Open Letter to TD Regina Doherty

As part of the *Tell a Fine Gael TD* Campaign, we’ve been encouraging people to use our template letters or write their own to tell the TD in question their opinions, demands, and thoughts about abortion legislation in Ireland. Angela Coraccio has been writing one open letter a day to the Fine Gael TDs we are focusing on. Below is her letter to Deputy Regina Doherty. It was originally posted on Angela’s blog where you can also find her other open letters.

Please join the campaign by contacting Fine Gael TDs to let them know we need accessible abortion in Ireland and what that means to you.

Dear Ms. Doherty,

You’ve stated publicly that “the State should act” to legislate for abortion in cases where a woman’s life is at risk and that you are “95% ready” to support a bill. I understand that there has been a lot of pressure coming at you from your party and from other interest groups to keep the status quo, and therefore I appreciate the courage it takes to oppose that pressure and do what you feel is right for women in Ireland.

As a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, you are in a particularly influential position to ensure that the Heads of Bill achieves its objectives. In order for that to happen, some important changes need to be made.

First of all, we can all agree that “the unborn” is not a medical term and should not be used in legislation meant to supply guidance for medical intervention. Secondly, the Heads of Bill requires an excessive number of medical opinions in every single case. The time and logistics involved in obtaining so many medical professionals’ verdicts will prohibit women from receiving timely medical care. In the case of risk to life from self-destruction, you have to be lucky enough to be somewhere registered by the Mental Health Commission where there happens to be an Ob/Gyn who can perform an abortion in addition to two psychiatrists. Do we even know how many such clinics exist in Ireland? The suicidal woman with mental illness is then faced with the degrading task of convincing three people of her suicidality. If one of them doesn’t believe her, she will be forced to endure the appeals process of repeating the experience, and will have to wait two weeks. The process is designed to force these women into suicide or travel. If the woman doesn’t have the means to travel, suicide it will likely be.

You seem to have compassion for X, Ms. Doherty, a girl who was impregnated by her rapist. Thousands of women are raped every year in Ireland, and approximately 7% of them become pregnant as a result. Women in these traumatic situations who become suicidal shouldn’t have to beg for mercy from up to six doctors to be treated in Ireland. They deserve to be listened to, respected, and cared for.

The proposal that women who are found guilty of self-aborting in the country (as opposed to traveling) will result in nothing short of a witch hunt. Furthermore, a 14 year jail sentence reflects a serious anti-woman agenda considering that male rapists in Ireland are convicted at the rate of 1% and generally spend less than 7 years in jail. I understand that anti-abortion lawmakers want to send a clear message that they don’t want abortion in Ireland, but at what cost? Many women, having self-induced a medical abortion (aka the “abortion pill”), will not pursue the necessary follow-up care for fear of prosecution. Incomplete abortions are rare, but they do occur. In those instances, lack of medical treatment can result in infertility and death.

In today’s Irish Independent, Enda Kenny is reported to have said that “the bill affirms, rather than weakens, Ireland’s general ban on abortion.” As it stands, he is correct. There are so many impediments in the bill that it will surely fail to protect the lives and rights of pregnant women. But that is surely not the intention set forth by the Oireachtas Health Committee and the rest of the Dail. At least, I hope not. The 92% of Irish people who want legislation on the X case ruling and the EU Court of Human Rights ruling are trusting you to act on our behalf. We hope you have the courage to stand against political pressure from your party and stand up for women in Ireland.


Angela Coraccio