herald

Tuesday 25 July 2017

'Abortion is not like choosing from a menu', says doctor

Dr Donal O’Mathuna
Dr Donal O’Mathuna

Rape victims who become pregnant should follow "the good life" and give birth, says Dr Donal O'Mathuna.

The Dublin City University lecturer in nursing and human sciences made the plea while addressing the Citizens' Assembly in Malahide, Co Dublin.

Taking a different stand was pro-choice lecturer Dr Joan McCarthy, who teaches nursing and midwifery at University College Cork.

Although she supported abortion, she criticised the term "abortion on demand", stating terminations were not like "choosing from a menu".

Poverty

Dr McCarthy said: "The phrase 'abortion on demand' is a harsh description of the decision the woman has to make.

"She isn't choosing from a menu, she has to take in the constraints, other children, dependants, poverty, her health risks, her life risk.

"Contraception, abstinence, are ways of avoiding reproduction, but contraception fails," she told the 99 members of the assembly.

"Women can become pregnant from coercion or rape, women and men can make mistakes and there's bad luck.

"Women can fall pregnant and they are unduly burdened. Pregnancy disproportionately places responsibility on women and girls.

"The psychological impact of a crisis pregnancy is burdensome.

"Because of the Eighth Amendment… clinical practices have posed serious risks to women, it tramples on their rights.

"I suggest we repeal and replace with rights that reconnect women and girls... create rules where children are wanted, cared for and loved.

"It places a double burden on women and girls who can't travel, they're forced to continue pregnancies and undergo risks, or try to gain illegal abortions."

Dr O'Mathuna gave a very different view to the members, suggesting "institutions and family" should be there to help a woman and child post-crisis pregnancy.

He also referred to female victims of rape who find they have become pregnant.

"Rape is abhorred," he said. "But the unborn had nothing to do with the harm that was inflicted there. Why should they be the ones who have their chance of life removed because of that terrible situation?

"Taking away the life of an innocent because of a man's crime is not going to take away any pain, nor is it going to promote justice. Allowing life to come from a heinous crime can let some good come out of a terrible situation."

Decision

He also spoke about sexual liberation in Irish society today. "If we get ino bed with someone else, we take on certain responsibilities, whether we acknowledge them or not.

"Intended or unintended, a pregnancy may result and that's why becoming sexually active is such a momentous decision in people's lives, whether they think about that or not.

Dr McCarthy said she was "concerned" by her counterpart's description of "forgiveness" around women who have crisis pregnancies or abortions.

She said the right to bodily autonomy for women was a "human rights issue" and nothing less.

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