Further to reports that Communicorp’s Group Political Editor and Newstalk host Chris Donoghue is to leave the radio after 14 years to become a special adviser to Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney…
From top: Dr Peter Boylan and Dr Meabh Ní Bhuinneain at Leinster House for the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Committee meeting yesterday; Dr Boylan at Newstalk this morning
On The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.
Dr Peter Boylan, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and former master of the National Maternity Hospital, was interviewed.
It followed a vote last night by the Oireachtas Committee on the 8th Amendment to remove the 8th amendment from the constitution.
It was the first vote taken by the committee – with 15 members voting Yes, three voting No and two members, Fianna Fail’s James Browne and Anne Rabbitte, abstaining.
Professor Boylan also addressed the committee yesterday evening.
Towards the end of the Newstalk interview, Mr Kenny read out some texts that came into the show.
‘A mother’s life is in danger: I was that mother, 27 years ago. At 24 weeks’ gestation, my blood pressure went through the roof. I had pre-eclampsia and toxaemia. My consultant contacted my husband and said he had to do a C-section and his exact words were ‘otherwise, we will lose your wife’. Unfortunately our little baby died.
Boylan: “Yes, and that’s exactly what happens. We would deliver a baby at 24 weeks and a full panoply of intensive care from the neonatal team would be instituted and I, all of us, practicing obstetricians, have experience with that sort of situation. That’s not a termination of pregnancy…”
Kenny: “Yeah, I was just going to say, that would actually be permitted, presumably, under the 8th amendment because there’s a distinct risk to the life of the mother and both will die, therefore, you make the choice to save one.”
Boylan: “But you’re also…no, not a choice to save one. You save the mother and, in the course of delivering a baby at 24 weeks, you make every effort to save that baby also and, nowadays, viability is regarded as 24 weeks in this country. So, that’s the situation.”
Kenny: “This one: ‘Peter Boylan is an ardent abortion campaigner. He fails to mention that the law in Ireland changed after Savita. The 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act gave absolute clarity to doctors that they can intervene to save the life of a pregnant woman, even at the cost of the life of the baby’.”
Boylan: “Well, the problem with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is that there’s no guidance as to how sick a woman has to be and also the woman doesn’t have any input into that decision. We discuss everything with her obviously but, it’s, she can’t say ‘look I’m worried that I’m going to die’ and we say, ‘no, actually, you’re not really at risk of death, yet. When you get to be at risk of death, then we will intervene.’ Now that’s a highly unsatisfactory way to practice medicine.”
Kenny: “The law says that you have to wait until, in your judgement, there is…”
Boylan: “And if we get the judgement wrong, either the mother dies or we’ve committed a criminal offence in this country. That’s unfortunately the reality.”
Kenny: “So not only do you want the 8th repealed but you also want the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act changed?”
Boylan: “Well, if proper legislation is introduced then the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act would be just part of that legislation and we would be able to intervene, continue to intervene, but also for other reasons as the Citizens’ Assembly suggested.”
Kenny: “‘Professor Boylan has no advantage. Everybody knows Savita died of septicaemia via E.coli. Can Mr Boylan explain in detail how an abortion would have saved her?'”
Boylan: “She did die of sepsis and there’s no question that there were deficiencies in her care, I’ve never denied that, I’ve never tried to say that was not the case. Of course she died of septicaemia, she wouldn’t have got septicaemia if her uterus was empty and any practicing doctor knows that and anybody who claims otherwise is really not telling the truth.”
Kenny: “This one, Martin. ‘The 2013 legislation dealt with the Savita-type cases already, nothing to do with the 8th amendment.'”
Boylan: “Well, I mean anybody who has, any doctor who has read her chart, myself and [Sabaratnam] Arulkumaran, an internationally respected expert, have come to a different conclusion and the conclusion is, if she had had a termination of pregnancy, we wouldn’t even know her name, we wouldn’t know anything about her, she would be down in Galway, probably with a young family.”
Kenny: “‘Ask the professor, does he accept the figure of 100,000 lives saved by the 8th amendment.'”
Boylan: “No, I don’t. If we didn’t have easy access to termination of pregnancy in the UK, we would probably have an awful lot of maternal deaths and we would not have had any saving of any lives, at all.”
Kenny: “The committee you said was attentive yesterday but we know there was at least, there was, there were three people who voted against but two people in particular have been outspoken in their unhappiness with the committee and that’s Senator Ronan Mullen and Mattie McGrath TD. Do you anticipate that this will become as divisive and bitter as some of the previous campaigns have been?”
Boylan: “I think as the tide turns and as people see the logic and the reasonableness of repealing the 8th amendment and introducing legislation in this country, I think it probably will get quite nasty.”
Newstalk has confirmed that George Hook has been suspended from his duties at the station. The process regarding his comments last week is ongoing. It came after the comments were condemned by groups such as the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI). On Monday, George Hook offered a “profound apology” for his recent comments about rape. Newstalk last week issued an unreserved apology for the comments. Managing Editor Patricia Monahan said that comments made were “totally wrong and inappropriate and should never have been made.”
“We the undersigned wish to express our utter repudiation of the views expressed by George Hook on High Noon last Friday.
We also wish to express our profound disappointment with management in Communicorp at their failure to deal with this issue swiftly and decisively.
The longer George Hook remains on air, the more reputational damage this station will suffer: damage that will unfairly reflect on the hardworking and professional staff at Newstalk.
Misogyny should never be normalised, and we call upon management at Communicorp to defend the reputation of the station and the reputation of the staff at Newstalk by removing Mr Hook.”
The text of a letter signed by ‘up to 20 members of staff’ at Newstalk
Sharon O’Halloran, CEO of Safe Ireland, which works with women and children affected by domestic violence, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland:
“George Hook doesn’t stand alone in his opinions and what we have in this country is about 10% of women who experience sexual violence are reporting it so they’re afraid to come forward because they feel that they won’t be believed or that their needs won’t be met when they do that so we have a problem and, you know, George Hook doesn’t stand alone in this and we have to work much harder to change culture in this country to address this issue.
I think you can hear over the comment the last week, since this story broke in the first place, there’s a lot of people, you know, agreeing with George Hook, but I think what I want to say is, there’s an awful lot of people that don’t agree with George Hook. And what I can see is change has already happened in this country.
Ten years ago, if George Hook made these comments, there probably wouldn’t be any reaction at all. Today there’s huge reaction.
“There’s a huge mass of people saying ‘this is unacceptable, we don’t want this on our watch’. We want to ensure that there is not victim blaming in this country and that we take the issues of rape and sexual assault seriously.
So this is hopeful, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t got an awful lot more to do. We do and we need leadership around this.
And I do commend the Dalata Hotel Group for actually taking that leadership.
“It’s leadership like that that enables the rest of us to have the courage to stay with saying ‘this is unacceptable and not on our watch’.
“And there are other sponsors as well, on Newstalk, that really need to reflect on where they’re at in this position and it would do them no harm to act with the Dalata Group and stand for what they want to see in society which is a society that is safe for women and children.
His apology is welcome but, you know, you could ask if it’s too late. I mean I do think that it’s coming to a point where I think his position is untenable within Newstalk.
But that’s, also, within Newstalk, in terms of their own leadership around this issue, have a lot to answer for.
They’re a news station that from 7am to 7pm in the day have no female voices on the radio. So in terms of leadership and in terms around equality and human rights, I think they have a few questions to answer themselves.
So I do welcome his apology but, you know, there’s been damage done as a result of a key leader on a national broadcast saying what he did say last Friday.”