An Irish psychiatrist has said the Government inserted the mental health clause into proposed abortion legislation to “dupe the public” into thinking abortion will help mental health issues.
Dr Patricia Casey and 25 other psychiatrists released an open letter today saying it is “dishonest” to dub the proposed legislation ‘healthcare’.
They write: “Given the experience in the UK, we can confidently say that abortions taking place in this country after 12 weeks will be authorised under the ‘mental health’ ground.”
“As in the UK, there will be little or no justification for this in the great majority of cases.”
Head 4 of the proposed legislation allows for abortions up to viability, generally understood as 24 weeks, when two doctors certify that there is a risk of serious harm to the health of a pregnant woman. Under the terms of the scheme, ‘health’ is understood as referring to both physical and mental health.
Dr Casey cited the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges 2011 study ‘Induced abortion and mental health. A systematic review of the mental health outcomes of abortion, including their prevalence and associated factors’ in a press conference today, May 16.
The study was based on the research of Gilchrist 1996, Cougle 2005, Steinberg 2008 and Fergusson 2008. It found that: “When a woman has an unwanted pregnancy, rates of mental health problems will be largely unaffected whether she has an abortion or goes on to give birth.”
Dr Casey also discussed the UK Department of Health figures (2004) that found 97.4% of abortions in the UK are performed due to the risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the mother. Mental health risks constituted 99.8% of abortions under this clause.
The group of psychiatrists, named in the open letter, also expressed concern that the mental health clause would be used to “justify” aborting unborn babies with disabilities, including Down syndrome.
Dr Casey told The Irish Catholic she believed the proposed legislation included abortion on mental health grounds for two reasons.
“The first reason is they want to dupe the public into thinking this is a mental health issue. That abortion will help mental health problems and that women will seek abortion for mental health problems. So their trying to sell it as a healthcare issue.”
Secondly she said it was being introduced “to allow for more widely available abortion”.
Dr Casey challenged Simon Harris to debate the issue.