DUBLIN, August 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Although The Irish Times has claimed in a headline on Friday that the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin has carried out the nation’s “first abortion” under the provisions of the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act,” a source at the hospital confirmed that the procedure would have been allowable under the previous law, and pro-life doctors have said that this procedure is not an abortion.
“That headline is a lie and an insult to the woman who has lost twins and the doctor who acted to save her life,” Dr. Eoghan De Faoite, a Dublin-based physician who works with the pro-life group Youth Defence, told LifeSiteNews.com.
“This isn’t ‘Ireland’s first abortion,’” he said.
The procedure – a pre-term inducement of labor, done to preserve the life of the mother suffering from a life-threatening medical condition like severe sepsis – was legally permitted and morally justifiable under the old legal regime, which required doctors to treat both mother and unborn child as a patient, he said.
A hospital source confirmed that “even before the passage of the legislation, Holles Street [National Maternity Hospital] would have carried out terminations in cases like this, where the prognosis for the pregnancy was very poor.”
The Times ran the quote but, pro-life advocates point out, buried it close to the bottom of the story.
The early inducement of labor was carried out at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin due to the mother suffering from sepsis at 18 weeks gestation of twin babies, well before they could have survived outside the womb.
The hospital told the Times that in this case, “after the woman’s membranes were ruptured for almost 24 hours and the risk of infection increased dramatically, she and her partner agreed to the procedure after discussions with doctors at the hospital.”
The Times has compared the case to that of Savita Halappanavar, and implied that it is because of a direct abortion that the woman was able to recover from the infection.
The Times report said, “In contrast to Ms. Halappanavar, who died in University Hospital Galway last October after she was refused a termination, the National Maternity Hospital patient has made a good recovery after receiving antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination a number of weeks ago.”
A Department of Health statement has clarified that abortions have not yet begun to be carried out under the new law’s provisions. The DH said, “It has not yet commenced. It will be commenced as soon as is practicable. There are operational issues which need to be addressed before it can be commenced.”
“These include the establishment of a panel of medical practitioners for the purpose of the formal medical review provisions and administrative facilities to enable the review committee, drawn from the review panel, to perform its functions,” the statement clarified.
But Dr. De Faoite told LifeSiteNews, “This is an attempt by the Irish Times to suggest the legislation is saving lives. Clearly this wasn’t an abortion but a premature delivery of twins where a woman had an infection, and would have happened regardless of the legislation as was confirmed by the hospital.”
He decried the cynicism with which he said the Times was using the case, including the possible emotional distress caused to the mother, to promote the political abortion agenda in a propaganda campaign.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute told LifeSiteNews.com that the Times, in its rush to defend the legislation, “would have caused huge hurt to women and was deliberately misleading its readers.”
Dr. Peter Boylan, who gave evidence before the government’s consultation in favor of legalizing abortion, echoed this concern, telling Morning Ireland on Friday he was angry about the Irish Times' action, calling it an “outrageous breach of patient confidentiality.” He said that an investigation has started to discover the source of the leaked information. “It is absolutely unacceptable for patient details to be splashed around the front page of the newspaper,” he said.
“It is completely unethical if it is a doctor giving information to the public,” he said. “And if it is a doctor, then this sort of transgression or bad behavior could well end up before the Medical Council.”
Uí Bhriain told LifeSiteNews, “From the details that have emerged it seems clear that this was not an abortion, but an intervention that was necessary to save a mother whose life was at risk from sepsis. The twin babies who were delivered were sadly too young to survive.
“Yet that detail was buried in the story and came after a most misleading headline,” Uí Bhriain said.
“As the Irish Times reporter well knows, our most senior obstetricians, such as Dr. Samuel Coulter Smith, the Master of the Rotunda maternity hospital, have repeatedly stated that these interventions should not be described as abortions, since the intent is not to kill the baby,” she added.
The distinction was also highlighted in the guidelines of the Institute for Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Pro-life advocates have long denounced what they say is the deliberately ambiguous wording in both the legislation and the media reporting, where the non-medical expression “termination” is used without distinction to describe both medically justified early inducement of labor and direct killing of the unborn child. Youth Defence campaigned hard against this obfuscation, saying it was being used to whip up fears among the public that women were not receiving appropriate care in Irish hospitals.
A declaration, signed by 222 obstetricians and gynecologists and 300 other physicians, in September last year, said that there is never any medical situation in which the direct killing of an unborn child is justified.
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“As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynecology,” the declaration said, “we affirm that direct abortion is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.”
“We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child. We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.”