TD stands over 'outrageous statements' on 'morning after' pill for rape victims
A Fine Gael TD has defended remarks in which he appeared to suggest the morning-after pill was a solution for crisis pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
Bernard Durkan faced criticism for a question he asked at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee examining the Eighth Amendment on abortion.
Mr Durkan began his question saying: "With regard to rape and incest, presumably rape is reported on the day or the day after and there is particular treatment fairly readily available."
He asked the chairperson of the Citizens' Assembly, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, if there had been discussion at that forum about the availability of such treatment, referring to the morning-after pill.
Earlier this year the Citizens' Assembly recommended a more liberal abortion regime that would allow the procedure in a range of circumstances.
Solidarity TD and fellow committee member Ruth Coppinger claimed on social media that Mr Durkan had made "some outrageous statements about rape" at the committee's meeting last week. She said that most people who are raped don't report it at all, and criticised his apparent suggestion that there was a treatment available for those who become pregnant after a rape.
At the committee meeting Ms Laffoy referred Mr Durkan to statements made to the Assembly by Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Dr Maeve Eogan of the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) at the Rotunda Hospital.
Ms Blackwell had told the Assembly that there was no reliable information on the prevalence of pregnancy as a result of rape because "there is such a massive under-reporting of rape". She said a 2002 study found that just 8pc of women reported their experience of sexual violence to gardaí.
Asked last night about Mr Durkan's remark that "presumably rape is reported on the day or the day after", Ms Blackwell said: "That is certainly not our experience."
She said it can take a victim "a very long time" to report a rape, even to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre's confidential helpline. Dr Eogan told the Assembly said that all rape victims that attend SATUs are offered emergency contraception.
Last night Mr Durkan strongly defended his question. He said he knows that many rape victims don't report their experience immediately and insisted he wasn't suggesting the morning-after pill was the solution to cases where a victim has become pregnant. Mr Durkan said the committee members' job was to ask questions, even when they knew the answer, so the public was informed of the issues involved and they were included on the record.
He pointed out that ultimately the public would make the decision on the future of the Eighth Amendment when it is the subject of a referendum, scheduled for next year.
He said the public need to have the "maximum amount of information" about the issues considered by the Assembly.
Mr Durkan said his intention in asking the question was to get an explanation for when the use of the morning-after pill might not be appropriate and to find out how many cases it may be applicable to.
Mr Durkan said he "didn't take time out" to explain the reason he asked the question to Ms Coppinger adding: "I'm not Ruth Coppinger's keeper and she's not mine."
- If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre’s National 24-hour Helpline on 1800 77 8888, or see their website on http://www.drcc.ie/