‘We should treat women who make the choice with compassion and respect’

“Women’s health (as well as their lives) are at risk in Ireland because of the Eighth Amendment” – that is the opinion of popular farming author, Lorna Sixsmith.

Speaking to AgriLand this week, the dairy farmer from Crettyard, Co. Carlow, openly stated that she is supportive of liberalising Ireland’s abortion laws – allowing legal termination up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without restriction.

The well-known author of ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’, ‘How to be a Perfect Farm Wife’, ‘An Ideal Farm Husband’ and the upcoming ‘Till the Cows Come Home: Memories of a Rural Child’ said there are “lots of reasons” why she holds this position.

“Irish women are going to the UK to have abortions. They are having to undergo extra expense and stress at a time that must already be horrendous,” she said.

If the Eighth is repealed, they will be more able to avail of more counselling – pre-decision and after termination – should they decide to go ahead. Let’s not forget that some women may need post-abortion medical treatment.

She highlights that having a termination is a very personal decision.

“Two women in very, very similar circumstances may make different decisions and that is personal to them. No one should be able to dictate what a woman does with her body in such circumstances.”

Discussion

Lorna said it is very important for families to discuss the issue – even with teenagers that are not old enough to vote – as it is “not a black and white debate”.

“There are lots of grey areas. Teenagers should be able to feel that their opinions are heard and taken into account in their parents’ decision to vote one way or the other. It is also something that could affect them in the very near future.

“Having spoken to our teenagers about it, both made pro-choice statements – that weren’t influenced by us – almost immediately,” she said.

Meanwhile, Eibhlin Murphy of Ballyhaunis-based Major Equipment – the agricultural machinery manufacturer – has also expressed her intention to vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment of the constitution when the referendum takes place in May or June this year.

It’s a very difficult decision; but, I believe women should have the choice. We should treat women who make this choice with compassion and respect.

“It’s an issue that needs to be discussed in every home. A huge number of women from rural Ireland are being forced to travel abroad to seek a termination and support year after year. As a country we can’t continue to treat our women this way,” she said.

A poll, published in today’s Irish Times, shows a majority of voters will support removing the Eighth Amendment and back the introduction of abortion on request up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

According to the Irish Times/MRBI opinion poll a clear majority of voters – 56% – said they would vote in favour of the constitution; with 29% not in favour. A total of 15% said they did not know or offered no opinion.

Recent department of health figures from the UK, show that 3,451 women gave an address in the Republic when attending clinics for a termination in England and Wales in 2015.

This figure equates to more than nine a day.

However, the statistic also represents an almost 50% fall in numbers travelling to the UK for a termination since peak levels in 2001.

In 2015, the largest number of women that travelled for the procedure were from Dublin (1,311), Cork (280), Galway (156) and Meath (141). A total of 833 women from Northern Ireland also made the journey.

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