The below document provides a short answer to the latest claims that have been made by Minister James Reilly and supported by An Taoiseach and others in recent days and weeks.
These claims are simply not true. We believe it is important that it is put on the record on this day, a day when abortion is being voted through Dáil Eireann for the first time in our history.
The latest claims from Minister James Reilly – and why they are not true
To put maximum pressure on TDs with concerns about the abortion legislation, Minister for Health James Reilly has been making a number of claims that aren’t true.
Claim 1: Minister Reilly says the legislation restates the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland.
So did the British abortion legislation. Abortion remains technically illegal in Britain but there are all sorts of exceptions meaning abortion on demand.
The Government is doing the same with this legislation. It is criminalising abortion, but creating wide exceptions – including where the abortion is sought based on a threat of suicide. The psychiatrists have to state that the abortion is the only means of averting the threat. But they have no evidence to go on, and there is no way of proving them wrong.
Claim 2: This legislation is only about saving women’s lives.
If only! We’d all support it. Ireland is recognised as one of the safest countries in the world for women in pregnancy.
If we provide abortion in response to a suicide threat, an unknown number of unborn children will be killed. Also, we may endanger the mental health of some women. The Master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, repeated his concerns last week about the proposed legislation, saying that terminations in cases of suicide threats are not evidence-based and could ‘create more problems’.
Claim 3: The safeguards against abortion in the new legislation are much stronger than those that exist at present.
This is untrue. The existing situation is imperfect but it’s better than legislation for X. In the 21 years since the X decision, no abortion regime has taken hold in Ireland. But now for the first time, legislation will activate a legal mechanism for pro-choice psychiatrists to sanction an abortion because they deem a threat of suicide to amount to a risk to life.
Why are pro-choice Labour people who have campaigned for 21 years to liberalise our abortion law happy with this legislation? Anne Ferris says she’ll open a bottle of champagne when this goes through. Ruairí Quinn said in the Dáil a fortnight ago, “The enactment of this legislation will ensure that we arrive to a point where women in the Republic of Ireland do have the right to choose.” Ciara Conway says she’s proud to support the legislation. They obviously don’t think it’s restrictive!
The motivation behind the legislation has always been to appease Labour and its demand for the introduction of abortion.
Claim 4: Minister Reilly says we need this legislation because we are in the dark about what’s happening in our hospitals, whether abortions are taking place, whether the X case is being abused etc.
This is nonsense. It’s clear from the Oireachtas Health Committee hearings that a small number of necessary procedures for physical conditions result in the unintended loss of unborn children every year but nobody has any ethical concerns about this.
There have been no reports from the Gardaí, the media or elsewhere of abortions taking place in Ireland because psychiatrists have sanctioned it. There are no allegations of unnecessary medical interventions being approved for physical conditions in hospitals. Regardless of this, the Government knows that guidelines without X case legislation could give clarity here. We certainly shouldn’t create a mechanism for suicide-based abortions and pretend that this will make the situation better.
Activating the X case, which opens the door to abortion, cannot be called ‘pro-life’. We are introducing lethal procedures that have no medical evidence to back them up.
Claim 5: Fine Gael TDs must vote for this or we will end up with a more liberal abortion regime.
Despite these claims of James Reilly, the legislation is not restrictive. It gives us the liberal abortion regime that the X case made possible. This legislation is not the first step to liberal abortion. It is liberal abortion within a few years once the suicide ground becomes freely used. This happened with the ‘damage to mental health’ ground in Britain and the ‘suicide’ ground in California.
Remember, there is NO way for psychiatrists to know whether a suicide will take place or not, and no way to show that they have abused the legislation, even if it turns out that a small number of psychiatrists are sanctioning most of the abortions. They can simply hide behind the fact that they have certified ‘in good faith’. It’s abortion on request.
Most psychiatrists appear to be against the legislation. 113 psychiatrists have come out so far because of their real fear about how this law will be abused. We only need a small number of psychiatrists with pro-choice views to carry out abortions under the legislation.
Claim 6: Minister Reilly will come down hard if there’s evidence of abuses and close down facilities if necessary.
Even one abortion on the ground of threatened suicide is an irreversible, unjust act. We are going to have many.
But what can the Minister do anyhow? Abortion on the grounds of threatened suicide may have no medical justification but two psychiatrists and one obstetrician will be allowed to sign away the life of the child. The Oireachtas Health Committee hearings brought out the deep reservations among both obstetricians and psychiatrists about what is being sanctioned here. But despite his claims, the Minister has no way to second guess what any two psychiatrists may choose to do under the legislation or why they sign that form.
Claim 7: There are rare cases where a suicidal woman needs abortion to save her life.
No, actually, this is not the case. Where a woman has an underlying mental health illness, abortion is not the answer and could well be counter-productive for a woman’s mental health. It is not medical treatment.
Where there is no underlying mental illness, it’s not a medical situation at all. Psychiatrists just happen to be the ones asked to certify a woman’s eligibility for abortion. They can ask questions to determine how suicidal the woman is, they can suggest alternatives, but they have no way of knowing whether the woman will or will not commit suicide or whether the abortion will or will not affect the decision. Psychiatrists may decide on the basis of educated guesswork, pro-choice ideology or maybe just sanction the abortion as the best bet against being sued. Whatever they do, the Minister has no way of policing it.
Claim 8: The Government’s acceptance of an amendment to preserve the life of the unborn ‘as far as practicable’ should reassure pro-life people.
The amendment just adds insult to injury because it is so meaningless. It restates what’s already there and will have absolutely no effect when it comes to a woman who says she is suicidal. It remains the case that the Government is preparing to pass legislation that is not evidenced based and will certainly lead to the destruction of unborn human life. It also has the potential to put women’s lives at risk as the adverse effects of abortion on women are being ignored.