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Our abortion law is farcical, claims maternity expert

A leading consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist has described as "completely farcical" the fact that doctors here cannot carry out a pregnancy termination where the baby has no chance of survival after delivery.

Former Master of the National Maternity Hospital Dr Peter Boylan said the situation was "pretty ridiculous, to be honest with you", and added that women should "absolutely" be allowed to have a termination in an Irish hospital.

Dr Boyland pointed out that doctors have to give pregnant women the news that their baby will not survive "on a fairly regular basis".


While sometimes the medical team might be unsure about the severity of the baby's condition, he said that "there are certain conditions where we can be absolutely certain that the baby won't survive after delivery".

By law, he stressed, there could be no termination unless the mother's life is at risk.

"That's very clear," he said.

Couples could either continue with the pregnancy and be given full medical support throughout with care for the baby when it is born, or some chose to go to the UK or other places for a termination.

"We don't advise them what to do. The choice is up to the couple themselves," said Dr Boyland.

"We will support them in whatever choice they make, so it's not advice that we give them, it's support."

Dr Boylan said many women were not familiar with the law and did not realise they could not have a termination where the baby was unable to survive outside the womb, particularly women who had immigrated here and might be working in some of the big multinational companies.

"When we explain to them they are astonished," he said.

In an interview with News-talk, Dr Boylan said the only way the law could be changed would be to "appeal the eighth Amendment to the Constitution".

He did not think it likely that this law would be changed during his own medical career, but anticipated that change would come, "and the sooner the better".

Dr Boylan admitted that "people have genuine fears and understandably so, fears that we will end up like the UK".

He suggested, however, that there were many other medical models to that of the UK and "we can make up our own minds".

Questioned about the safety of Irish maternity services, Dr Boylan said "they could certainly be safer".


He said one of the major difficulties to come out of the recent inquest into the death of Dhara Kivlehan was that we have far too few senior consultants and consultants right across all specialities and too few intensive care beds.

"We need to have a debate about what health service we want, what sort of specialist care we want," he said.

"We have used the British model up to now. Our young doctors are flocking to Australia, so we should see what model they have that makes it so attractive to work there."