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Pro-choice protesters gather in Dublin in September 2015.

Leading Irish doctors call for abortion to be decriminalised

Some of Ireland’s most prominent doctors are among hundreds of professionals calling for abortion to be legalised.

HUNDREDS OF DOCTORS from around the world have called on the Irish government to decriminalise abortion.

Some 838 physicians from 44 countries signed an open letter published today by Amnesty International as part of a campaign against the criminalisation of abortion.

The signatories include leading Irish doctors such as Dr Peter Boylan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street, and Dr Veronica O’Keane, a consultant psychiatrist and professor in psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin.

“The criminalisation of abortion prevents healthcare providers from delivering timely, medically indicated care in accordance with their patients’ wishes,” the letter reads.

“It impedes and disregards sound medical judgment and can undermine the professional duty of care and confidentiality that doctors bear towards their patients.”

‘Legal and ethical tightrope’

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said the government can no longer claim that the criminalisation of abortion has no impact on the healthcare received by women and men.

Making criminals of women for abortion violates their human rights and can endanger their lives.
In numerous countries around the world, Amnesty International has documented shocking cases of women forced to continue unviable pregnancies because of restrictive laws.
We have seen women and girls pregnant as a result of rape forced to carry the foetus to term and give birth.
International law is clear: at the very least women and girls should have access to an abortion when the pregnancy poses a risk to their life or health, in cases of severe or fatal foetal impairment, and in cases of rape or incest.
International law also says that under no circumstances should a woman be made a criminal for having an abortion.

4/2/2014. Amnesty International Reports Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty

Dr Peter Boylan said Ireland’s abortion laws mean medical staff are forced to walk a “legal and ethical tightrope”.

Under the [current law] we must wait until women become sick enough before we can intervene.
How close to death do you have to be? There is no answer to that.

In a Red C poll for Amnesty International published in July 2015, 72% of respondents did not agree with the possible 14-year prison sentence for doctors who perform abortions.

Some 64% of people did not know it is a crime for a woman to get an abortion when her life is not at risk, and only 7% agreed that women should be imprisoned for up to 14 years for having an unlawful termination.


Meanwhile, pro-life groups have hit out at Amnesty’s open letter, saying the NGO “ignores Ireland’s outstanding record in maternal healthcare”.

“The latest attempt by Amnesty to push for the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion laws seeks to depict abortion as ‘healthcare’ when in reality it is nothing of the sort.  All it does is end the life of an unborn baby,” Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said.

She added: “Today’s open letter represents a further attempt by Amnesty to comment only on carefully selected aspects of the abortion debate.”

Read: A lot of women are tweeting Enda about their periods – and he’s cool with it

Read: Pro-choice campaigners take ‘abortion pill bus’ across Ireland

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