Thousands are expected to gather at the annual Rally for Life on Saturday, where speakers will urge the government to take action to tackle "surging abortion numbers" after new figures show that 8,156 abortions took place in 2022.
The pro-life gathering takes place in the context of what organisers describe as a "steep and disturbing" rise in the number of abortions taking place in Ireland - and the introduction of legislation which would see the law radically expanded to allow abortion until 6 months gestation.
Dr Trevor Hayes, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, will tell the Rally that he felt the abortion review process was an attempt to bully pro-life doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals - and that many medics would leave medicine rather than perform abortions.
"Now, we have an abortion review process that is seeking to bully Irish pro-life doctors and nurses," the OBGYN will tell the Rally for Life.
"We are told that doctors and nurses should be informed at interview that contracts of employment will specify that it is mandatory to carry out abortions when requested – and that they would be fired if they refused."
"At a time when our maternal health care services are stretched to breaking point, does the Minister think a bullying tactic like this is going to work?" he will ask.
Does he think that the public would agree with the contention that badly-needed doctors and nurses will be fired if they won’t carry out abortions? The answer is obvious. They would not," the consultant obstetrician will say.
"Apart from the fact that it would be a wholly discriminatory and entirely unethical path for the Department of Health to take, this would also drive many excellent medical professionals away from the health service."
"Is that what the Minister wants? Is his support for abortion so absolute that he would deny excellent doctors and nurses employment – and deny women essential care – rather than respect every person’s right to act according to their conscience?"
"The vast majority of Irish doctors do not carry out abortions – nor do they want to," he will tell the thousands expected at the Rally for Life.
"We know that abortion isn’t healthcare. Any act that ends a life isn’t healthcare. Healthcare is life-saving, not life-ending. Abortion doesn’t serve women. It’s a sign that we haveabsolutely failed them."
"So the Minister for Health needs to understand this: if hebelieves that he can bully pro-life doctors and nurses into performing abortions, he is absolutely wrong. It is not going to happen."
"We will not be forced into performing abortions and – this is a message to the Minister - many of us would rather leave medicine than be involved in abortion, a procedure that is never necessary, is never part of healthcare, and that helps neither mother nor child."
Billed as the biggest pro-life event of the year, the Rally packs O'Connell Street each year before hearing from speakers at Custom House Quay.
"We now know that the abortion numbers jumped 22% last year," Rally for Life spokeswoman Megan Ní Scealláin said. "There were 8,156 abortions in 2022 - up from an estimated 6700 the previous year. This rise is both steep and deeply disturbing - and it's also heartbreaking."
"Are women being led to believe that abortion is the only option?" she asked. "The numbers are a shocking indictment of the government's failure to support women. Yet they are doing nothing to tackle this appalling rise in the abortion numbers."
She said that the government needed to take urgent action to tackle the spiralling abortion rate - and that it was "almost beyond belief that a strategy that would increase the abortion rate further was instead being considered".
"We're seeing calls for the 3-day wait before abortion to be scrapped - even though about 4,000 women between 2019-2022 did not return for an abortion after the 3 day period of reflection," she said.. "Why would anyone want to increase the number of abortions? Why not give women time to think - and help women to have their babies instead?"
Ms Ní Scealláin said it was also concerning to see government Ministers voting in favor of a bill proposed by Bríd Smith TD which would legalise abortion on demand right up to 6 months gestation.
"We were told abortion would be rare and that there would be safeguards - and now we're seeing rocketing rates of abortion and a rush to expand the abortion law even further," she said. "There have been more than 30,000 abortions in Ireland so far - more than the population of Kilkenny city."
She said that the many thousands attending the Rally would return with leaflets and posters for local campaigns which would urge voters to contact TDs in relation to Ms Smith's bill and the retention of the 3-day wait.
Amongst the other speakers at the Rally for Life 2023, will be activist Isabel Vaughen Spruce who was arrested and charged for the 'thought crime' of silently praying in her head at an abortion clinic in Britain. The arrest made national news and a video of police cautioning Isabel went globally viral. She has now been formally acquitted, and she will encourage those attending the Rally to continue to make their voices heard for a better answer than abortion for both mother and child.
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