British doctor’s letter to Ireland ahead of Irish referendum on abortion
A Catholic British doctor writes an open letter to Ireland. She is unable to reveal her identity due to her pro-life stance and her wish to continue providing medical care to patients in Britain. This letter is her voice regarding the proposed 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution: trying to remove the protection of the unborn children and insert a law permitting terminations ‘for any reason’ up to 12 weeks. Presently the State is obliged to uphold ‘the right to life of the unborn and…the equal right to life of the mother’.
After her experiences as a paediatric Registrar in Britain, she urges Irish voters in the referendum on 25th May not to follow the road taken by Britain causing decades of suffering and anguish for women as well as the denial of life of nearly nine million boys and girls.
I am a British doctor working in paediatrics.
I have grown up in a society where we have legalised abortion of unborn children up to 24 weeks and up to birth where there is fetal abnormality. A fetal abnormality is a disability that a child has while he or she is still in the womb. In Britain it is legal to abort these children up to birth, even if the disability is minor and can be corrected by surgery.
I write urging you in the referendum on the 25th May to protect your Constitution’s 8th amendment, in so doing you protect both women and unborn children in Ireland. Some of my friends have had abortions and I also write this letter to you with them in mind. One in particular, still cries for the child she aborted ten years ago, a decision she made due to an unfaithful partner and considerable family pressure.
Abortion has adverse long-term consequences for the mother. These include an increased risk of long term psychological problems and infertility.
Medical freedom of conscience eroded
Readily available abortion has also had huge implications for healthcare in this country. When Lord Steel brought the Bill in 1967, a conscience clause was made for the many doctors and nurses who did not wish to be involved. It has become increasingly hard for pro-life professionals to navigate a career in some branches of healthcare. Two Scottish midwives recently lost their jobs because they refused to supervise medical abortions. I have asked to remain anonymous due to fear of similar repercussions. This in itself perhaps tells you how far things have gone.
Women pressured to abort babies with disabilities
Over 50 years of abortion on demand has left us with an inconsistent and confused stance towards life. On the one hand, we proudly proclaim values of tolerance and equality. On the other, we continually make judgements regarding the value of individual lives. Many women have been pressurised by others to believe that it is better for the child not be born at all rather than a child live with certain disabilities. I have witnessed the pressure put on pregnant women carrying babies with fetal abnormalities to consider terminations. And then cared for other children with the very same conditions: all of them unique and frequently with more energy and life than the rest of us. I have been struck so many times by the inconsistency of it all. I am also reminded of Marie Stopes, a pioneer of birth control and the namesake of many abortion clinics. Few seem to recall her own support of Nazi eugenics. She said that disabled children were “stunted, warped and inferior infants”, who in her eyes should never have been born.
One of the hardest experiences I have had as a doctor involved working in the labour ward when a 33 week old baby’s life was terminated because of a fetal abnormality. This involves giving medication that can be injected into either the unborn baby’s heart or the umbilical cord to stop the child’s heart. Labour is induced and the baby is born dead. I spent the shift feeling sick at the thought of the intentional killing of the weakest, smallest and most silent patient on the ward. The following day, I was called to the delivery of a baby of the same age. He came out pink and crying. He was shown to parents and then whisked round to the neonatal unit to be placed in a warm incubator and fed through a tube until he was old enough to suck for himself.
“The resilience of those ‘preterms’ – babies born premature, who were given the chance of life was always astonishing.”
One of the things that abortion legislation tries to do is to put a time restriction on when a child’s right to life begins. In 1967 this was 28 weeks but then younger babies started to survive. The current limit in the UK is set at 24 weeks, the so-called age of viability. But I have cared for babies born at 23 weeks and seen them go home. In the US and Sweden, they are managing to save infants born at 22 weeks. Teams of nurses and doctors work round the clock to keep them alive. It is one of the toughest jobs I have ever done; threading needles through tiny veins, treating infections, chasing blood tests, prescribing drugs at miniscule doses and responding to the endless beeping of the machines. It just made no sense to me to know that next door in the gynaecology wing, younger babies were being aborted. The resilience of those ‘preterms’ – babies born premature, who were given the chance of life was always astonishing. So many times I thought the fragile little baby lying in the incubator wasn’t going to make it, and then returned for the next shift to find they had turned the corner. I recently bumped into the grandmother of 24 week twins who we all thought were going to die on more than one occasion. She beamed with pride as she showed me a picture of two lively toddlers climbing up their cot bars.
Doctors do not always get it right
I have been in healthcare long enough to know that doctors do not always get it right. We can be adept at giving grim faced prognoses, which many parents will happily tell you their child disproved. My aunt was told her unborn baby would have spina bifida, causing terrible anxiety and fear. But the child was found to be healthy at birth and went on to become a dancer. I have worked with many families with disabled children. No disabled child has ever told me they wish they had never been born. A very small number have died, far older than the doctors originally predicted. I remember each one of them with respect and admiration, such lives not always free of discomfort and challenges but certainly well lived, and well loved.
Ghandi said that the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. There is no individual more vulnerable, defenceless and voiceless than an unborn child.
And what of the legacy of abortion in the UK? Well, in 50 years, nearly 9,000,000 abortions have been carried out. We have a significant number of women who have repeated abortions and use it as a means of contraception. In 2014, the UK had the highest teenage birth rates in western Europe. We have a high prevalence of domestic abuse directed in main towards women. We have rapidly increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases and have consistently been in the top five countries in Europe for rates of chlamydia, herpes, HPV, hepatitis C and gonorrhoea. We have a society that displays an inconsistent stance towards the weakest and most vulnerable. We have healthcare professionals who are afraid of publicly declaring their personal beliefs when at variance with the status quo.
Please consider voting to protect the rights of unborn children and women
Ireland, please do not follow the UK down this path – we have got this so very wrong. Please consider using your vote to choose life: protect both women and children – protect your 8th amendment.
A British doctor.Tags: 8th Amendment, Abortion, Britain, catholic, disability, doctor, Eight Amendment, Ireland, Referendum