Sunday 18 August 2019

Irish women 'lucky' to live near country where they can obtain abortion, Oireachtas Committee told

Dr Patricia Lohr (Right) pictured earlier this year at the Citizens’ Assembly. Photo: Damien Eagers
Dr Patricia Lohr (Right) pictured earlier this year at the Citizens’ Assembly. Photo: Damien Eagers

Shona Murray

Ireland’s abortion regime is in effect the UK’s 1967 Abortion Act due to the fact that so many Irish women travel there for a termination, the Oireachtas Committee on the Eight Amendment has been told.

Dr. Patricia A. Lohr, from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said Irish women are 'fortunate' to live 'nearby' a country where women can easily “obtain an abortion”.

Dr. Lohr said other women in different jurisdictions “turn to unsafe methods” when they aren’t able to access a termination.

The committee also heard testimony from Liz McDermott of 'One Day More', a support group for families who received poor prenatal diagnoses for their babies - either that they would not survive until birth or for long after birth.

'One Day More' describes itself as a charity but is not registered with the charity regulator according to a response from a question to Ms. McDermott by People before Profit T.D. Brid Smith.

Ms. McDermott replied that “we’re practically at the point of getting the charitable status.”

In her testimony, she told the committee about her son John who was born without limbs but is now 14-years-old, in second year in school and lives a 'full life'.

She says there is pressure on women to have an abortion in such cases because it was "better for everybody else".

“We take in messages from the environment around us” and tell women “you’re not going to be able to mind this baby” and ‘all they see as a solution is abortion’, she said, stating her opposition to repealing the Eight Amendment.

It later transpired that Ms McDermott works with “Gianna Care” which describes itself as crisis pregnancy service.

Sinn Fein T.D.  Louise O’Reilly asked Ms. McDermott to confirm whether this was the same agency with an address on Dorset Street in Dublin and which was known to give false information to women about a link between abortion and breast cancer.

Ms. McDermott replied this was the address.

Ms. McDermott  also said she’d heard stories of women who had received diagnoses of fatal foetal abnormalities that had received phone calls from certain doctors and medical staff encouraging women to have abortions.

She said there was a lot of “dehumanising language around disabled people” as a result of abortion, and that Ireland faces a challenge when it comes to providing options for women enduring difficult pregnancies.

In her opinion abortion is a “trauma” and a “life-ending” practice.

She said The Eight Amendment is a “positive life saving measure”, but “we can’t just have the Eight Amendment, we need to provide proper supports to women.”

Ms. McDermott called for Ireland to invest in better “perinatal hospice care” so that babies who are born with severe physical impairment and will only live briefly after birth.

“If abortion is legalised there won’t be the will for investment in perinatal care as it will be in conflict with services for abortion.”

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