X Marked The Spot


90098985Professor William Binchy (top) and Justice Adrian Hardiman (above)


From March 1992, a piece written by Adrian Hardiman SC (Supreme Court Judge since 2000) in the Sunday Independent on the X case and Pro Life Campaign legal advisor William Binchy.

Anti-abortion extremists are demanding a further referendum to turn the clock back in a drastic way. Their position is both obscurantist and less than honest.

The first thing to be said about this group is that their legal thinking is demonstrably unreliable. They were warned in 1983 that the wording of the amendment was, in the words of the then Attorney General, “ambiguous and unsatisfactory”. They insisted that it was perfect. They now wish to change it again.

They were expressly warned, by this writer amongst others, that the amendment could be used to prevent women from travelling. They scoffed at the idea or pretended to do so, and called it scaremongering. This is precisely what happened and (without the amended protocol) what could happen again.

In recent weeks this group has loudly proclaimed that it does not wish to interfere with the right to travel. If this is true, it is a death-bed conversion. It was not apparently their view a few months ago when the original protocol was negotiated.

Worse still there is ample evidence that this group positively envisaged the use of penal sanctions, including imprisonment, against Irish women who had abortions abroad. In 1981 Professor-elect William Binchy wrote the first article I am aware of suggesting a referendum on abortion. If passed, he foresaw that injunctions could be granted to restrain a pregnant woman from travelling abroad for an abortion.

He continued “. . . if the consequences of defying an injunction were made absolutely clear to the defendant, this might (have some effect. These consequences are indeed awesome. The defendant would be in contempt of court — for which commital to prison is the penalty: moreover an action for damages would also lie for ‘destruction of the child’s constitutional right to life: One must be realistic here. A woman threatened with such sanctions (could well decide to stay in England after her abortion rather than come back to prison in Ireland’ (emphasis added). (Binchy: Ethical issues in Reproductive Medicine: A legal perspective”) published by Gill and Macmillan 1982.

In the same article the Professor-elect declared that-the “simple legal solution” might be to make it a criminal offence to have an abortion anywhere in the world.

He said “for our legislation now to provide that it should be illegal to have an abortion abroad would therefore not be changing what since 1861 has been the intended effect of our abortion law: on the contrary it would do no more than restore the position in light of legislative developments elsewhere over which we have no control”.

He continued by asking whom precisely the law would cover. Answering his own question he said, “Obviously it should not extend, for, example, to an English woman residing in England who had a perfectly legal abortion there. If she came to Ireland for a visit some time later, she should scarcely be hauled off to Mountjoy for what she had done.

“It would seem that the law should be limited to persons with a close connection with Ireland at the time of the commission of the offence. Such persons could include those who are habitually resident here or, more restrictively. Irish nationals who are habitually resident here.”

Via Oireachtas Retort

Previously: And So It Came To Pass

Not So Fast

Just William

“Our Values Are Considerably More Subtle Than You Might Think.”

Senior Moment

He Hasn’t Changed A Day

Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

23 thoughts on “X Marked The Spot

  1. Starina

    and the true face of anti-choicers is revealed. no wonder emigration is so high – one gets the impression that Ireland wants to act as a giant prison for its people…like a controlling mother clutching her children so tightly they suffocate.

      1. Lorcan Nagle

        I know a number of women who’ve expressed deep concern about having babies here, so it wouldn’t surprise me.

        (usual caveat that the plural of anecdote is not data)

  2. aubrey

    Fu … king hell. We must demand a referendum and every right-thinking person should come out and vote these nutjobs into the oblivion they deserve.

  3. Zynks

    What I don’t get is how these nutjobs get such disproportionate airtime and attention from government. It is as if the far right conservative section of society is deeply rooted in all the influential positions that control our ability to progress.

    1. Medium Sized C

      Maybe it isn’t disproportionate.

      Maybe the reason consecutive governments have ignored the situation or worsend the situation is because they are afraid dealing with it will errode their vote base too much.
      Because there is more of them.
      And the media are giving them more attention because there are more active people enforcing their side.

      Maybe the people posting about uteruses on Twitter are actually the vocal minority.
      And the disproportionate amount of attention is being given who believe in the right to exercise ones own choice and not to have these horrors inflicted upon them.

      1. Lorcan Nagle

        According to last year’s Ipsos MRBI poll in the Irish Times, the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland now support a woman’s right to choose abortion at least in the cases of risk to life (89%), risk to health (78%), fatal fetal abnormality (83%) and rape and abuse (81%)..

        So no, they’re not a majority. They are, however a vocal minority and one who tends to vote more than other demographics. They also have a lot more money to promote their cause and to lobby.

        We’re working to change as much of that as we can.

        1. Medium Sized C

          With respect to yourself, fupp IPSOS, fupp the irish times, fupp polls and fupp statistics.

          This stuff is happening, despite statistics, polls, IPSOS and any irrelevant bullshit you care to suggest.
          These people are getting profile because they are active.
          The rest are posting angry words in comments sections and twitter.

          Unless tomorrows protest is the biggest the country has seen, and is followed by a meaningful swell of activism that the media cannot ignore then I refuse to believe that anyone bar a handful of small activist groups really give a shite.

          Politicians are not afraid of what remaining half assed on this will do to their vote.
          Just as they never feared what not legislating properly for the X case would do untill after the Savita Hallappanavar debacle broke and even at that they significantly feared what legislating would do to them that they introduced what is effectively an inquisition.

          Polls are meaningless compared to action.
          There is no action.

          1. Lorcan Nagle

            Hey, I agree with you. I’m just saying they are a minority of the population. No arguement that they punch above their weight, and it’s sickening that Cora Sherlock gets asked for soundbites while nobody from ARC, Realproductive Health, AIMES or any of the other pro-choice activist groups are.

            And we are working to change that. But there’s only so much we can do when we don’t have the money or social inertia behind us like they do.

          2. Zynks

            You have a point there.

            I am going tomorrow, and might take my 6 y.o. daughter. I don’t want her growing up in a country that treats her as a second class citizen, I want change.

            My only concern about taking the daughter are the nutjobs trying to disrupt the protest.

          3. Lorcan Nagle

            We’re going to have stewards on-site in high-viz jackets, so if you feel like you have a problem, find one and we’ll help you out.

          4. Llareggub

            Zynks, if it’s anything like the Savita march, there were a couple of wing nuts dotted here and there along O’Connell Street but the mood amongst the walkers was so sombre and respectful that they just looked silly and ridiculous. There were plenty of young children there also. I’m sure your daughter will be fine.

  4. Nessy

    Fundamental pro life scumbags! I’m sure these people would love nothing more than to bring back corporal punishment for women who have children outside of wedlock, mother and baby homes and to keep women enchained and locked away forever.

    What normal thinking human being would think like that, would treat a rape victim with such lack of compassion and apathy?!

    I’ve never been so outraged reading these articles. This country is a f*cking joke

    1. Kieran NYC


      Just because most of them now look like your granny or granddad, doesn’t mean they’re any less fervent.

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