By Ann Marie Foley - 14 September, 2017
The Master of the National Maternity Hospital has been criticised by pro life groups for advocating for the removal of the constitutional ban on abortion for women in certain cases, including those of babies with life limiting conditions.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference in Athy, Co. Kildare, Dr Rhona Mahony expressed views that Ireland cannot keep sending women to the UK for abortion and that terminations need to be done in Ireland in certain cases. She said she supports the repeal of the Eighth Amendment on abortion.
Every Life Counts, which represents parents whose children have died from life-limiting conditions such as anencephaly or Trisomy 18, criticised Dr Mahony, stating that Irish doctors should support parents of babies who might not live for long after birth. The group said they were saddened to see doctors pushing for abortion on grounds of disability.
“It’s really sad to see Dr Mahony argue that our babies should have been stripped of their right to life just because they had a severe disability. She knows better than anyone that the campaigning phrase ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ is not a medical term and that, very often, babies like ours live for days and months or even years after birth,” said Tanya Coonan, Every Life Counts.
During her contribution to the Labour Party conference, Dr Mahony did say that she favoured pregnancy termination in cases of “fatal foetal abnormality” and in cases of ectopic pregnancies and other “non-viable” pregnancies, but said the parents’ decision is paramount – some want time with their baby and that is their right.
Tanya Coonan stated that while some doctors and midwives showed “extraordinary compassion”, others were too quick to push parents towards abortion, and this needs to change.
“We don’t want our experiences used to push abortion, “ she said. “My daughter Lillie lived for two hours after birth, and I got to hold her and smile at her beautiful baby face, kiss her warm, soft cheek and hold her tiny little hand. If abortion had ended her life before birth, I would have never received all the gifts Lillie gave to me. She showed me that even the most striking imperfections are beautiful.”
The Pro Life Campaign (PLC) has stated that the comments by Dr Rhona Mahony about the Eighth Amendment ignore the fact that introducing abortion on “health” grounds would “open the door to abortion on request”.
PLC spokesperson Cora Sherlock said that the Labour Party has consistently campaigned for the introduction of abortion on request in Ireland. Labour has advocated an abortion regime “fully in line” with the 1967 Abortion Act, which introduced abortion into England and Wales.
“That Act has led to a situation where abortion is legal for any reason up to 24 weeks, and legal up to birth if the baby in the womb is diagnosed with any disability,” she said.
She asserted that in Ireland currently, when a life- or health-threatening condition arises during pregnancy, the woman always receives whatever treatment is necessary to protect her life.
“In countries where abortion is available, the baby’s rights don’t even come into the conversation. Once abortion becomes normalised in a country, there is no real attempt to consider the rights of the second human being involved,” she said.
She concluded that introducing abortion on “health” grounds would completely distort the current practice in Ireland where both mother and baby are equally cared for, and would “corrupt” the medical profession.