DUBLIN, January 9, 2013 ( – A group of medical experts has told the government of Ireland that saving a mother’s life never requires the direct and intentional killing of her unborn child. Speaking to the Oireachtas (parliamentary) Committee hearings yesterday morning, the group also told TDs that suicide in pregnancy was “extremely rare” and that to legislate for abortion in such circumstances would not help any Irish women.

Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr. Sam Coulter Smyth, Dr. Mary McCarthy, and Dr. Rhona O’Mahoney responded to probing questions from Senator Dr. John Crowne, a leading oncologist. Asked whether they knew of any instances of “needless maternal deaths” from the current ban on abortions, all three insisted that they were aware of no such instances. Further, they said they had never been prevented from providing life-saving medical treatment by Ireland’s pro-life laws.

The government has opened public hearings on the proposal to legislate to create a loophole in the law that would allow abortion in cases where the pregnant mother threatens suicide. The government said it will present a bill next month that will allow abortion “in limited circumstances.”

Pro-life leaders have promised to punish coalition lead party Fine Gael for the turn-around, saying that the party had specifically promised in the last election campaign that they would “never” legislate to legalise abortion.

The move comes largely at the instigation of the pro-abortion Labour Party coalition partners and international abortion campaigners, in response to the 2010 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the ABC case. The ECHR ruled that due to the Irish Supreme Court ruling in the X case, which abortion activists had launched to attempt to overturn the country’s constitutional protections for the unborn, the Irish government must “clarify” the law. The Court noted, however, that Ireland was not required to legalize abortion. 

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In yesterday’s hearings, asked whether the doctors knew of cases which required the killing of the unborn child, Dr. Coulter Smyth replied that in “most” cases there was “no need to kill the fetus”. Dr. Mahoney said that while delivery before viability might be required there was “no intention to kill the fetus.” Dr. Coulter Smyth and Dr. McCarthy also confirmed that not one woman had committed suicide in their hospitals in the 20 years since the X case because they could not obtain an abortion.

Dr. McCarthy added that she had consulted with a group of twelve consultants and said that the group has never known of any woman who had suicidal ideation purely because she was pregnant. It was also clarified that all life-saving treatments were always provided to women with cancer arising in pregnancy.

The testimony coincided closely with a statement issued by a conference of medical experts in September last year that stated categorically that there is never any medical requirement to kill an unborn child to save the life of the mother. This included cases in which the mother was undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer.

Northern Ireland’s leading pro-life group Precious Life this week warned the Republic’s TDs against the dangers of “trying to ‘medicalise’ the crime of abortion.”


“Abortion is not a health issue,” said Director of Precious Life Bernadette Smyth. “It is a very serious criminal offence under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861.

“The core purpose of these sections is for the protection of the unborn child. This, however, does not stop doctors from providing all genuine life-saving treatment that a pregnant mother may require. This is fundamentally different from the crime of abortion.”

Smyth added that there is “no will” among the people of Ireland to legalise abortion. “In 2008 the leaders of all four main political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly signed a joint statement opposing the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act [read statement here…]. The people of the Irish Republic have rejected abortion in numerous referendums over the past 30 years.”

This week in his address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, Pope Benedict XVI criticised the government of Ireland, as a nation “of Christian tradition,” for their efforts “to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion.”

Youth Defence spokesman Clare Molloy welcomed Pope Benedict XVI’s statement: “We ask all TDs, Senators and Ministers to protect our Constitution, our pro-life statutes, and the integrity of our world class maternal health. This will protect babies in the womb and prevent the Culture of Death from taking root in Ireland, and provide the equal right to life of the mother and babies in the womb.”

Molloy told, “It’s clear that legislating for abortion on the grounds of suicide would open the floodgates and usher in a liberal abortion regime such as was seen in Britain. That’s not what the Irish people want.”