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