By Susan Gately - 17 April, 2015
"Opinion polls which omit key information produce distorted results," says Cora Sherlock of PLC.
The Pro Life campaign has disputed the findings of a poll published in last weekend’s Sunday Independent which purports to show strong support for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, threat to the life of the mother (including suicide) and rape.
The Millward Brown opinion poll found that 63% of those surveyed said a termination would be acceptable where there is a fatal foetal abnormality and 67% supported abortion in pregnancy as a result of rape and where there is a threat to the ‘long-term health’ of the mother.
Orla O’Connor, director of the National Women’s Council, commenting on the poll, said a majority of people felt abortion should be available in Ireland and she called for a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment.
However, Pro Life Campaign deputy chairperson, Cora Sherlock, disputed the findings of the poll.
“The main question gives a false impression as to what the 8th Amendment actually states. The 8th Amendment recognises the right to life of the mother and the unborn child but the words ‘as far as practicable’ which form part of the wording in the Constitution are omitted from the opinion poll question.”
“In other words, respondents were given a totally misleading question making the findings largely irrelevant.”
One of the highest percentages, (70%) said abortion was acceptable when there is a medical risk to the mother’s life other than suicide.
Commenting on this finding, Ms Sherlock said here too the poll question was misleading in that it failed “to distinguish between life saving medical interventions in pregnancy and induced abortion, where the life of the baby is directly and intentionally targeted.”
The poll also found that 60% favoured abortion where the mother was suicidal.
“The question in the poll about abortion in the case of threatened suicide presupposes that abortion is a treatment for suicidal feelings,” commented Ms Sherlock.
“Again, this is extremely misleading. The true picture as shown by two sets of Oireachtas hearings on the issue is that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings.”
She went on, “In fact, the peer reviewed medical evidence shows clearly that abortion itself can have very serious adverse mental health consequences for women.”
Other poll findings showed that 41% were opposed to abortion in cases where there was not a threat to the life of the mother or the foetus (up from 38% in last poll), and less than a third believed abortion was acceptable where a mother wanted an abortion for reasons other than suicide, rape or medical risks to her life.
Ms Sherlock said there was not much consolation in these figures.
“The rise to 41% opposition to abortion is probably the result of an even more misleading previous poll,” she told CatholicIreland.net.
“We know from our own polls that the Irish people are overwhelmingly pro life. In this poll the distinction was not made between necessary medical treatment [to save a mother’s life] and induced abortion.”
“When that distinction is made, the result is pro life. People want women to be given medical treatment and to have the life of the baby protected as well.”