Referendum offers chance to make Ireland a better place for women - NWCI

The National Women's Council of Ireland says 25 May offers the chance to make Ireland a better place for the women in our lives.

The NWCI launched its "Who needs your Yes" campaign this morning to encourage voters around the country to think about the women in their lives when they are voting -writes

Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, chairperson of the NWCI, said there was an urgent need to focus on the women who need the 'Yes' vote.

A short film was played as part of the campaign featuring testimonies of family members of women who were forced to travel abroad for abortion care.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Health Simon Harris said there hadbeen an effort to "confuse, blur and create a fog of misinformation" during this campaign.

He said this is not a referendum about whether you are in favour of abortion; this is a referendum about facing up to the reality that Irish women and their partners face on a daily basis.

Mr Harris said that if a 'Yes' vote is passed in the referendum, the only thing that will change the day after is that the Eighth Amendment will not be in the Constitution.

He said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act will still remain the law of the land until the Oireachtas passes a new law.

Tess Murphy, from Longford Women's Link, said there were always reasons for women to look for an abortion and these were "personal, private and unique to each pregnancy".

She said: "We're being asked to move outside our comfort zone and accept that the reality is not black and white."

Meanwhile, GPs and nurses representing members of their professions who support a 'No' vote in the referendum have criticised Minister Harris for not consulting them about how the proposed law would work in the event of repeal.

They have described the lack of consultation as a "fatal oversight".

A press conference heard this morning that there hadbeen no impact assessment and no survey of hospitals over the service they may provide.

The GPs said that the Government was fatally over-estimating the impact of abortion pills in delivering the abortions that will be required, and pointedout that in the UK, almost 40% of all abortions before 12 weeks were surgical.

Using 'Yes' campaign figures of 5,000 abortions annually (3,500 UK abortions on Irish women, and 1,500 abortions with pills) this would translate to about 2,000 surgical abortions in Ireland in the first year of a new law.

Responding to the criticisms, the minister said a major summit of doctors, representing every county in Ireland, was held at the weekend calling for a 'Yes' vote.

He said there wouldbe plenty of time for engagement with medical colleges and representatives of nurses and doctors if the referendum was passed.

Additional reporting Ailbhe Conneely

Claire Byrne will present a special extended programme on the upcoming referendum tonight at 9.35pm on RTÉ One.

The programme will have a debate with leading campaigners from both sides and will also feature questions from the live studio audience of 200 people.

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