The recently released report of the three-year review failed to provide a full, aggregate breakdown of the nature of the recommendations which were received in the public consultation “strand” of the review.

From the thousands of public submissions which raised several crucially important issues related to abortion, the author of the report excluded pro-life input. Instead, it only referenced pro-abortion submissions made by organisations including Terminations for Medical Reasons (TFMR), START Doctors, National Women’s Council, and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

To inform the writing of the report, the Department of Health provided a summary document of the views contained from a total of 6,968 submissions received in 2022. Unfortunately, pro-life proposals were often expressed in a judgemental way or were portrayed as being expressed without evidence. For example, the author of the summary wrote: ‘Some responses highlighted unreferenced cases of failed late term abortions where pain relief is not administered, leading to distress to mother and baby.’ Here the author jumbled two issues together, that of babies born alive having survived abortions and the separate issue of the lack of foetal pain relief used in late-term abortions.

The suggestion that incidents of babies born alive is “unreferenced” is entirely baseless, as submissions which mentioned this issue pointed to the 2020 article, “Fetal medicine specialists’ experiences of providing a new service of termination of pregnancy for fatal fetal anomaly: a qualitative study” in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

With regards to foetal pain relief, the author of this summary document referred to the “belief” expressed in submissions that unborn children can experience pain. However, they failed to point to the scientific evidence for foetal pain relief. The Pro Life Campaign’s submission cited the 2020 peer-reviewed article by Prof Stuart Derbyshire and Dr John Bockmann, “Reconsidering fetal pain”, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. This was ignored, and the reality that unborn children can experience pain was dismissed as a “belief” among some respondents.

The author of the eventual report also failed to draw on evidence contained in nearly 3,000 submissions which cited official HSE statistics on the large numbers of women who made an initial appointment for an abortion but then did not proceed to the second and final appointment. Instead, she relied on unrepresentative and flawed data published by the START Doctors activist group. She cannot claim to have been unaware of the existence of these HSE national statistics when they were presented to her by thousands of people in their submissions, unless of course she didn’t read them.

It was clear from the summary document that its author treated the nearly 3,000 submissions which raised issues related to pain relief, babies born alive, and other issues with disdain and an overall lack of care.