From top: Pro life demonstration last Summer; Tony Groves
Not only because the Citizens Assembly (another vehicle from the Do Nothing Dáil) delivered recommendations that the Government are now referring to as a ‘guide’.
Not just because we had the Strike4Repeal, a walkout of workplaces and universities, take place on March 8 and other methods of Repeal Activism go largely ignored in mainstream media.
Also not because I’m concerned that the new Taoiseach has drawn comparisons between women travelling for reproductive healthcare, to men travelling to Amsterdam on a Stag Party.
Nor is it because of the fact that any further delay to repeal is a violation of a woman’s rights.
No, I’m writing because of something Minister for Health Simon Harris said previously, that in the context of the latest outrage has been crystallized it in my mind.
After the UN Human Rights Committee’s found Ireland imposed “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” on Amanda Mellet, Mr Harris apologised saying:
“I am very sorry that this is how she was treated. Ireland’s history shows that it has been a cold and uncaring place for women and children. I felt the echoes of that when I read that UN view.”
I heard echoes as well. Echoes of a dark history.
When in January 2014 the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2003 was brought into force under former Health Minister and self-proclaimed conservative (Taoiseach in Waiting) Leo Varadkar, it brought some truly terrible echoes from history ringing back.
Before you start complaining and yelling “Godwins Law” at me, I’m not about to draw an equivalence between Ireland’s failure to provide free, safe and legal reproductive options and Nazi Germany’s genocidal purges.
Whether it was the law for the prevention of hereditary diseased offspring , or the involuntary euthanasia of Aktion T4, or the Eugenic based practice of compulsory sterilisations, the Nazi State unquestionably engaged in “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.
But most startling, in an Irish context, is a little nugget. When an individual (with a disability, a mental disorder or a genetic flaw or was simply gay) was identified by the Nazis, a file would be prepared and sent to (and this is the chilling Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 part) three Doctors for sign off.
The three doctors, unknown to one another, would assess the individual and place a Red Mark in a box if the person was deemed unfit for life. It was a majority rule decision. If two doctors used the Red Pen, the person was done away with.
In Ireland a woman might have an abortion “where the threat to her life arises because of the risk of suicide. Three Doctors—a woman’s obstetrician and two psychiatrists—must agree that her life is at risk.” Three Doctors must all agree.
Yes, I understand the very different circumstances. I acknowledge the aim of the States are ethically and morally very different. But when you imagine the pressure doctors were placed under back then, how the regime could punish dissent, you can’t help but imagine the pressure our doctors must be under today. They are caught between the 8th Amendment and the UN Human Rights Charter.
Ireland’s Medical Professionals need not be exposed to bad laws, the issues we are asking them to adjudicate on are too serious. Their jobs are hard enough and the physical and mental well-being of our mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends is too important for any more political games of kick the can.
Echoes from the past can be learned from. Yet here we are today, writing our own history, and failing.
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld