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Readers Blog: Reproductive coercion has no place in Constitution

Those who advocate for the retention of the Eighth Amendment assert that it has deterred women from accessing abortion ‘Irish law keeps rate of abortion low’ (Irish Examiner, Letters, July 14).

They ignore the analysis of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and reproductive health research leader, the Guttmacher Institute. The WHO safe abortion guidelines states that restricting legal access to abortion does not decrease the need for abortion.

A 2016 Guttmacher report on global incidence of abortion found no significant difference between the rate where abortion is prohibited compared with countries where abortion is available on request.

Data on the abortion rate for Ireland is incomplete, in particular because the number of women who have imported medication to self-induce abortion since the mid-2000s cannot be known for sure. But UK Department of Health (DoH) statistics record that 158,130 women have given Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics since 1983, the year of the Eighth Amendment.

None of these women was deterred by the Constitution from her decision not to continue a pregnancy that was unintended or had become a crisis. In fact, the DoH figures increased steadily each year from 1983 before beginning to fall in 2001.

When asked by a member of the Citizens’ Assembly in February about the reason for the decline in abortion rates in developed countries, Dr Gilda Sedgh of the Guttmacher Institute responded with two words: “Contraceptive use.”

Supporters of the Eighth Amendment believe any woman who is pregnant should continue the pregnancy, regardless of her health and wellbeing, her personal and family situation, her age, the circumstances or the stage of the pregnancy, her personal beliefs, her life-plans, or her own wishes.

That is reproductive coercion. It has no place in our Constitution.

Niall Behan

Chief Executive Irish Family Planning Association
Pearse St


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