Top Irish consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist debunks medical myths about the 8th amendment

The 8th amendment does not prevent doctors from carrying out life-saving interventions.’

The amendment ‘has only one medical effect: it prevents doctors in Ireland from deliberately, as a matter of choice, causing the death of an unborn child.’

‘The truth is that the government proposes to legalise abortion through to the 6th month of gestation…..’

Sligo News File.

Professor Eamon McGuinness is a former Chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and currently a medical adviser to the Save the 8th Campaign.

His statement as carried in Alive.ie reads:

The Irish people inserted the 8th amendment into our Constitution in 1983. As a consultant obstetrician, I have served Irish women and their children under the auspices of the 8th amendment.

It should be a matter of national pride that Ireland, in that time, has been one of the safest places on earth to be a pregnant woman. And one of the safest places in the world to be an unborn child.

In recent times, a campaign has been waged by some people, including several of my colleagues in obstetrics and gynaecology, to suggest that the words of the amendment put women’s lives at risk.

Were that true, I myself would be leading the charge to have them removed. A constitutional restriction on my ability, or the ability of my colleagues, to save the life of a pregnant woman would indeed be intolerable.

So let me be very clear: no such restriction exists.

The 8th amendment has only one medical effect: it prevents doctors in Ireland from deliberately, as a matter of choice, causing the death of an unborn child.

Some of my colleagues have a personal view which supports abortion; others, including myself, believe the unborn child has a right to legal protection. Either way, the medical facts around the amendment are undeniable.

As recently as 12th December last, for example, the Maternal Death Enquiry (Ireland) found that maternal deaths in Ireland were “extremely rare”. Put simply, this could not be the case if the amendment prevented doctors from acting to save women’s lives. The facts support the claim that doctors are not prevented from
carrying out life-saving interventions under the 8th.

In recent weeks a series of stories and claims have been made online and elsewhere that do not reflect the reality of Irish medical care.
For example, a pro-choice meeting in Kildare was told that a woman who has cancer while pregnant cannot avail of chemotherapy in Ireland. This is utterly false, and it appals me that such a claim would ever be made about our health service.

Other pro-repeal stories say that women are often asked if they are pregnant before some tests are administered. This is true. But it is also true that in every country, including those where abortion is fully legal, a doctor will want to know if a woman is pregnant before performing certain tests.

The truth is that the government proposes to legalise abortion through to the 6th month of gestation in cases of a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman. In Britain, 98% of all terminations are performed on these grounds.

A legitimate moral debate can be had about abortion. Having spent my life delivering and caring for young children and their mothers, I have a very clear view about where I stand on it.

For me, years of experience of sharing moments of joy and of tragedy with Irish women has left me certain that a child is as human in the womb as it is when it first sees the light of the world.

Others take a different view, and I believe the debate should be measured and respectful. What is regrettable, however, is the spreading of untruths about Irish medicine and
the role of the 8th amendment.

Ending a pregnancy to save a woman’s life is legal in Ireland. It has been legal since 1983. The amendment does not inhibit our ability to treat a woman. It does one thing only – it bans us from intentionally killing one of our patients.

I shall vote to retain it.