Wednesday 18 September 2019

The press must be a platform for informed debate on the Eighth

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Stock picture

Shona Murray

The Irish State is on the verge of a vote on the most divisive of political issues - abortion.

Part of the reason the Government agreed to hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment is that no woman of child-bearing age has had a say on a matter that directly concerns them.

This is notwithstanding the fact the debate centres primarily on Irish women having access to the best form of healthcare possible - which is the reason why a referendum is necessary.

Alongside this matter will be a national debate about how Irish people wish to balance women's rights with the rights of the unborn, and when such rights should begin.

Whether it is suicidal women whose pregnancy is causing them more distress, women who are taking abortion tablets from unknown or unregulated sources, or parents who have received a diagnosis that their much-wanted baby won't survive outside the womb, it is about time we have this debate and decide on what abortion regime best suits Irish society.

There is a substantial number of women and families whose lives have been directly or indirectly affected by abortion, as well as a considerable number of clinicians - obstetricians and psychiatrists - who say the Eighth Amendment has been burdensome at times when they are making life-saving, emergency decisions affecting their patients.

At the same time there are many more people for whom abortion is a matter they are endeavouring to understand from none of these standpoints.

There are those who are fearful and deeply uncomfortable with the affect of legislation facilitating a liberal approach to abortion, which they say diminishes Ireland's hitherto position as a country that expresses itself as against abortion.

The role of the press is to serve the public interest by ensuring coverage is based on fact and is driven by a commitment to give all sides of the situation.

It shouldn't be based on a commercially driven agenda to sway voters.

This will only create distrust among the public, who will see the press as discredited and may turn to activist groups who often publish biased material.

Informing the electorate and being a platform for respectful and informed debate should be the leading operating principle of all national newspaper outlets.

Irish Independent

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