Monday 11 December 2017

Resignation threat as Dáil committee on abortion vote branded 'propaganda'

Dr Rhona Mahony
Dr Rhona Mahony

Shona Murray

Two members of the Oireachtas committee examining the abortion referendum are now threatening to resign.

The Pro-Life TD and Senator say the committee is imbalanced with a far greater number of Pro-Choice groups being called as witnesses.

Senator Ronan Mullen
Senator Ronan Mullen

Independent TD Mattie McGrath and Senator Ronan Mullen say the committee on the Eighth Amendment has become "a complete farce".

The pair say an invitation to the New York-based abortion organisation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, makes a mockery of entire process.

They claim 20 groups in favour of abortion are invited to the committee, but only a handful who are against.

"We are now actively considering whether there's any point in our remaining on as members. We regret saying it but it's hard to argue with those who describe this entire process as a propaganda exercise in favour of abortion," Senator Mullen said last night.

Separately, Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Professor Fergal Malone said that at least one woman from Ireland has died following a complication from a surgical termination of pregnancy while travelling between Ireland and a centre abroad.

Prof Malone told the committee the woman was on her back from England and he added that the health service in Ireland should be able to treat these women "irrespective" of moral or religious views.

Meanwhile, the Master of Holles Street maternity hospital Rhona Mahony said it was important that women taking abortion pills know that they can be treated in Irish hospitals in spite of the risk of prosecution under Irish law.

"I'd say to any young woman out there - please come to hospital - our primary care is to keep you safe," she said - adding they are "not in the business" of prosecuting.

Dr Mahony was responding to a question from Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher who asked whether she was worried about women accessing abortion tablets from the internet instead of travelling abroad.

Mr Kelleher put it to Dr Mahony that if they find themselves unwell after taking the tablet, they may be too afraid to seek treatment for fear of a 14-year jail sentence.

Doctor Abigail Aiken of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas told the committee Irish women accessing abortion tablets through a group known as "Women on Web" more than tripled from 548 in 2010 to 1,748 in 2016.

Dr Mahony said doctors worked "in the shadow" of the law - particularly where they have to prove a "substantial risk" to the life of a woman before they could intervene with an abortion to potentially save a woman's life.

She said the restrictive nature of the Eighth Amendment translates into a situation where "people are fearful of practising obstetrics in this country".

Irish Independent

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