The “Donegal Together for Yes” group has launched its Referendum Campaign at a public meeting in Ballybofey.

The Referendum on the Eighth Amendment will take place on Friday, May 25, 2018.

The panel of speakers at the “Donegal Together for Yes” event consisted of: Dr Peter Boylan (Chairperson, Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists); Kate O’Connell TD (Fine Gael member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment); and Dr Anna McHugh (Doctors Together for Yes).

Dr Peter Boylan said: “We believe the Eighth Amendment harms women and prevents us giving the care needed by women who have complex medical needs in pregnancy.

“Ireland was another country in 1983. I have colleagues who voted for the Eighth Amendment in good faith. Having seen the consequences, many tell me they never anticipated how it would work in practice. Given the opportunity, they tell me, they will vote Yes for Repeal.

“Manifestly the Eighth Amendment has not achieved the original aim of its supporters, which was to prevent abortion in Ireland. The vote for repeal is not a vote yes or no for abortion in Ireland, because it’s already here. Women in Ireland access abortion in one of two ways today, either they travel to another country or they buy pills online, illegally, and of no certainty as to their quality.

“These pills are safe and effective when taken under medical supervision, as is the case in virtually every other country in Europe. However, when they are taken without medical supervision there are significant risks,” said Dr Boylan.

Dr Boylan addressed the claim that abortion up to birth would be allowed.

He said: “Anything you hear people saying that there is going to be abortion right up until the time of birth is categorically untrue. And I know that is not contemplated in legislation.

“What is contemplated in legislation is that viability is the cut-off point at which, what is commonly known as abortion would be permitted in this country. Viability is 23 to 24 weeks and after that the birth would be induced.

“Abortion is a difficult issue. However, the time has come for us to deal with it ourselves in Ireland. Every other European country has found a solution which works for them. We can no longer rely on others. This is an Irish problem and we need an Irish solution. As a mature nation, it is time for us take responsibility ourselves and repeal the Eighth Amendment,” said Dr Boylan.

Kate O’Connell TD and pharmacist, speaking about the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment said: “The majority of the people on the committee understood that some change was needed and particularly the overwhelming sense was that dealing with rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality required constitutional change.

“After devoting hours upon hours to trying to address those specific cases it became apparent that, legally, removal of the Eighth Amendment was necessary in order to help people in those situations.

“Further to that, the expert medical and legal advice told us that proving or trying to force a woman to prove she had been raped would be in breach of her human rights and her right to dignity and privacy.”

“I have long spoken in my own party and publicly of this being to some extent a class issue, that women that have access to information, access to supports and are capable of going online and researching, those women are travelling now. We have the figures, and what the Eighth Amendment is currently doing in Ireland is actually forcing the most marginalised women in this country to travel. And I don’t believe that’s okay. And I don’t believe that Irish people think that’s okay,” said Ms O’Connell.

Dr Anna McHugh said the Eighth Amendment interfered in her relationship with her patients.

She added: “As a doctor it embarrasses and frustrates me that I still work in a country where it is regulated how I speak to pregnant women. The law enters my consultations with pregnant women, where it does not enter any other aspect of medicine.

“If I am in breach of this I can go to prison along with my patient. A sentence of this magnitude hanging over a consultation makes it more about that, and less about the living, breathing woman who is sitting in front of me.”

“For me it is not about winning, losing or sides. It is about patients. These patients are not just statistics. They are your daughters, wives, sisters, friends. Some of them may have found themselves in a difficult situation and still have not been able to tell you. That’s whose side I am on.”

“I don’t think you need to agree with abortion to vote yes. But I think if you have compassion and realise how complex life is. You may appreciate that the answer to each individual crisis is written in the heart of people suffering it, then you can consider voting yes,” said Dr McHugh.

“Donegal Together for Yes” believes once people inform themselves of the reality and facts about abortion in Ireland, they will realise the only caring and compassionate decision is to vote yes for change.

It will allow safe, regulated abortion healthcare to be provided in Ireland.

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