Campaigns on both sides ramp up with rallies in city
Doctors group calls for Yes vote as thousands march for No in referendum on the Eighth
With less than a fortnight to go before the referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, both sides stepped up their campaigns yesterday.
Thousands of people attended a 'LoveBoth' pro-life rally in Merrion Square in Dublin and heard speakers call for a No vote.
Hours earlier, hundreds of doctors gathered in a nearby hotel to call for a Yes vote.
As the Merrion Square rally began, Dr Ruth Cullen of the LoveBoth campaign said: "There is nothing restrictive about the Government's proposals on abortion.
"A No vote on May 25 is the only way to avoid abortion on demand in Ireland.
"It's really encouraging though, the way people are starting to scrutinise the Government's proposals and see for themselves just how extreme it is."
The meeting of hundreds of doctors in favour of a Yes vote was told that more than 1,000 doctors have already signed a public declaration of their support for repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
The declaration was unveiled at a National Doctors Together For Yes meeting in a city hotel.
Dr Mark Murphy said: "The Eighth Amendment isn't working - it puts doctors in a constitutional straitjacket which holds us back from providing proper care to our patients."
Donegal GP Dr Anna McHugh said: "I do not want to be complicit in a healthcare system where we continue to speak about women's healthcare issues in hushed tones.
"I hope that another generation of Irish women do not have to travel to the UK for care, or stand petrified alone in their bathrooms performing their own unsafe abortions with pills.
"I want to know that when a woman comes to me in a crisis pregnancy situation, she feels unafraid to do so - that I can support her completely without fear," she said.
Obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor Louise Kenny, said: "Under the Eighth Amendment, doctors like me can only perform a termination of pregnancy if we agree that there is a real and substantial threat to a woman's life.
"There is no medical or legal definition of real and substantial, and the uncertainty this creates is unhelpful and occasionally dangerous."
"I have cared for women whose health has been irreparably harmed by the Eighth Amendment.
"I have cared for women who have died because of the Eighth Amendment. As an obstetrician, I never met a woman who wanted a termination, but I've met many women who desperately needed one."
Former Fianna Fail Justice Minister Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, who backed the Eighth Amendment in 1983, joined with Labour's Joan Burton and Fine Gael's Frances Fitzgerald and Health Minister Simon Harris to jointly appeal for a Yes vote.
Catholic Bishop of Galway Brendan Kelly said: "In the current debate, it often seems we have nothing but abortion to offer distraught mothers. Does this 'solution' not let us all off the hook regarding the critical matter of being a truly caring and compassionate society?
"Our challenge in Ireland today, at every level, is to build a society that truly cherishes motherhood and parenthood. We must ensure all the necessary supports for mothers and their children in the womb are put in place regardless of cost."