Repeal of 8th Amendment ‘absolutely necessary’ to ensure women have access to vital healthcare – McDonald

Speaking in the Dáil on the Bill providing for a Referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said; “Repeal of the 8th Amendment is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that Irish women have access to proper and appropriate healthcare.

“The 8th Amendment should never have been placed in our Constitution. Bitter experience over decades demonstrates this.”

The Dublin Central TD continued by highlighting the reality of the impact of the Eighth Amendment on the health and lives of women;

“It is essential to recall real cost to women and girls of the Eighth amendment. In the 1992 X-Case, a suicidal girl of 14, the child victim of a rape, was prevented by the High Court from travelling abroad to obtain an abortion.

“It has caused countless women and families with the trauma of a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality to be forced to make a harrowing journey abroad.

“It has created an alphabet roll call of women’s suffering, women who in many cases sought relief in international courts and tribunals to recognise their suffering and the cruelty of our state.

“It cost the life of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 while miscarrying was denied an abortion that could have saved her life. She died after doctors refused to carry out the necessary procedure due to the legal ambiguity and uncertainty created by the 8th Amendment.

“In 2015, a pregnant mother was kept on life-support for 24 days after she was declared medically brain-dead because a foetal heartbeat was detected in her womb. When her family asked that life support be removed, their request was denied because of the 8th Amendment, despite the fact that the baby had no chance of survival. It took a legal appeal by her family to High Court for her life support to be switched off.

“Even in death, the Eighth Amendment can rob a woman of her dignity. Some will say that these are the hard cases, the exceptions, the outliers, that hard cases make bad law. I say that these are the hardest, most cruel face of the 8th Amendment.

“Our bad law made these cases. I say that these women are, in the first instance, the reason to repeal the 8th Amendment. We as a society must demand and ensure that there are no more hard cases, no more Savita’s and no more traumatised women known to us in the public domain as letters of the alphabet.

“That is our first duty, to assert clearly that that the state will not force a rape victim to carry a pregnancy to term.

“To demand that women and families faced with the devastating diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality are no longer denied care, comfort and choice here in their home country.

“To assert that doctors must be free to do their job, must be able to take medical decisions in the interests of women without the threat of a criminal sanction hanging over them.

“To ensure that health care choices, life and death decisions, are not skewed or delayed while medics seek advice from constitutional lawyers.”

Teachta McDonald concluded;

“The 8th Amendment is a relic of an Ireland of the past. Yet, it restricts the rights of women in the here and now and affects our future in such a profound way. It has to go.

“It is time to trust women. It is time to allow doctors to do their jobs. And we, as legislators, must now do ours.”