Why the IMO Abortion Votes Don’t Matter

Recently the Irish Medical Organisation held its 2013 AGM in Killarney, Kerry. During proceedings three votes were held relating to abortion and support of legislation, all of which were defeated. While this is certainly a disappointing result, anti-choice groups are using it as a victory to portray the incorrect view that Irish doctors do not support legislation for abortion.

The reality is that the voting was not representative of the medical community, and therefore the results of the votes don’t really matter. Here’s why.The three motions proposed by Dr Mary Favier were:

38. This meeting calls on the IMO to support regulation in relation to the provision of abortion services where there is a “real and substantial risk” to the life of the mother.

39. The IMO calls on the Government to legislate for women who become pregnant as a result of a criminal act that they would be allowed access to legal termination within Ireland.

40. The IMO calls on the Government to legislate for the provision of abortion services for women who are pregnant with non-viable fetal anomalies who choose to proceed with an abortion.

The first motion (motion 38) dealt with legislation for the X Case, and was defeated by 42 to 32. I’m looking for the results of the other two motions (get in touch if you know what they were!), but as they were defeated also, it’s probably fair to say that they had similar results.

First of all, motion 38 is already outlined in the Irish Medical Council Guidelines relating to abortion (page 21). Is it not a bit strange that doctors would vote effectively against their own guidelines?

However, as I already said, the voting was not representative of the community of doctors in Ireland. There’s no need for me to explain the difficulties in practising doctors to travel to Kerry from all over the country for a conference when it would demand several days leave from their busy profession. It makes sense to me that the attendees were doctors who were readily available to travel: doctors from the locality, and retired doctors. Of course, I could be wrong on that.

So anyway, all we know from this meeting is that 42 doctors are against abortion. How many doctors are there in this country? Over 18,000.

Not counting abstentions, if 74 people voted, they make up only 0.4% of the doctors in Ireland. 0.2% of doctors are therefore definitely against abortion. In reality, this number will be higher, but the point is that a defeated motion by 42 doctors is not the victory that certain anti-choice groups make it out to be.

You can be sure, though, that such people will conveniently blinker themselves and ignore these facts, congratulate themselves on an imaginary “victory”, all in an ongoing effort to try to deny women the humane healthcare they need.