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Dr Rhona Mahony joins Together for Yes repeal campaign

The Master of the National Maternity Hospital outlined her support for a Yes vote today.

Dr Rhona Mahony at a Together for Yes this morning.
Dr Rhona Mahony at a Together for Yes this morning.
Image: Tristan Hutchinson/RollingNews.ie

MASTER OF THE National Maternity Hospital Dr. Rhona Mahony has joined the Together for Yes campaign seeking a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking at a press conference this morning, the consultant obstetrician said the amendment means that medical decisions are made “under the shadow” of a criminal sentence for doctors.

Mahony said that the current situation means that Irish women in cases of fatal foetal abnormality are forced abroad for treatment and may receive “inadequate diagnosis”.

It can also lead to them experiencing “the shame and horror” of waiting for the remains of the unborn child to arrive back in Ireland.

Mahony also said that “backstreet abortions” are present in Ireland in the form of women taking abortion pills unsupervised.

In outlining her decision to support the Together for Yes campaign , Mahony first outlined the current system as it pertains under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

She said the 2014 act allows for abortion only in cases where there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother that can only be removed by the termination of pregnancy.

Mahony said this calls for difficult medical  judgments to be made by doctors and that the decision-making process is affected by the Eighth Amendment.

“This leads to very complex decision-making in very sick women and these decisions are made in the shadow of a 14-year custodial sentence and there a very few other areas of medicine where such complex medical decisions are made within a criminal context,” she said.

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Asked for examples of when the Eighth Amendment affects health, Mahony described the “horrific” case where the life-support of clinically dead pregnant woman was kept on pending the outcome of a High Court decision

One of the really striking examples is the case that went through the High Court in 2015 (sic) and this was a woman who was dead but somatic function was maintained because she was pregnant in order to incubate her baby in what was described as a macabre experiment. And this was a direct consequence of the Eighth Amendment because what you had here was a conflict between the actual clinical situation and the risk and the balance of rights.

“This case was horrific. This was a dead woman being kept functioning in order to incubate a foetus. This wasn’t a long time ago and it could happen again,” Mahony added.

Dr Mahony previously gave evidence before the Oireachtas Committee on Eighth Amendment and called for an end to “the criminalisation of medical care in Ireland,”

A bill to hold a referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment has passed the Dáil and the Seanad and it is expected that it will become official in the coming days.

The date has not been finalised but it is expected to be held before the end of May.

Read: Here are the Senators who voted Yes and No on holding a repeal referendum >

Read: Varadkar says Coveney’s call for two-thirds majority lock in abortion law is unconstitutional >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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