DUBLIN, September 5, 2013 ( – In a surprising turn-around, the Irish Times has admitted that it was in error when the newspaper claimed the country’s first abortion had been conducted at Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital.


The Times reported on August 23 that the first “termination” had been carried out under the provisions of the recently-approved “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.” The Act legalizes abortion under certain circumstances, something that pro-life activists say violates the clear pro-life provisions contained in the country's Constitution.

The paper has removed the original story and printed a brief correction on page seven of Saturday’s edition, not made available on the internet.

The correction said, “The hospital has pointed out that the case described in the article did not happen. The Irish Times accepts this and apologizes unreservedly to the hospital for any distress caused.”

“The National Maternity Hospital has welcomed the correction and apology, accepts that the article was published by the Irish Times in good faith, believes the matter is now concluded and wishes to make no further comment,” it said.

At the time, a pro-life doctor based in Dublin told that the headline was a politically motivated falsehood published by the Times to legitimize the new law that they had promoted from the start.

The Times story, moreover, also included a quote from a hospital official saying that the procedure in question would have been allowed under the previous law, which permitted life-saving procedures that had the unintentional but forseeable effect of leading to the death of an unborn child.

Later the Department of Health issued a statement that the new law had not yet even come into effect.

Despite this, the headline generated news stories around the world claiming that Ireland’s new abortion law, which allows direct killing of an unborn child for the first time in the country’s history, was working to “save the mother’s life.”

The Life Institute has called for the results of investigations by the hospital and the paper to be made public.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute called the printed correction “absolutely extraordinary” and said the public deserved to know what caused such “shameful misreporting.”

“This mealy-mouthed apology leaves the public with even more unanswered questions,” she said.

“Clearly, no-one wants to cause any more hurt to this mother, but the Irish Times needs to explain how it came to write this incorrect report in the first instance,” she said, “and the National Maternity Hospital needs to hold an inquiry into how this breach of confidentiality came about.”

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“It appears that in a rush to justify the recently-passed abortion legislation, the paper forgot to check whether the legislation had in fact commenced – and it had not. Their reporter also described a life-saving intervention as an abortion – a hugely hurtful headline for the mother in this case, and a medically incorrect statement,” she added.

Much of the remaining criticism came from the fact that the original Times story gave detailed information that would have made it possible for the woman in question to be identified.

Paul Cullen, Health Correspondent for the Irish Times and the author of the original piece, gave an interview with a local Dublin radio station, in which he defended his work. Asked whether he thought it would be “distressing” for the woman to have “her medical details to be splashed across the front page of a national newspaper,” Cullen replied, “I have to try and balance in my work, and all journalists have to, the right to confidentiality with the right to public disclosure of information which is in the public’s interest.”

“In preparation of this story, we did leave out other details because of that concern,” he said. “We also went through legal checks for the article, before a decision to print.”