'We knew patients might want a termination and we had to say, ‘we can't help you’.'

Dr Cliona Murphy, abortion rights Ireland,

Abortion and the referendum in Ireland 

Dr Cliona Murphy, Consultant obstetrician gynaecologist

During my medical training abortion really didn't enter the sphere. Like most Irish people I accepted it wasn’t part of our culture. We knew patients might want a termination and we had to say, ‘we can't help you’. I never really questioned that.

That changed once I became a consultant. You see people in very difficult situations and you know that in obstetrics and gynaecology everything isn't black and white.

I recall one patient who had a scan with a devastating diagnosis. Here were a couple who would never have imagined themselves wanting a termination but dealing with a situation where they needed to. I saw the toll it took on them.

I also met patients looking for what was called a ‘social termination, which has connotations of unnecessary or poorly thought out. And yet when you delve down into a patient’s social circumstances I would not want to walk in their shoes. If you’ve lost a job, lost rent allowance, have small children to look after and are desperately trying to keep your head above water and then an unplanned pregnancy comes into it, it can be the final straw that breaks someone.

I certainly came across people who I felt were suicidal and yet there could be a difference of medical opinion on how suicidal. All this splitting of hairs over how sick somebody needed to be to have a termination. The process was horrendous. And for a doctor there was always the spectre of the law behind your back if you did the wrong thing.