Rev Patrick Burke, centre, Anglican Rector Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny
Further to calls by the UN for Ireland to hold an abortion referendum.
Church of Ireland Rector Patrick Burke writes:
So the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is saying Ireland “must” hold a referendum on abortion. And since they want us to to repeal the Eighth Amendment to address the committee’s concern at our “highly restrictive legislation on abortion,” presumably that means they are saying we “must” vote Yes as well. Who knew the UN had so much power?
But wait! Their “must” is contained in a list of recommendations in a report; and a recommendation is something that can just as easily be rejected as accepted. So really this is less a “must” than a “this is what we think you should do” said in a hectoring tone accompanied by a frowning look and lot of finger-wagging.
That makes a lot more sense. After all, the last time I looked, the UN didn’t have the authority to dictate to member states how they manage their internal affairs; and certainly none of its multitude of committees doesn’t have that power. Therefore, the only thing we “must” do with this report and its recommendations is politely nod and smile, and then do as we ourselves see fit…
Cora Sherlock, deputy chair of the Pro-Life campaign
You’ll recall how the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called for Ireland to hold a referendum on abortion.
Further to this, Claire Byrne spoke with Cora Sherlock, of the Pro-Life campaign on Morning Ireland this morning.
Here’s what was said…
Claire Byrne: “We heard earlier today that the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has recommended that Ireland hold a referendum on abortion and that the Government should clarify what constitutes a real and substantial risk to the life of a woman – that’s under the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. Cora Sherlock is the deputy chair of the Pro-Life campaign. You’re very welcome Cora, thank you for joining us in the studio. You heard what the member of the UN Committee Olivier De Schutter had to say earlier this hour. He says that he wants Ireland to have a debate essentially. What do you think?”
Cora Sherlock: “Well I think we’re all in favour of debate, once it is an honest and open debate, once it takes into account all of the facts and all of the true facts. One thing that I would say about what Professor Olivier said there, I noticed that he didn’t fully answer the questions, as far as I could see, about whether or not abortion is a human right because, as we all know, there is no right to abortion in international human rights law – what there is is a right to life and that’s enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Byrne: “He did talk though about the right of women to make choices, about their pregnancy which he said was very restrictive in Ireland, as far as the UN committee is concerned.”
Sherlock: “Yeah I mean I heard that but I’m not sure how he could consider the law in Ireland, the 2013 Act, to be restricted because that is an act, let’s remember, allows abortion for the full nine months of pregnancy where there is a threat of suicide and that is not based on any medical evidence. So if these recommendations from the UN are coming from the point of view that that is restrictive, then I think that the [UN] committee needs to go back and look at exactly what the 2013 act says because it’s not restrictive in any way and that is a fundamental error.”
Byrne: “But what about discrimination? Discrimination on the grounds that if you have the cash, you can travel to the UK and you can have an abortion. If you don’t you can’t.”
Sherlock: “I think abortion is the ultimate discrimination, it discriminates against the most vulnerable members of our society, the unborn, because what we’re talking about is ending the lives of human beings who haven’t had a chance to speak for themselves yet.”
Byrne: “But it’s a choice for women who have money to go to the UK and do it.”
Sherlock: “Well, you know, I mean I don’t know that we should support a choice to end lives. I mean we all have choices that are limited by society because they impact on other people’s rights and that’s what we’re talking about here. The ultimate way you can impact on someone else’s life is to end it and that’s what we’re talking about with abortion – actually ending a human life that has already begun. One way that I would agree with Professor Olivier, I noticed that he said, at the end of his interview, that he would like a debate to happen in Ireland, where we look at the experience of other countries and I would very much like to see that happen because when you do look to other countries, like the UK, for example, you see that abortion is fully legal, right up to birth where there is a disability diagnosed and that disability can be something like Down syndrome. 92% of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted in the UK. We’ve got the horrific human rights abuse in the UK and in other countries where babies are born alive and left to die after so-called botched abortions.”
Byrne: “I know.”
Sherlock: “These are babies who survive the abortion..”
Byrne: “But you can’t reference malpractice, I mean we could talk about that in every element of maternity care and we..”
Sherlock: “This is not malpractice this..”
Byrne: “You wouldn’t be saying, if an operation wasn’t done properly, then nobody should have access to it.”
Sherlock: “No but this is not the same as an operation to try and save a person’s life. These are botched abortions where the intention to end the baby’s life has not been successful and the baby is left, without medical care, to die on their own. That happened 66 times in one year alone in the UK and, I have to say, I take issue with the fact that the UN Committee and various UN Committees have now told Ireland how they think Ireland should, how the people of Ireland should proceed in the area of abortion while they ignore those kind of human rights abuses. So, talk to us about a debate but look at all of the facts.”
Byrne: “Do you think then that the UN is just a liberal organisation who wants to interfere, is that what you’re saying?”
Sherlock: “What I’m saying is that the people of Ireland inserted the right to life of the unborn in 1983 and I don’t think it’s appropriate for the UN to talk about taking an opportunity to revisit the abortion debate.”
Byrne: “1983 is a long time ago, I mean the women of child-bearing age, in Ireland now, I think it’s about one and half million of them, haven’t had a say on that issue because it happened so long ago.”
Sherlock: “Well, you know, that’s an interesting point that’s put to me by a lot of people but there’s a couple of things about it. Firstly, the Universal Declaration that I talked about there was inserted in 1948 so it’s that long ago and that talks about the preamble, about protecting the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family..”
Byrne: “Do you not think thought the women of today should have say over their rights when it comes to pregnancy..”
Sherlock: “The point I’d make Claire is that we have to acknowledge the fact that there are many people, tens of thousands of people, probably listening to this programme, some of them who are alive today because of the 8th amendment. We’re contacted in the Pro-Life campaign all the time by people who will contact us after debates like this and say, ‘I had an abortion appointment made in the UK and because it took me two days extra to get there, I changed my mind and my daughter is now alive today.”
Byrne: “Cora we’ll have to leave it there but thank you very much for joining us.
A number of Irish civil society organisations are making presentations to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva today and tomorrow, as Government representatives will be questioned separately by the committee to account for its record on economic, social and cultural rights.
The groups include Threshold, Irish Family Planning Association, Atheist Ireland, Justice for Magdalenes Research, FLAC, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, Abortion Rights Campaign, Tallaght Trialogue, Community Law and Mediation and Dr Liam Thornton of UCD Human Rights Network.
Meanwhile, in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Justine McCarthy wrote…
“It was Eamon Gilmore, as Tánaiste, who insisted that this government would hold a same-sex marriage referendum. After the result was declared, he credited the women’s movement with having modernised Ireland. We women have, however, failed to modernise Ireland for ourselves.”
“On the Monday after 62% of voters said no to marriage inequality, about a dozen females slipped quietly out of this jurisdiction to have their pregnancies terminated. The same personal tragedies unfolded again the next day, and the day after, and the day after that.“
“There are lessons to learn from the marriage equality referendum. One is the power of true-story telling. Seeing the faces and hearing about the experiences of gay people made it difficult for wavering voters to deny others the right to be treated fairly.”
“The abortion debate is not over. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act fails to protect women’s human rights at the same level that men’s rights are protected. The inequity has to be addressed. This week, Amnesty International will publish a report on Ireland’s abortion law. It is expected to be damning. It couldn’t be anything else.”
“Analysis of voting patterns in the marriage equality referendum showed that more women than men voted in favour of it. Some analysts have ascribed this to women, as mothers of gay people, voting for their children’s happiness. There is another reason too. Women, as victims of discrimination themselves, know how injurious is inequality.”
“If Ireland can stop groaning urbanely at the ennui evoked by the abortion issue and recognise it as something deeply personal for many citizens, maybe the Labour party will muster the courage to make one final, heroic gesture to modernisation before bowing out of government. They may be pleasantly surprised, once again, to find what an appetite there is for fairness. They should take heart from opinion polls which consistently find a majority support for the legalising of abortion in the sort of circumstances the party is proposing.”
“And maybe, if we are given a referendum proposing to repeal the eighth amendment, the women of Ireland can bring a little more modernity – this time for their own benefit.”
Labour leader Joan Burton taking a selfie after she cast her votes in Cabra on May 22
“The Tánaiste Joan Burton has confirmed the issue of abortion will be part of the Labour Party manifesto for the next general election. Labour says it wants to see a vote on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment, which gives equal rights in the Constitution to the mother and her unborn child.”
The report followed an interview Ms Burton did with Shane Coleman, stepping in for Pat Kenny, on Newstalk this morning.
At one point, Mr Coleman asked Ms Burton if the Labour Party is pro-choice.
Shane Coleman: “Are you a pro-choice party?”
Joan Burton: “I would say that what we have now is an agreement that, as a party, we should seek to repeal the 8th amendment. But in the Labour Party, we have a whole range…”
Coleman: “You’re stopping short of describing the Labour Party as a pro-choice party.”
Burton: “Well in the Labour Party we’ve a whole range of views. We’ve people of very deep religious faiths, we have people who are agnostic. We have people who are atheist. We reflect the kaleidoscope, if you like, and the rainbow colour that’s the Irish nation. The Labour Party very much reflects that and what we have to do is we have to spend more time looking at, if we do repeal the 8th amendment, then what structure replaces it.”
My favourite part is where she asks people to donate €5…or €10….or €50 or even €100 or €500 or €1000 or why not €5000!
Ringos Dave writes:
An ad on page 6 of this week’s Drogheda Leader from “Drogheda Christians”. I’m guessing that maybe I should hold back on submitting my idea for edible chocolate replicas of Oliver Plunkett’s head from the church gift shop….