Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews

Ireland’s eighth amendment: I want to care for women, not abandon them

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 16 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2111
  1. Mary Higgins, obstetrician
  1. National Maternity Hospital, University College Dublin, Ireland
  1. mhiggins{at}

On 25 May, Ireland will vote on whether to repeal the eighth amendment, which upholds the republic’s strict abortion laws. Mary Higgins explains why she’s hoping for change

Abortion is illegal in Ireland in all but the most restricted of circumstances, being allowed only where the risk to a woman’s life from a mental or physical illness “can be averted by carrying out the medical procedure.” Women with a fetal anomaly, women pregnant because of rape, women with dreadful social circumstances, women whose medical condition is “not serious enough,” and all other women have, essentially, three options: to travel to another jurisdiction, to find abortion drugs illegally and take them without medical supervision, or to continue with the pregnancy.

I have been the doctor who has turned to a couple and said, “I have something to tell you,” and watched their faces change, dreading what I will say next. For some of the women whose …

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