After 40 years as a GP I know the Eighth Amend­ment does not work and must go

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - OPINION - By DR. PATRICIA MANGAN

WE are all pro life; I am pro life. I am also strongly in favour of re­peal­ing the Eighth Amend­ment on May 25th. The Eight Amend­ment is as­pi­ra­tional and ide­al­is­tic but not re­al­is­tic. I’ve spent the last forty years work­ing as a GP in Kil­lar­ney. Now re­cently re­tired and look­ing back at my ca­reer and ex­pe­ri­ence, I can say with con­vic­tion the Eighth Amend­ment does not work and needs to go.

In the be­gin­ning, I sup­ported the Eighth Amend­ment. In 1983, I was al­ready a doc­tor for 10 years and had three chil­dren. I lis­tened to the de­bates. I heard Mary Robin­son ar­gue with what turned out to be far see­ing rea­son­ing against the amend­ment. I ei­ther did not fully com­pre­hend the po­ten­tial prob­lems or I air­brushed them out of the ide­al­is­tic pic­ture those pro­mot­ing the amend­ment por­trayed. With nag­ging doubts I voted yes to in­tro­duce the Eighth Amend­ment. Thirty five years of med­i­cal prac­tice and thou­sands of pa­tients later, I’ve learned that life is com­pli­cated. Ev­ery­day, women and fam­i­lies make dif­fi­cult, re­spon­si­ble and heart­break­ing de­ci­sions in im­pos­si­ble cir­cum­stances.

The ev­i­dence shows the ref­er­en­dum pro­posal is the only way to com­pas­sion­ately sup­port vic­tims of rape who be­come preg­nant, cou­ples who re­ceive the heart­break­ing news of fatal fe­tal anom­aly or women whose health is put at risk by a preg­nancy.

There is no doubt that the Eighth Amend­ment com­pli­cates com­plex med­i­cal de­ci­sions in ob­stet­ric prac­tice. Many of th­ese com­plex­i­ties have only re­cently be­gun to emerge pub­licly.

Shrouded in se­crecy, shame and stigma, women and their fam­i­lies did not speak out. Even I, a prac­tic­ing GP, did not fully un­der­stand un­til rel­a­tively re­cently that par­ents coping with the dev­as­tat­ing di­ag­no­sis of a fatal fe­tal anom­aly could not have the choice of a re­spect­ful, lov­ing, early de­liv­ery of their much loved baby in their own coun­try sur­rounded by fam­ily. Other GPs have ad­mit­ted the same to me. In­stead it’s a well-worn path to Liver­pool or Lon­don, a for­eign hospi­tal, a Ryanair flight and maybe your cher­ished baby’s ashes re­turned to you in the post. Par­ents in that sit­u­a­tion who choose to con­tinue with their preg­nan­cies should be sup­ported and cher­ished the same as those who de­cide not to. They all de­serve our re­spect and com­pas­sion.

The re­cent de­bates have en­cour­aged women to come for­ward with their pre­vi­ously hid­den sto­ries of anguish, heart­break and de­ci­sions with no easy way out. I be­lieve this is a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment de­spite the agony it must mean for those women and fam­i­lies who have to re­live their ex­pe­ri­ences. This has been a pe­riod of learn­ing and re­flec­tion for all of us. The next step is ac­tion.

After 40 years of med­i­cal prac­tice, I am con­fi­dent no wo­man de­cides to have a ter­mi­na­tion lightly. They find them­selves con­fronted with a moral choice that they never ex­pected.

Ire­land has grown up a lot in the last ten years. We’ve con­fronted com­plex and deep-rooted prob­lems, dif­fi­cult truths about our­selves and our his­tory, and come out stronger for it. Yet when it comes to this is­sue, we con­tinue, as the Taoiseach said, to ex­port our prob­lems and im­port our so­lu­tions. As a ma­ture na­tion we can no longer con­tinue to air­brush away the prob­lems the Eighth Amend­ment cre­ates.

I re­spect the deeply held, sin­cere be­liefs of those who wish to re­tain the Eighth Amend­ment. But I am yet to hear real an­swers to the real prob­lems the Eighth Amend­ment cre­ates for doc­tors like me but more im­por­tantly for thou­sands of women and fam­i­lies. Thirty five years later, I’m vot­ing Yes to re­peal.

Dr Patricia Mangan

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