DEBATE IN THE LETTERS PAGE OF THE IRISH TIMES
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Irish Times Letter To The Editor
LEGISLATING FOR ABORTION
Madam, - Dr Berry Kiely (Head 2 Head, July 9th) cites a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry which showed that women who had an abortion had elevated rates of subsequent mental health problems.Among the limitations of this study is the fact that the research did not allow for existing psychiatric illness.Moreover, the research was conducted in New Zealand where, in order to obtain an abortion, it must be established that the pregnancy would seriously harm the life or the physical or mental health of the woman or baby, or is the result of incest or rape; or that the woman is severely mentally handicapped. An abortion will also be considered on the basis of age.
Given the implications of these criteria, it is hardly surprising that the study should find some association between women with mental health problems and abortion. These research findings are also inconsistent with the current consensus on the psychological effects of abortion which is, as the American Psychological Association statement outlined in 2005, that there is no causal link between clinically relevant distress in women and abortion. What is extremely traumatic for women in Ireland is facing a crisis pregnancy.
Moreover, as the abortion rates for Ireland show, forcing women abroad does not lower the rate of abortion; it merely compounds the distress women face in crisis pregnancy. If we want to lower the rate of abortion and avoid compounding the distress of a crisis pregnancy, the only conclusion is that abortion must be available in Ireland for those who choose it. Legalisation must be accompanied by other policies: the introduction of adequate sex education programmes; an end to the stigma surrounding sex and abortion; free and accessible contraception; and the introduction of real supports for women who choose to go through with their pregnancies.
Most importantly, real and honest debate must take place on this issue - debate that is based on fact.
- Yours, etc,LOUISE CAFFREY,Choice Ireland,Orwell Gardens,Dublin 6.
Madam, - The ultimate oxymoron? "Life-saving abortions" (Ivana Bacik, Head 2 Head, July 9th).
- Yours, etc, Mrs MARY STEWART, Ardeskin, Donegal Town.
LEGISLATING FOR ABORTION Friday July 13th 2007
Madam, - Louise Caffrey of Choice Ireland (July 12th) maintains that the "current consensus on the psychological effects of abortion", set out in a 2005 statement by the American Psychological Association, is that there is "no causal link between clinically relevant distress in women and abortion".
The contrary New Zealand research cited by her and by Dr Berry Kiely - conducted by a researcher who was admittedly pro-choice - pointed out that the American Psychological Association statement "was based on a relatively small number of studies which had one or more of the following limitations: (a) absence of comprehensive assessment of mental disorders; (b) lack of comparison groups; and (c) limited statistical controls. Furthermore, the statement appears to disregard the findings of a number of studies that had claimed to show negative effects for abortion (Cougle et al., 2003; Gissler et al., 1996; Reardon & Cougle, 2002)."
- Yours, etc,
KIERON WOOD, Grange Wood, Dublin 16.
LEGISLATING FOR ABORTION Monday July 16th 2007
Madam, - If Mary Stewart (July 12th) is interested in "ultimate oxymorons" she should look no further than the so-called "Pro-Life" lobby. Pro-life, perhaps, in that this lobby would rather see a young girl kill herself than be given the choice of ending an unwanted pregnancy? Pro-life in that it would rather see a young girl give birth to a dead baby than be given the choice of having it removed from her womb? Or Pro-life in that it actively seeks to remove one of the fundamental bases of humanity and human living - free moral choice - from the hands of those directly affected, thus forcing the already weak and vulnerable into positions of appalling hardship and helplessness?
In valuing unthinking, unfeeling, undeveloped and non-sentient life above the lives of the women of Ireland today - lives replete with memories, emotions, thoughts, feelings, hopes and pasts - the "Pro-Life" lobby affords mere potential life a greater significance than these lives-as-lived. In so doing it demonstrates its contempt for the freedom, welfare and well-being of Irish women. This is the true oxymoron - when "pro-life" becomes synonymous with "anti-living". - Yours, etc,
OWEN CORRIGAN, Blessington Street, Dublin 7.
Madam, - Louise Caffrey of Choice Ireland (July 12th) calls for real and honest debate on abortion. In so doing, however, she has concluded that, if we want to lower the rate of abortion, we must introduce abortion for "those who choose it".
Two points arise from this claim.
Firstly, could Ms Caffrey mention one jurisdiction in which the legal introduction of abortion led to a reduction of the numbers of abortions carried out? Secondly, she is clearly an advocate of abortion on demand.
Her call for honesty and reality in debate would be more acceptable if her own contribution had more of those qualities about it.
- Yours, etc,
BRIAN STEWART, Forest Hills, Knocknacarra, Galway.
DEBATE ON LEGALISING ABORTION Tuesday July 17th 2007
Madam, - Louise Caffrey of Choice Ireland (July 12th) writes that Prof David Fergusson, in his longitudinal study of New Zealand women which showed that abortion increased the risk of subsequent psychiatric disorder, did not control for prior mental health problems. This is completely incorrect since, by his own admission as a pro-choice advocate, he set out to confirm that psychiatric disorders post abortion were linked to the person's prior psychiatric history and not to the abortion.
To his own surprise, he found that even after controlling for prior mental health and childhood adversity confounders, the link between abortion and mental health problems remained. He then carried out a further predictive analysis and, again controlling for confounders, found that abortion caused the mental health problems.
Ms Caffrey states that in 2005 the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a consensus statement concerning the absence of a causal link between "clinically relevant distress and abortion in women". However, that body was singled out for particular criticism in the Fergusson paper and one month after its publication the APA removed all comments from its website concerning the psychological safety or otherwise of abortion. It also voted to establish a working group to examine this issue and is to report in 2008.
Finally, Ms Caffrey states that abortion in New Zealand is available where the mental health of the woman is at risk. However, the act does not contain any definition of mental health, nor is a psychiatrist required to vouch for its presence or risk, an issue that is currently before the courts. There is therefore a real possibility that distress is erroneously conflated with mental illness. In this regard it resembles the British abortion act. Moreover, the abortion rate in New Zealand (20 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44) is even higher than the rate in England and Wales ( 18.3 per 1,000), where abortion on demand operates de facto. All this suggests that the law in New Zealand is very liberal law indeed.
I agree with Ms Caffrey that any debate about abortion should be honest and factual. It is not advanced by incorrectly reporting scientific data or by ignoring the increasing body of international evidence concerning the adverse consequences of abortion.
- Yours, etc,
Professor of Psychiatry, UCD,
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital,
Madam, - Louise Caffrey of Choice Ireland (July 12th) suggests a real and honest debate on the abortion topic should be based on fact. It is a matter of fact that all human life begins at the moment of conception. Human life should ideally end on this earth with natural death.
I think it is imperative that as a sovereign society we strive to maintain a basic respect for the preciousness of all human life.
When individuals advocate for legal abortion rights they qualify their respect for human life. They may respect some human life but not all of it. Individuals who advocate legal abortion rights cannot argue logically, or indeed morally, that they respect all human life.
- Yours, etc,
MARTIN J TIERNEY,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.