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Posts Tagged ‘ Pro Life ’

A Year in Brief: Part Two

sineadandmiley

Part two of NIB’s yearly round-up because 2013 was just too good! (Read part one here).

Dublin’s new bridge, crossing the Liffey at Marlborough Street and connecting Luas lines on each side of the river, was on the lookout for a name. A list of 85 possibilities was suggested by the public which was then shortlisted by Dublin City Council to 17. Some suggestions in a comments thread on The Times website included: Bosco Bridge; Daniel Day Luas Bridge (nice); Da Plain People O’Ireland Bridge; Jedward Bridge; and NIB favourite, the Feckin’ Bridge. Continue reading

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News in Brief-Enda Dons Clown Pants As Author Rips Bono

endaSomeone’s been sending dirty nappies to Leinster House. It’s unclear to what this dirty protest relates or if it is the work of a group or individual. A Leinster House source commented: “We’re not too bothered by it.”

That is literally the end of that story. Continue reading

3 Day Oireachtas Committee on Abortion Begins Today

LHThe Oireachtas committee is today gearing up for 3 days of meetings, featuring expert legal and medical groups, to discuss the issue of abortion in Ireland. Pro-choice and pro-life organisations will also have an opportunity to lobby their cause. The issue has been propelled back onto center stage following the death of Savita Halapannavar in November. It has been an extremely divisive issue in this country for decades and because of governments precariously tip-toeing around the subject it has inevitably not been comprehensively addressed.

Topics of debate in the Oireachtas will centre on the legal issues of abortions in Ireland, on the medical aspect of the issue and the morality surrounding it. The imperative aim of the 3 day intensive meetings is to clear up the grey areas surrounding the legal facets of the eligibility, or lack-thereof, of seeking an abortion in Ireland. The law now states that abortion is illegal in Ireland. In Ireland abortion is currently prohibited under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person’s Act 1861.

Under Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees to respect the mother in national laws. The 1861 Act puts women and doctors in fear of criminal prosecution regarding abortion. In the X case in 1992, the Supreme Court held that abortion was lawful in Ireland, if there was a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother. No legislation regulating that right was ever enacted, a fact regretted by the Supreme Court in its 1992 Judgment.

Each day the committee will hear the arguments and evidences from the respective parties involved; today (08/01/13) the medical advisors will be heard in the Oireachtas. The committee will hear from the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Council in the morning. The second and third sessions will involve medical evidence from expert medical doctors from hospitals around the country. The fourth and final session will entail advice from Niall Behan, CEO of the Irish Family Planning Association, The Institute of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and advice from Maternal Death Inquiry Ireland.

The Oireachtas will then hear evidence and advice regarding the legislation surrounding the issue of abortion in Ireland. The day will be a rigorous one because of the contentious debate around the legality of seeking an abortion and the contentious court cases that have rocked Ireland in the recent decades, most recently in 2010. Back in 2010 3 women went to the European Court of Human Rights with a complaint about the grey area surrounding the eligibility of seeking an abortion in Ireland. The 3 women had traveled to the UK to seek an abortion for reasons of health and/or well-being as it was unclear whether any of them were eligible for one in Ireland. The motion was brought to the ECHR over 2 years ago and the question remains why it was put on the back burner instead of being addressed there and then. The aims of the day will undoubtedly be to clear up the muddied waters and provide concise advice about further legislation.

The final day of the proceedings sees religious groups, pro-life groups and pro-choice groups have their say. Various Christian sects, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Ireland and the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference, take up the vast majority of the morning session, with the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland and Atheist Ireland (a very late addition) offered the chance of submitting advice. Atheist Ireland were only recently invited by the Health Committee to attend the session and a post on their website states that, “Ideally, there should be no need to hear any specifically religious or nonreligious ethical views, but if they are hearing religious ethical views, then they should also hear nonreligious ethical views.” The decision to invite the group will be a bone of contention for the other religious groups in attendance, as they see the moral landscape of the issue of abortion as primarily religious. The group hopes to put forward their views regarding the issue from a humanist and a secular perspective:

Our policy is that society should address ethical issues based on human rights and compassion, and applying reason to empirical evidence, and not on religious doctrines; and that individual ethical decisions should where possible be made on the basis of personal autonomy and individual conscience, while not infringing on the rights of others… Also, as one example, Roman Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady has recently asked people to tell their public representatives that the right to life is conferred on human beings by ‘the creator’. We want to explain why we believe the Government should not legislate or regulate on the basis of imposing such theological ideas on citizens who do not share them.

Although the group rejects the general decision to seek advice from religious groups the Atheist population will be glad that they have been asked to contribute to this contentious debate.

The final 2 sessions of the day will encompass advice from pro-life and pro-choice groups, and will hear advice and evidence from the Director of Action on X, a group that have been actively campaigning for the government to legislate on this issue. The decision to split the days up into medical, legal and ‘moral’ is a telling one. It illustrates the tendency in this country to afford religious groups the sole right to moralize for the rest of us; the first day is medical, the second legal and the third ‘moral’. The group Atheist Ireland would contend that the moral landscape of the question should be addressed within the legal and medical framework, and should not be afforded to religious groups.

Enda Kenny recently said that Fine Gael remains a ‘pro-life’ political party. The majority of Fine Gael backbenchers maintain that Ireland will remain a country in which abortion is illegal but they face a backlash from the Irish public who were outraged when Savita Halappanavar died in November. The public show of solidarity with Savita’s husband and the general indignation that this could happen in our country in the 21st century was wholly apparent. If Fine Gael stubbornly insist upon a pro-life stance following the reaction of the public they look set to drop in popularity. Popularity among the coalitionists is low following the budget in December and this will only cause Fine Gael a further setback. However, if Labour manages to push through with their goals regarding abortion here in Ireland it might give them a much-needed boost. Support for Labour is waning following their poor efforts to halt Fine Gael cutting benefits in the recent budget.

Ireland And Abortion : A History Of Silence…

 Where were you on February 23 1992? Me, I was three years old and more than likely playing with my prized collection of Barbie dolls blissfully unaware of the court case that was rocking the Irish nation.

The case I’m referring to is of course The X Case and February 23 is the day the chaos eventually came to an end with the Supreme Court ruling (after a long and hardy battle) that a pregnant and suicidal fourteen year old was in fact entitled to an abortion.

Previous to this only the physical health of the mother was taken into account when deciding whether or not she was entitled to an abortion but this ruling meant that for the first time ever a woman’s mental health as well as the very real threat of suicide would also be taken into consideration.

Today, twenty years since that judgement was first handed down, I’m sorry to say Irish women are still waiting for the legislation that will allow them access to life-saving terminations.

Here, I take a look at what is perhaps the most controversial and divisive topic of our time; abortion and the Irish Governments damning history of silence…

The X Case

The X Case is without a doubt one of the most controversial and closely followed legal battles in the history of the state. Not only did it spark outrage and debate amongst Irish citizens but it also drove thousands of people – both pro choice and pro life – to demonstrations across the country.

It all began in December 1991 when a fourteen year old girl known only as X was raped by a man known to her and her family. Just one month later, following a bout of illness which forced the girl to visit her local GP, both her and her parents were informed that she had in fact become pregnant. It was then that the youth finally broke down and admitted that her attacker had been sexually abusing her for two years.

Immediately the attack and the years of abuse were reported to local Gardai and investigations began. Meanwhile, unable to tolerate the thought of carrying to full term her rapists child the fourteen year old and her parents decided it would be best for her to travel to England in order to undergo an abortion. Before doing so however they asked Gardai if the foetus could be tested in order to provide proof of paternity as the accused was denying all responsibility. The Gardai then asked The Director of Public Prosecutions if this evidence would be admissible in court who in turn contacted The Attorney General Henry Whelehan who immediately sought an injunction under Article 40.3.3 of the constitution – at the time this put the unborn child’s right to life on equal footing with that of the mother – which barred the teenager and her parents from leaving the country or terminating the pregnancy. Already in England the family were then forced to return to Ireland.

The first injunction barring the girl from leaving the state only lasted until February 10th at which point her case was then tried in front of Justice Costello. Despite hearing testimony from a clinical psychologist who felt the girl was at high risk for suicide and from her distraught mother who related how her teenage daughter had admitted wanting to throw herself down a flight of stairs and even considered throwing herself under a train while in London, Justice Costello eventually decided that the right to life of the unborn child should not be interfered with and ruled that the defendant must be restrained from leaving Ireland for a period of nine months.

“The evidence also establishes that if the court grants the injunction sought there is a risk that the defendant may take her own life. But the risk that the defendant may take her own life, if an order is made, is much less and of a different order of magnitude than the certainty that the life of the unborn will be terminated if the order is not made.”

Determined to see what they believed was justice served the defendant and her parents immediately sought an appeal from the Supreme Court. The teenagers legal team argued that the High Court judge was “wrong in law” in finding that the danger to the life of the mother was less than the danger to the life of the unborn.

On the final day of proceedings the Supreme Court judge ruled that the decision of the High Court should be set aside and the youngster was permitted to undergo an abortion. It is understood, however, that while awaiting termination the girl suffered a miscarriage.

Interesting to note is the fact that the victim’s perpetrator was tried, jailed, and eventually had his sentence severely reduced on appeal only to go on to kidnap and sexually assault another teenager in 1999.

The Referendum

As a direct result of The X Case and the Supreme Courts ruling the Irish Government put forward three possible amendments to the Constitution in a referendum. These amendments were known as the 12th, 13th and 14th amendments.

The 12th amendment asked to remove suicide as grounds for abortion, the 13th amendment asked that women should have the right to travel outside the state for abortion and finally the 14th amendment asked that information about abortion should be made available in the State.

Given that we are constantly hearing how severely opposed to abortion the people of Ireland – such a devout Catholic country – are you would expect that the 12th amendment passed where the 13th and 14th failed. In actuality the opposite is true.

History Is Forced To Repeat Itself

Despite the results of these referenda, the Irish Government did not act on them, and in 1997 history repeated itself with The C Case. This time a thirteen year old girl was forced to delay the termination the courts eventually declared she was fully entitled to in line with her basic human rights and in light of the X case ruling.

Instead of tackling the issue then and granting the Irish people what they had already asked for in the previous referendum the government engaged in what many critics have called “delay tactics,” commissioning more reports and expert committees on the subject. This continued until 2002 when then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, held another referendum asking what was essentially the same question as that of the failed referendum of 1992 – should we remove the threat of suicide as grounds for abortion. A decade later the Irish public issued the same answer, no. Once again they voted to support the X Case decision. Regrettably despite this, the second vote on the issue, legislation was still not forthcoming. Having yet again failed to address the issue of abortion the Irish Government ensured that women in need of what are in many cases life saving operations would not have access to them here in Ireland – Baffling considering the Supreme Courts ruling concerning the X case and indeed the two referendums in which the Irish public voted in favour of termination if and when the mothers life is in danger.

Dr Mark Murphy who has carried out and published extensive research into the States abortion crisis has found countless cases in which mothers threatened by a real and substantial risk to their lives were ultimately forced to travel abroad for a termination of their pregnancy. Dr Murphy found that 9% of GPs had managed a patient with a life threatening medical condition (including but not limited to cancer patients who required abortions in order to avail of chemotherapy, women with severe cardiovascular disease and those at severe psychiatric risk such as rape victims) however he recorded only one instance of an Irish doctor performing a termination in an Irish hospital – in the case of severe preeclampsia.

Savita Halappanavar

While I do not intend to belittle the pain and trauma suffered by these women who had to fight so hard simply to access the medical care that would allow them a chance at life perhaps the most shocking and heartbreaking case of all is that of Savita Halappanavar a woman who critics of Ireland’s antiquated and draconian abortion regime have dubbed a “martyr to the political cowardice” of our government. Savita, you see, did not have the opportunity to take her case to the courts.

If the X case gripped the nation twenty years ago then it is the tragic tale of Savita Halappanavar that is all but consuming the people of Ireland today. Two weeks ago Mrs Halappanavar who was 17 weeks pregnant and suffering intense back pain was admitted to Galway University Hospital where it was soon discovered that she was in fact miscarrying. As time went on it became clear that the child she was carrying would not survive and both Savita and her husband were made aware of this. Now in terrible pain Savita requested – on numerous occasions – a medical termination as did her husband Praveen only to be told that nothing could be done for her as a fetal heartbeat could still be detected. Having further questioned the hospitals decision the couple were then informed that an abortion could not be carried out as Ireland was a “catholic country”

Eventually, following three more days of agony in which the couple repeatedly begged for a termination doctors finally agreed to remove the remains of the fetus. Sadly, it was just days before Mrs Halappanavar showed signs of severe septicemia (this occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream) which later proved to be fatal and at 1.10 a.m. on October 28 the 31 year old was pronounced dead.

It is understood that had the fetus been removed earlier the life of this woman, a beloved wife and daughter, could have been saved. Multiple investigations into Savita’s tragic and seemingly needless death are currently being carried out. This, however, will do little to ease the troubles of Mr Halappanavar a man who lost both his unborn child and wife within a matter of days.

Medical Confusion

As difficult as this may be for some to hear the Irish government’s failure to create definitive legislate concerning the issue of abortion is not only unfair to the women of the country but all those in the medical profession. Doctors want to provide safe and effective care for patients but legislation is required in order for them to provide that care. In other words they need clear guidelines for managing difficult situations such as that of Mrs Halappanavar’s. Addressing the nations current stance on abortion Dr Murphy said “To delineate and categorise those medical conditions on each side of that nebulous line between ill health and life threatening illness is difficult.” Personally I would be of the opinion that it is just too difficult. When it comes to matters of life and death I think we can all agree that the last thing we need is “grey areas”

Of course this is where our politicians and legislators are supposed to step in and provide legal clarity but even now despite rulings from the Supreme Court, referendum results, the European Court of Human Rights ruling that the Irish State is continuing to breach the human rights of every woman in the country due to their failure to implement a legislative or regulatory framework outlining their abortion rights, and countless medical professionals leaving them in no doubt as to what is required those in power have failed to take action and ultimately failed to protect the women of Ireland and their families.

Enough

Just what is it that our leaders are waiting for? Another fourteen year old rape victim to test her rights within the courts? A desperately ill cancer patient to beg for a shot at life or perhaps another unnecessary death such as that of Savita Halappanavar? The people have spoken and they have said, enough. We have had enough of the antiquated and draconian notion that a living breathing woman’s right to life is valued even below that of an unviable fetus, enough of exporting dying women to England in order to undergo the lifesaving abortions they should have access to within their own country, enough of women like Savita dying needlessly and others in similar situations enduring days of agony simply because this is a “catholic country.” Yes, we the people of Ireland have had enough.

A debate is scheduled to take place in The Dail today – Wednesday 28th of November – let’s hope a real effort is made to eliminate medical confusion and find a solution to the abortion crisis in our country. Maybe then the almost 21 year wait will somehow seem worth it.

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