The Health Minister said today that the Government will not be carrying out an inquiry into the practice of symphysiotomy.
The medical procedure involves the breaking of a woman's pelvis during pregnancy or childbirth, and was carried out on some 1,500 Irish women between the 1950s and 1980s.
Earlier today, the group Survivors of Symphysiotomy called on the Minister to carry out an inquiry.
Read more: No inquiry into symphysiotomy, says Harney | BreakingNews.ie
The Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group today called for Health Minister Mary Harney to be sacked if she does not order an independent review of a controversial surgical procedure which left hundreds of women disabled.
Symphysiotomies were widely carried out in maternity units in Ireland between the early 1940s and the early 1980s. The procedure involves permanently widening the pelvis by surgically dividing the symphysis pubis, where the pubic bones come together.
The calls come following a Prime Time special on RTE last night which revealed that symphysiotomies were widespread here between 1944 and 1983. The programme also revealed that Ireland was the only country in the developed world where the procedure was widely practised in the 20th century.
At a press conference today organised by SOS, symphysiotomy was described as a "brutal and cruel treatment from the darkest ages", and the practice was described as "institutionalised abuse of women."
It is estimated it may have been carried out on around 1,500 women.
Around 111 women who were victims of symphysiotomy have come forward to date, and there are expected to be many more women suffering for years from the serious side effects of the procedure, which include extreme pain, incontinence and depression. Around 1,500 women are estimated to have had the procedure.
The SOS group claims the procedure was carried out in Ireland when it had long ceased in other countries. It is reported that it ceased in Holles Street Hospital in the mid-1960s, although there have been claims that it continued there until the early 1970s.
Symphysiotomies continued in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda until 1983.
It is believed that the procedure was encouraged by Catholic obstetricians as a birth-facilitating alternative to caesarean section, as it was believed that women facing repeated caesareans for future births might be tempted to use contraception.
'Harney should go on barbaric op issue'
Here we go.....Hareny won't allow an inquiry.
As a Minister for Health, I find mary harney, unbelievable. I wonder, at times, does she really know the meaning of the word 'health'.....it involves, care, compassion, healing, empathy......but all harney can say to these women, who were brutalised, is 'NO'.