Mater Misericordiae University Hospital,
Dear Chairperson and Committee members,
I have carefully followed the sessions of the 8th Committee in preparation for, and in anticipation of, appearing before it on Oct 25th. It has become increasingly clear that the process of the Committee has been so arranged as to reach a pre-set decision without balanced consideration of any evidence that runs contrary to this pre-determined outcome.
As such I believe the Committee is failing Ireland’s unique European position in providing protection for the rights of an unborn child and is failing in its duty to Ireland to fairly consider evidence that runs contrary to its fixed and inevitable conclusion that the Constitutional protections for the unborn child should be abandoned.
I am unwilling to participate in a process that is so deeply imbalanced in respect of those invited to present evidence – there are 25 on the pro-choice side and 4 with a pro-life or neutral perspective. Ireland deserves better than that.
I will not add any further credence to this deeply flawed process or to its inevitable and equally flawed conclusion that a referendum is required to repeal the 8th amendment without any meaningful Constitutional protection for the unborn child.
I also have concerns about the tenor and veracity of some of the remarks made by some Committee members at committee hearings. For example, I was forcibly struck by the comment of one member that “lies” were being told about botched abortions and gestational periods. An example of a botched abortion was offered by one of the speakers who claimed that a woman had died travelling between Britain and Ireland for an abortion, although the example was used to justify performing abortions in Ireland.
The incident was subsequently erroneously reported as taking place on the flight back to Ireland. In fact, this woman tragically died in a taxi after an abortion in London and this information has been in the public domain for a long time. The member of the committee who spoke of ‘lies’ had clearly never heard of this case while the person who made the comment used it to castigate our laws when this tragedy was due to the procedure itself obtained in the UK, something that could as easily have happened here, if we had abortion clinics.
I was also surprised the committee member seemed to be unaware of the CEMACH report (2007) which identified 66 infants born alive after an abortion who were offered no life-saving treatment and were left to die. That person also seemed not to comprehend that the Citizens’ Assembly had made recommendations not just on the grounds of foetal abnormality likely to result in death before or shortly after birth but also on wider grounds of significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth. This degree of ignorance of facts in the public domain is staggering and is especially so when accusations of lies are bandied about. When errors of fact of this sort are made by committee members, surely it is up to the Committee Chair to have them independently corrected for the sake of the record?
A member said that abortion rates are the same whether the laws are restrictive or liberal. The Guttmacher Institute makes this claim, based on statistical modelling, rather than data from each country. The Crisis Pregnancy Programme in its briefing to the Citizens’ Assembly provided data on Ireland’s low and diminishing abortion rate, to 3.6 per 1000 women in 2015 from double that rate a few years ago. The rate is still the same if abortions under the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act and the number going to the Netherlands are taken into account. This rate amounts to 1 in 20 pregnancies ending in abortion in Ireland compared with 1 in 5 in the UK. It is deeply troubling if information presented at and voted on at the Citizens’ Assembly has not been read and absorbed by the very committee that is examining the recommendations of that group.
Turning to some of those making presentations, despite the committee saying that advocacy groups were not to be included, it has clearly reneged on this as some of those appearing are from advocacy groups, including the Irish Family Planning Association, the Centre for Reproductive Rights (also found to have been fundraising in the US to repeal the 8th), the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Yet they are presented to the public as being independent experts. The IFPA has a track record of campaigning for abortion and in 2012 were found to be advising women to lie to doctors about their abortions. Many of the individual presenters also have strong records of advocacy for liberal abortion laws, including the current law in Britain. Since most people take strong positions on abortion it would have been more honest for the Committee to accept that reality and to have taken more care to avoid such a stilted list of presenters on the pro-choice side. I am aware of a number of experts and organisations on the pro-life side who were not acceptable to the committee.
I have never demurred from informing the public of the evidenced based information in respect of women’s mental health and abortion and I did so in 2013 before a similar Oireachtas Committee when the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill was being considered. Had I felt that the current committee was truly open and objective I would have presented the research evidence showing that abortion does not protect women’s mental health, information on the debate on whether abortion harms women’s mental health and the data limitations concerning refused abortion.
In my opinion this committee has adopted as its primary purpose a determination to repeal the 8th Amendment and to that end is intent on advocates of that position being favoured over independent experts. It was, I suggest, supposed to conduct a balanced hearing and, in that purpose, has failed. The great tragedy is that this failure is designed to reduce the Constitutional protection of Irish unborn children. The public are being manipulated and in conscience, I cannot be used by it to legitimatise its pre-determined outcome.
Finally, I note with a deep sense of irony, that on October 11th, designated by the UN as International Day of the Girl, none of those claiming to represent girls and women mentioned, let alone condemned, sex selective abortions, legal in some “progressive” countries such as Sweden.
Regrettably I have made the decision to withdraw.
Patricia R. Casey, FRC Psych., FRCPI, MD.
Consultant Psychiatrist, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital,
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, UCD
Editor BJ Psych Advances.
Royal College of Psychiatrists, London