'At what point when a woman is becoming unwell can you say it’s life-threatening?'

Dr Mark Murphy, Doctors for Choice, abortion rights Ireland

Abortion and the referendum in Ireland 

Dr Mark Murphy GP, Doctors for Choice

I qualified as a doctor 13 years ago and I've been involved in reproductive rights issues for about a decade. I got involved after I researched the experiences of Irish women in crisis pregnancy. I was so shocked it led me to join Doctors for Choice.

The constitutional prohibition of abortion, which is that recognizing that at any time after conception fetal products are equal in terms of rights to life than that of the pregnant woman, for Doctors created an impossible situation when managing severe clinical risk and illness in pregnant women. At what point when a woman is becoming unwell can you say it’s life-threatening?

In 2013 there was the Savita case. A happily pregnant woman who unfortunately miscarried at 18 weeks. The obstetric team treating her said that they could not act because there was a fetal heartbeat. She was bleeding and in pain and they said, ‘I'm sorry, the fetal heartbeat will stop and then we will act. Your illness is not real and substantial enough.’

Unfortunately, by the time the heartbeat stopped it was too late. Sepsis had kicked in and Savita died. It is undisputable and has been found to be the case in medical inquiries after the event, that the eighth amendment was a major contributory factor to her death.