58 days to go…Mass appeal…did our obstetricians pay a price?

to Ireland’s referendum on abortion on May 25th where voters decide whether to repeal / remove the pro-life 8th amendment to the constitution which gives equal protection to mother and child, or to keep it.

This post is in two parts:




Everyday, we promote Sr. Briege McKenna’s appeal for Masses to be said privately or publicly in parishes in reparation for Ireland’s turning from God and for protection of the 8th amendment.  August last year in Knock, she said, ‘if Ireland votes for abortion, Ireland is lost.’ Please consider getting Masses said locally or through this link to ACN:
http://www.acnireland.org/masses or call 018377516.

Alternatively Human Life International Ireland have a 1000 Mass campaign for protection of the unborn and reparation for Ireland’s turning from God…


 Most importantly: can you with other parishioners organise one or more Masses / half-days or days of prayer with medically safe fasting in your parish?


A lot of the push for abortion to date has come from some high profile obstetricians associated with Holles St. Hospital and the Rotunda.

Their evidence and interviews have helped the repeal cause and done great damage to the 8th amendment. They remained circumspect on the issue of abortion when first appointed.

One question I haven’t heard anyone ask them is if they performed abortions as part of their training. That training most often occurs abroad, usually in the US and UK where there are liberal abortion regimes. That’s relevant surely as they gave expert witness testimony to the oireachtais / cross-party health group on abortion  or the ‘Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill’ in 2013 and now most recently when the group was examining what proposals to recommend to government concerning the 8th. Were they asked?

The obstetricians might have refused to answer that question in the past. Perhaps they would still, though they likely now would be lauded by the media if they answered in the affirmative.  Perhaps now they would say that of course they did always acted in the interest of the woman and her wishes and refuse to be drawn further. Perhaps they would limit themselves to describing terminating pregnancies to save the life of the mother. But what about the other grounds; did they perform abortions on other grounds? Routinely?

If so, were they done on mental or physical health grounds in the UK or the US where they trained or what exactly was the ground? For example in the UK, 98% of almost 9 million social abortions to date have been done under ground C the mental health risk ground. So did those who trained in the UK, routinely do them there? If so, did they have a cut-off point where they would or wouldn’t perform them? I remember watching a documentary on abortion years ago and an obstetrician stated that after 23 weeks she wouldn’t perform an abortion as it got too close to being a baby kind of thing.

I also remember being a party to a conversation with a trainee obstetrician years ago.  She was asked about her opinion on abortion. She said she wouldn’t perform them. She had been a registrar in training on a higher training scheme in the UK and had come back to Ireland. She said she’d limited herself to writing up the drugs and inserting the laminaria, the seaweed based pessary which was used to start the dilation of the cervix so that instruments can be passed more easily into the uterus and reduce the risk of laceration to the cervix. She said she drew the line at scrubbing in and performing the abortion.

For her, scrubbing in and performing or assisting at an abortion was a step too far and while she knew the prescribing and the insertion of the pessary was part of the abortion procedure too, she had made a decision to not perform the surgical part.

She was asked did she feel that this had gone against her. She said that it had and then the conversation moved on.

I imagine it did not go down well with a consultant obstetrician, that he or she was down one member of the team in theatre because of this woman’s position of refusing to perform an abortion: presumably they would have to either arrange alternative cover or schedule the list in a way that gave her training experience in all other procedures except for abortions in a busy gynaecological theatre in a NHS hospital.

It occurred to me that she was willing to take the flak even for the stance she had taken which was brave of her even though she should have refused to assist with the laminaria etc and while that position appears to have been tolerated in her case because she had invoked a right, that of conscientious objection, she knew everyday that there were others, also eager to succeed, who had no issue with performing abortions and keeping their masters literally happy.

There might have been some who respected her decision but still, she was potentially jeopardising her career, as the Irish doctor, not born or trained there,  probably now tarred with a label of extreme beliefs that were out of step with the times, suspected of letting her religion dictate to her,  even if that didn’t actually factor in her decision (which it probably didn’t though that was not discussed) and at the end of the day, she needed their reference.

I have no idea if at interview level for senior training positions abroad where most of the current consultant obstetricians trained, if they were / are now, questioned on their position on abortion. I don’t know if it is just assumed they will perform the routine list which includes terminations of pregnancy. I imagine it is as they are after all applying for a role in a country with a liberal regime. When in Rome…

I am  sure that there are a number of trainee obstetricians who having moved on in their specialist training out of Ireland are suddenly exposed to a decision in this regard. Many may have no issue with it and feel it is just another procedure and a necessary part of the job and dive right in.

Some may have reservations and suddenly in a new role in a new environment, face the prospect of having to tell the new boss that they haven’t performed an abortion before and if it’s okay, they’d prefer not to…if that could be accommodated?

Might they then have difficult conversations in the new job, perhaps being asked why they didn’t reveal this at interview? Assuming they weren’t asked outright?

But ultimately I imagine anyone who did or does object to performing abortions, either has to disclose that at interview and risk losing the position or in ‘don’t ask don’t tell mode’, they wait until they are sure of the job but have to then face telling the boss.  Who might question if they deliberately did not disclose that fact to get the job.

The same doctor who refused to perform abortions said she had interviewed for a job and after getting and signing the contract, immediately then informed the consultant that she was now how ever many months pregnant and he’d need to get cracking on providing maternity cover for her. She wasn’t taking any chances as she knew legally it was water tight though how these things go against someone are unclear if at all in other ways.

I wonder how many of our obstetricians who are pro-choice, dived in and just got on with it and how many who went abroad, invoked in some capacity, conscientious objection rights that would have earned them no admiration from specialists who routinely in their public and private practice perform abortions without any apparent backward glance.

Did any of the older guard refuse to perform abortions but now, have ‘evolved’ like the politicians e.g. Leo and the two Simons? Or to coin a phrase that Dr. Peter Boylan has used on radio, they ‘grew up’?


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