THE murder of infants with a disability in Nazi Germany was recalled during a highly charged debate on abortion, as doctors voted to reject radical calls for changes in the law.
Dublin GP Dr Cyril Daly asked colleagues to reflect on the 1939 Congress in Germany when deaf and blind children were ordered to be killed because their "lives were not worth living".
He asked his fellow doctors if they wanted to be part of the "direct killing" of young lives and to reflect before voting on the series of motions on abortion that were up for debate at the annual meeting of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).
The packed gathering rejected three motions asking for support for regulations to allow for abortion where there is a real and substantive risk to the life of the mother.
A majority also turned down a motion to allow for abortion in cases of rape or incest and rejected calls to make it available to pregnant women who have been told their babies will not survive due to foetal abnormality.
Dr Mary Favier, a Cork GP, and Dr Mark Murphy from Sligo, who proposed the motions, were outflanked by a large group of doctors with pro-life views.
Dr Favier said abortion is a health issue, not a political one, and it was necessary for doctors to advocate and send a message to the Government.
"We also need to send a message to our patients that we hear you and support you," she added.
She asked doctors what they would do if one of their daughters became pregnant through rape.
"Should she not have the right to travel?" she asked.
Referring to pregnant women who were told their babies will not survive due to foetal abnormality, she said forcing someone in this situation to continue with the pregnancy was "cruel".
However, the motions drew strongly-worded opposition from the floor, with Mayo GP Dr Ken Egan saying he knew of couples who were told their baby would not survive.
"In one case the child lived for two-and-a-half years; the parents had a great time," he added.
He said doctors feared that the motions amounted to a "toe-in-the-door" if passed and would lead to the "floodgates opening".
Dr Peter O'Sullivan, a GP in Rathgar, Dublin, said he had been practising for many years and had never met a female patient who had become pregnant through rape or incest who wanted an abortion.
Dr Maurice Fahy, a GP in Lixnaw in Kerry said doctors will be villified if they supported abortion and he asked how many people had been lost to society because pregnancies were terminated.
A minority of GPs supported changes, and Dr Tadhg Crowley, of Kilkenny, said said he supported the right to termination for women whose baby will not survive.
Peadar O' Grady, a Dublin psychiatrist said the IMO already has developed an image as a backward organisation due to recent controversies and it would just reinforce this by rejecting the motions.
Dr Shane Considine, a junior doctor said he supported the rights of women who wanted to have a termination because their foetus is unviable.
Nobody is being forced to have an abortion if they don't want to," he added.
The motion relating to regulation for abortion where a woman's life is in danger was defeated by 38 votes against to 25 for. All motions were rejected by a majority.