ the need for abortion legislation and those that highlight its dangers.
When asked in the Dáil about the need to introduce standardised clinical guidelines for prenatal diagnostic tests, the Taoiseach said that “these are personal, private and confidential matters and it is not appropriate for us to discuss them in this Chamber”.
Contrast this to the political reaction and the lengthy Dáil commentary that emerged following the tragic death of Savita Hallapanavar.
Both cases involve the tragic loss of life where the robustness of medical protocols were or are being challenged.
The tragic fact however is that the Holles Street case is being politically sidelined because it reminds those who pushed through our wide-ranging legislation of the very inconvenient truth that abortion always involves the death of an innocent child, whether that child is ‘wanted’ or ‘unwanted,’ healthy or unwell.
In reality, there are at least ten thousand reasons why they can only evade this truth for so long. The pro-life movement will continue to challenge the new law which is one of the most extreme abortion laws anywhere in the world. We will do so robustly but also respectfully. We are acutely aware of how divided our country is on this issue.
But it is always wrong to sanitise the taking of human life and to present it as something liberating and compassionate.
It is a betrayal of women and their unborn babies to present abortion as nothing more than a lifestyle choice. Even at the risk of being misunderstood and misrepresented, this is a time when we must take a stand for life and for ensuring that women receive all the supports they need so that no woman ever feels she has no option but to go down the irreversible road of abortion.
Eilís Mulroy is a spokesperson for Galway For Life, a branch of the Pro Life Campaign