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Criticism of doctors’ support for Amnesty letter

By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 November, 2015

Life Institute unimpressed that letter promoting abortion contains 838 signatures from doctors in 44 countries which averages less than 20 medics per country.

Niamh Uí Bhriain

Niamh Uí Bhriain

Doctors from 44 countries, including Ireland, who have signed a letter claiming that criminalising abortion puts women’s and girls’ health at risk have been accused of promoting a political opinion and not a medical one.

Responding to the letter, Dr Eoghan White, medical advisor to the Life Institute, said in a statement that, “Banning abortion has not caused women to die, a fact confirmed by the Oireachtas hearings on abortion in 2013, where leading obstetricians testified that they did not know of one case where a woman had lost her life in an Irish hospital because doctors were unable to intervene due to Ireland’s ban on abortion.”

He reminded the 838 doctors supporting Amnesty’s latest campaign for the liberalisation of abortion, “The statistics are clear, less women suffer and die from pregnancy related conditions in Ireland than they do in countries with unrestricted access to abortion such as the UK and USA.”

Highlighting that Amnesty is also targeting Chile’s ban on abortion, Dr White noted that Chile’s maternal mortality rate has continued to improve dramatically since abortion was banned, and Chile is now a leader in the Americas in terms of maternal safety.

“Good maternal care, not abortion, is what both mother and baby need,” he said.

Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, has implied that Irish law makes criminals of women who procure abortions.

Under current Irish law it is an offence to intentionally destroy an unborn human life, other than in accordance with the 2013 abortion act. Anyone convicted of this offence is liable to a fine or up to 14 years in jail.

Dr Eoghan White highlighted in his statement that where there is a ban on abortion, “We know that doctors can and do intervene to treat women who have a life threatening complication of pregnancy even if that means ending the pregnancy.”

“This is largely because, as Dr Sam Coulter Smyth of the Rotunda Hospital has pointed out, this type of intervention is not and should not be considered as abortion. We also know that not a single doctor has been prosecuted in Ireland for prematurely ending a pregnancy where medical necessary”.

“We know from British DOH statistics that women from Ireland are not traveling to UK for abortions because they are being denied healthcare in their own country. The reality is, with expert care and close monitoring, we can achieve healthy outcomes for mother and baby where there are pre-existing medical conditions or even where cancer arises.”

He pointed to the leading researcher in gynaecological oncology, Dr Frederic Amant, whose work conclusively shows that where there is a diagnosis of cancer, termination of pregnancy does not improve maternal outcomes.

This is mainly due to the fact that chemo and radiotherapy can now be safely delivered during pregnancy

According to a spokeswoman for the Life Institute, Niamh Uí Bhriain, Amnesty has gathered 838 signatures from medics across 44 countries which averages less than 20 doctors signing per country, an outcome said described as “less than impressive”.

“Amnesty is trying to use its global muscle in a campaign to push abortion on Ireland, but its results, much like its message, are less than impressive,” she said.

“Recently, we saw the public react unfavourably to Amnesty’s propaganda video on abortion in Ireland, and now we can see that Amnesty has failed to gather significant support from Irish doctors for its abortion campaign.”

Niamh Uí Bhriain described Amnesty’s campaign on decriminalisation as deliberately misleading.

“In fact, as Amnesty fully understands, criminal penalties are attached to abortion in almost every jurisdiction, and women have never been prosecuted in Ireland because of our pro-life laws.”

“Criminal penalties should apply to abortionists who break the law, and women should be protected from practitioners who have been known to exploit vulnerable women for profit, and have often caused them to lose their lives.”

“It is a measure of how far Amnesty has strayed from its mission that it continues to push for abortion, but has ignored the death of a woman from Ireland who bled to death after undergoing an abortion in a Marie Stopes clinic in London,” she said.

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