Saturday 18 November 2017

'We cannot keep sending women to England' - Dr Rhona Mahony calls for end to abortion ban

Dr Rhona Mahony. Photo: Arthur Carron
Dr Rhona Mahony. Photo: Arthur Carron
John Downing

John Downing

IRELAND’s best known maternity doctor, Dr Rhona Mahony, has said it is time to remove the constitutional ban on abortion for women in certain cases.

“We cannot keep sending women to England and pretending it doesn’t happen,” Dr Mahony told Labour TDs and senators at their pre-Dáil conference in Athy.

Her comments come as a new debate opens on a planned referendum on the vexed issue, perhaps as early as next year.

Later Dr Mahony, who heads the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, told reporters she favoured repealing the 1983 constitutional ban on abortion, the so-called Eighth Amendment, for a number of key reasons.

She said the provision put women’s health at serious risk – because an abortion was only possible where the mother’s life was at risk.

“We are making decisions based on risk, trying to quantify risk.  And in certain conditions we have to wait until a woman is sick enough before she qualifies for substantial risk to her life. And to me, to some extent, that is medical roulette,” Dr Mahony said.

“The law deals with right – medicine deals with risk,” she added.

Dr Mahony said she favoured pregnancy termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in cases of ectopic pregnancies and other non-viable pregnancies. But she stressed that the parents’ decision was paramount – some wanted just one hour with a baby and that was their right.

Ms Mahony said she was unhappy with her patients travelling to Britain for abortions. She said the current law did not allow her care for them once they chose that option and travel of itself was stressful and risky.

The 2013 Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act had helped things. But it was very restrictive as it only provided for the “X-Case.”

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