Tag Archives: Abortion

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking incorrectly about the 8th amendment in the Dáil earlier this month

Emer O’Toole, in today’s Irish Times, writes:

Ireland’s abortion regime is a kind of a fiction. It can only exist if its proponents resolutely refuse to see, overwriting fact with fairy stories.

Our laws effectively make the “unborn” a citizen from the moment of implantation, thus requiring an act of creativity to furnish the embryo with thoughts and feelings, or perhaps, dependent on one’s religious proclivities, an ideologically convenient soul.

Our fictions proclaim Ireland abortion free, when it has approximately the same abortion rates as other EU countries. We just like to torture the women a bit first: for moral reasons, you understand.

…We can expect of Kenny’s convention, in short, the same kind of “balance” we have come to expect of our national broadcaster: the kind that considers the issue of whether women should have human rights to have two equally reasonable sides; the kind that gives serious consideration to people who actively campaign to subject women to cruel and degrading treatment and calls this – incredibly – “fairness”.

This impartiality is also a fiction.

Emer O’Toole: What can we expect of Enda Kenny’s abortion convention? (Irish Times)

Previously: ‘The People Decided To Keep That Reference In The Constitution’

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From top: Amanda Mellet and her husband James Burke; Taoiseach Enda Kenny; and a video of Mr Kenny responding to questions from Ruth Coppinger TD yesterday

My view is that if we were to decide to have a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment in October, it would not be passed. I will explain why.

There needs to be a real discussion here. If we are going to attempt to remove this from the Constitution, people will want to know what we intend to replace it with. I have had problems with this genuine question.

With respect, I do not accept from the Deputy that we should make a rush to judgment in this instance.

The UN committee’s verdict in this sensitive and distressing case is non-binding. It is not like the European court. It speaks for the distress caused to this good woman. As the Deputy knows, another case is being processed.

It is right and proper for us to follow the route of having a properly selected citizens’ assembly that is able to do its business of reflecting on the eighth amendment and what it might mean.

The assembly will consider what changes, if any, should be made to the eighth amendment and how they might be made.

If we are to ask people to vote on this issue, at least we should be able to tell them what will replace the eighth amendment if they vote for its removal. People need to know the options and the consequences.

I genuinely believe people have a right to be able to discuss these things. This matter divided Irish society for over 30 years. I ask the Deputy to believe me when I say it is not a question of a lack of courage.

It is a question of understanding that the entire population has a responsibility and a role in this regard. It is not as simple as saying that a referendum should be held to take out the eighth amendment without saying what it will be replaced with.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking during Leaders’ Questions yesterday.

He was speaking in response to questions from AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger, in light of the UN Human Rights Committee’s findings on the case of Amanda Mellet.

Meanwhile…

Previously: ‘The Ashes Were Unexpectedly Delivered To Her Three Weeks Later By Courier’

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

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From top: Street protests in the wake of the X case in 1992; Sinéad Kennedy

There is widespread and growing support for a more liberal abortion regime in Ireland.

Sinéad Kennedy writes

The current government has been in office for just over a month and, despite its heartfelt efforts to continue that fine governmental tradition of hypocrisy and inaction on abortion, the eighth amendment is fast becoming for Fine Gael the dreaded political issue that just won’t go away.

Just as Fine Gael were congratulating themselves on having successfully kicked the abortion can another six months down the road with the announcement of the establishment of the vague-sounding  “citizen’s assembly” to make recommendation on the eighth amendment, the abortion issue quickly returned to the political headlines.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, barely had time to attend her first cabinet meeting before flying to Geneva to face questioning over Ireland’s Human Rights record.

But it was Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws that were the main issue of concern for the UN member states with 15 countries issuing recommendations to reform Ireland’s abortion laws and the need for adequate sexual and reproductive health and rights for Irish women.

Then, Enda Kenny, tired of all those annoying left TDs continually hassling him about women’s rights and abortion, decided to try to mansplain it away.

Under questioning from Anti-Austerity Alliance – People Before Profit TDs Ruth Coppinger and Bríd Smith, he claimed that:

“There were three referenda after that. And, in each case, in each of those referenda, by the people, not just by any parties, the people decided to keep that reference in the constitution.”

This is, of course, blatantly false and was either a deliberate attempt to mislead and distort the debate or, was a display of breath-taking ignorance.

Since the 1983 referendum there have been two further referendums. One in 1992, as a result of the X case judgment, asked the electorate to reverse the X case decision and exclude suicide as grounds for an abortion.

The electorate refused voting in favour of the less-restrictive option. There, was a further attempt to reverse the X case judgment in a 2002 referendum but again people refused to further restrict abortion access.

On the two occasions where people were asked to restrict abortion they refused and the electorate has never been given the opportunity to vote in support of a more liberal abortion regime.

Then, last week, in a ground-breaking ruling, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Ireland’s prohibition on abortion subjected Amanda Mellet to severe emotional and mental pain and suffering by denying her access to abortion services in Ireland.

Ms Mellet was denied an abortion in Ireland in 2011 after learning that her pregnancy had a fatal foetal impairment.

This ruling is particularly significant because it is the first time that, in response to an individual complaint, an international human rights court or committee has found that the prohibition and criminalisation of abortion in itself results in human rights violations.

The committee instructed the Irish government to act promptly and effectively to redress the harm Amanda Mellet suffered and reform its laws to ensure other women do not face similar human rights violations and to guarantee effective, timely and accessible procedures for abortion in Ireland.

This leaves the government in a difficult bind.

Neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fail have the political appetite for a referendum on abortion and the Citizen’s Assembly has failed to quieten the political debate or deflect it into a more manageable forum (politicians, for example, will have no role in the Citizen’s Assembly).

There is widespread and growing support for a more liberal abortion regime in Ireland.

In March of this year, Amnesty International Ireland/Red C revealed in detail people’s attitude to abortion: It found that 87% of respondents supported wider access to abortion in Ireland and 72% favoured the decriminalisation of abortion.

It also found that 69% wanted the expansion of Ireland’s abortion laws to be a priority for the new government.

Even TDs in Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are (slowly) beginning to realise how out of step the Irish political establishment is with the Irish population’s views on abortion, and the leadership of both parties are coming under some pressure from backbenchers to act.

The more liberal wings of both of these parties hope is that anger at Ireland’s restrictive abortion regime could be dissipated by offering limited abortion in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality, cases of rape and, possibility, series risk to health.

Perhaps, five years ago this may have been the case.

But a whole new generation of young activists have been politicised and angered by the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 and inspired and galvanised into action by the Marriage Equality referendum victory last year.

They want to see free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland and will not be so easy deflected.

Meanwhile, every day 10 women leave this country, providing they have the money and necessary travel documents, and travel to Britain for an abortion.

Those who cannot travel seek out other solutions turning to websites like WomenHelp.org and WomenOnWeb.org to access the abortion pill. In doing so they put themselves at risk of criminal prosecution and face up to 14 years in prison.

Abortion is a reality in Ireland as it is in Britain and Europe; the only difference is that most Irish abortions don’t actually happen on the island of Ireland.

It is time to end the hypocrisy and the discrimination. We need a 2016 referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to protect and respect women’s lives, health and choices.

The Irish political establishment schooled in the politics of deflection and hypocrisy will not easily concede to our demands.

This is why we need to increase the pressure on the politicians forcing them to act.

To that end this year’s Abortion Rights Campaign annual March for Choice on Saturday September 24 will be more important than ever. Make sure you, your friends, family and colleagues are there.

Sinead Kennedy is a pro-choice activist with Action for Choice and secretary of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.  Follow Sinéad on Twitter: @sineadmkennedy

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny fielding questions from journalists earlier today.

Further to the UN’s criticism of Ireland’s abortion laws…

Previously: ‘The Ashes Were Unexpectedly Delivered To Her Three Weeks Later By Courier’

Earlier: On Message

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Last night.

On RTÉ’s Prime Time, presenter David McCullagh spoke to Gerry Edwards, of Termination for Medical Reasons Ireland, and Tracy Harkin, of Every Life Counts, about the UN’s criticism of Ireland’s abortion laws.

From last night’s discussion:

Tracy Harkin: “I think, myself, as a mother, who has a daughter who has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, I find this report from the United Nations disturbing for a number of reasons. Firstly, I suppose what’s deeply distressing for many parents involved in our support network, and other charities that work with families that have lost babies to these conditions is the language the United Nations has chosen to use.”

Terms like ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, ‘incompatible with life’, they’re such harsh sounding, dehumanising terms. And I think for parents like myself and for the many parents throughout Ireland who have lost their little ones to these conditions, that’s not how they see their children at all.”

“Their experiences have not been heard by in this report which is deeply disturbing; parents have been speaking out, for example, in our organisation, Every Life Counts, for the last few years, calling for better support and services to be rolled out in maternity hospitals throughout Ireland to help them make the most of the time to parent their child, to love their child, to hug their child, to, you know, smell their child as any mother wants to.”

“And this is so important, such an important pathway to healing for these mothers and I think it’s alarming that the only option, or solution that the United Nations is fixated on is abortion. You know, these are children, human beings with severe disabilities and there’s not an agreed list, neither will be, and I think for us parents, for myself, before I had my little daughter Kathleen Rose, who’s now 9 years of age, you know she’s such a wonderful little character, she’s brought such joy to my life. Many of our parents didn’t have that time with their little ones and maybe only had minutes or days but they all said that that time was so important to healing. And there’s more and more research coming out to show that, in contrast, abortion increases despair and depression among mothers because they don’t have that closure.”

David McCullagh: “Tracy Harkin, sorry to cut across you, you talk about having services available to allow parents to spend time with their children, however short that time unfortunately may be. And I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that people shouldn’t be able to make that choice. But simply that others, who feel differently, shouldn’t be deprived of their choice, for what is best for their family.”

Harkin: “Well, I think the main thing here is accurate information and I think what’s missing from this whole conversation is also to look at what’s happened in other countries. What has the impact been of legislation in other countries. You look at the UK for example, over 90% of children with any disability whatsoever are aborted right up to birth. I mean most of us have their children with Down syndrome, Spina Bifida, in our communities, we love them, we fundraise for them. There’s a chilling effect to legislation here which the United Nations has chosen to ignore, time and time again. And it’s also important to mention that this case was brought forward by the Centre for Reproductive Rights which are a large, wealthy organisation with many millions at their disposal and their only focus, worldwide, is to promote abortion…”

Later

Gerry Edwards: “I think it’s very important, again in the interest of language, that we are quite clear that there is a difference between disabilities and life-limiting conditions and fatal foetal anomalies which are conditions which are not capable of sustaining independent life outside the womb.”

Our son had a condition called severe anencephaly. Most of his skull was missing and his brain was missing. He could not sustain independent life, there was no question whatsoever of him surviving for any length of time. And that was confirmed to us by five different medical professionals in three hospitals in two jurisdictions.”

“My wife would have been forced to continue with that pregnancy for five more months in this country, not able to bear the social contact with other people, working with the people that she worked with, being stopped by people on the streets, in the full knowledge that our son would not die, or would not live, I beg your pardon. And this was the situation which was absolute torture for us and we made a decision which was in our best interest and in the best interest of our family.”

“And that decision required us to leave our carers, leave our family and travel to another state. We did spend time with our son, he was delivered naturally, he had an induced labour, we got to spend time with him but we would have got to spend more time with him had we been able to go through that process here in Ireland.”

“Our family members would have gotten to meet him, we would have had the dignity of having a funeral and a community to stand with us and support us in our loss. Instead we got a jiffy envelope, delivered by a courier a couple of weeks later. That’s unacceptable.”

Later

Edwards: “It’s the responsibility of our legislators to legislate. They also have an obligation to uphold international human rights law. This isn’t imposed upon Ireland. This is something that Ireland signed up to. There was a discussion earlier on in the programme about upholding the law and Ireland is one of those countries that has pledged to uphold international human rights law and we’ll find out very soon whether our Government is going to honour that commitment it made and actually take steps to change our legal environment soon.”

Watch Prime Time back in full here

Meanwhile,

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On TV3’s Tonight With Vincent Browne last night…

During the newspaper review, the panel – Senator Lynn Ruane, Breda O’Brien, of the Iona Institute; Sinéad O’Carroll, of The Journal.ie and Ger Colleran,former editor of the Irish Daily Star – also discussed the UN’s criticism.

From the discussion…

Mick Clifford: “Breda, ‘Cabinet to defy UN on abortion reforms’ [the main headline on today’s Irish Examiner]. This is not going to go away and some people would say all roads to a referendum one way or the other.”

Breda O’Brien: “Well I’m absolutely delighted if that’s an accurate headline in the Irish Examiner because this committee is part of a huge push that there is to kind of, in a sense, the UN treaty say ‘do not give any right to abortion’ but these committees have been pushing this agenda for years. And they’re stuffed with people who share a point of view which is that the baby in the womb does not have equal rights with the mother. And of course they’re going to find that something is cruel and inhumane and degrading, but I had the privilege of accompanying a friend of mine when she had a baby with a life-limiting condition and..”

Clifford: “But there’s stories like that but there’s also the other side…”

Sinead O’Carroll:Fatal foetal abnormality is different to life-limiting…”

O’Brien:No, life-limiting condition is the term used by hospice, it’s the term used by…”

O’Carroll:Fatal foetal abnormality is the term used by doctors when they give diagnoses to women with fatal foetal abnormality…”

O’Brien: “But also, people, I think fatal foetal abnormality is one that people who have had babies with life-limiting conditions have asked to have it removed because it is so offensive. Your child is not a fatal foetal abnormality, no more than somebody with leukaemia is a cancer.”

Ger Colleran: “It’s the condition, not the child…”

O’Brien: “But that’s what, people have actually said in the media, they’ve said things like, ‘the fatal foetal abnormality’ as if that were, it’s a child who has a life-limiting condition…”

Clifford: “Breda, do you believe there’ll be a referendum?”

O’Brien: “I hope that there will be good sense and that people will see that this is a matter of equal rights and that they should leave it as it is.”

Lynne Ruane: “There will be.”

Clifford: “Ok, well, we’re going to have to leave it for that because that’s it now, we’ve run out of time..”

Watch back in full here

Previously: ‘The Ashes Were Unexpectedly Delivered To Her Three Weeks Later By Courier’

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UN logo; Amanda Mellet and her husband James Burke

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner writes:

A woman in Ireland [Amanda Mellet] who was forced to choose between carrying her foetus to term, knowing it would not survive, or seeking an abortion abroad was subjected to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as a result of Ireland’s legal prohibition of abortion, UN experts have found.

The independent experts, from the Geneva-based Human Rights Committee, issued their findings after considering a complaint by the woman, AM, who was told in November 2011 when she was in the 21st week of pregnancy that her foetus had congenital defects, which meant it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

This meant she had to choose “between continuing her non-viable pregnancy or travelling to another country while carrying a dying foetus, at personal expense and separated from the support of her family, and to return while not fully recovered,” the Committee said.

AM decided to travel to the UK for a termination and returned 12 hours after the procedure as she could not afford to stay longer. The UK hospital did not provide any options regarding the foetus’s remains and she had to leave them behind. The ashes were unexpectedly delivered to her three weeks later by courier.

In Ireland, she was denied the bereavement counselling and medical care available to women who miscarry. Such differential treatment, the Committee noted, failed to take into account her medical needs and socio-economic circumstances and constituted discrimination.

“Many of the negative experiences she went through could have been avoided if (she) had not been prohibited from terminating her pregnancy in the familiar environment of her own country and under the care of health professionals whom she knew and trusted,” the Committee wrote in its findings.

The Committee said that, in addition to the shame and stigma associated with the criminalization of abortion of a fatally ill foetus, AM’s suffering was aggravated by the obstacles she faced in getting information about the appropriate medical options.

Ireland’s Abortion Information Act allows healthcare providers to give patients information about abortion, including the circumstances under which abortion services can be available in Ireland or overseas.

But under the law they are prohibited from, and could be sanctioned for, behaviour that could be interpreted as advocating or promoting the termination of pregnancy. This, according to the Committee, has a chilling effect on health-care providers, who struggle to distinguish “supporting” a woman who has decided to terminate a pregnancy from “advocating” or “promoting” abortion.

Ireland, which is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), is obliged to provide AM with an effective remedy, including adequate compensation and psychological treatment she may need, the Committee said. Ireland is also obliged to prevent similar violations from occurring.

To this end, the State party should amend its law on voluntary termination of pregnancy, including if necessary its Constitution, to ensure compliance with the Covenant, including effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland, and take measures to ensure that health-care providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions,” the Committee’s findings said.

In its observations to the Committee on AM’s claims, Ireland said that the country’s constitutional and legislative framework reflected “the nuanced and proportionate approach to the considered views of the Irish Electorate on the profound moral question of the extent to which the right to life of the foetus should be protected and balanced against the rights of the woman.”

The Human Rights Committee considered this case under the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR Covenant which gives the Committee competence to examine individual complaints.

Read the UN’s findings in full here

Related: Ireland abortion laws breach human rights, rules UN (The Times Ireland edition)

Previously: Another Victory For ‘Balance’

‘It’s A Sensitive Issue That Must Be Teased Out Very Carefully’

Fresh Claims Against Ronan Mullen

Pic: Jyllands-Posten International

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil yesterday

Further to yesterday’s post on Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s misleading comments about the 8th amendment in the Dáil, and the subsequent call from the group TFMR Ireland (Termination for Medical Reasons) for him to correct the Dáil record…

Ellen Coyne, in The Times Ireland edition today, reports:

Ruth Coppinger, the socialist TD for Dublin West, had tried to correct Mr Kenny after he made his comments in the Dail.

Nobody in 33 years has ever had a vote on the Eighth Amendment, and the taoiseach either doesn’t know that or deliberately gave the impression that they had,” Ms Coppinger said.

“When people were given the opportunity in 1992 and 2002 to vote to make abortion even more restrictive, they rejected it. The taoiseach is completely incorrect, people do not want to keep the Eighth Amendment.”

...The Department of the Taoiseach did not respond to requests for a comment.

Activists tell Kenny to correct abortion claim (Ellen Coyne, The Times)

Previously: ‘The People Decided To Keep That Reference In The Constitution’

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Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe

Further to yesterday evening’s publication of the new Programme for Government.

Newly appointed Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe discussed the document with presenter Cathal MacCoille on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

In relation to abortion, the Programme for Government states:

We will establish a Citizens’ Assembly, within six months, and without participation by politicians, and with a mandate to look at a limited number of key issues over an extended time period. These issues will not be limited to those directly pertaining to the constitution and may include issues such as, for example how we, as a nation, best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population.

That said, we will ask the Citizens’ Assembly to make recommendations to the Dáil on further constitutional changes, including on the Eighth Amendment, on fixed term parliaments and on the manner in which referenda are held (e.g. should ‘super referendum days’, whereby a significant number of referenda take place on the same day, be held).

None of this, of course, subverts the right, and the ability of an elected member of Dáil Eireann to have a referendum on any issue, provided that member can secure majority support in parliament.

Mr MacCoille raised this with the Fine Gael TD.

Paschal Donohoe: “The Fine Gael position on that [repealing the 8th amendment] during the general election continues to be the case. We are committed to putting in place the same process that we did in relation to marriage equality that led to a referendum there. So what we will set up will be a Citizens’ Assembly to deliberate on the matter that will then lead to proposals that the Oireachtas would then consider and vote upon.”

Cathal MacCoille: “Or not. There might be no referendum?”

Donohoe:My expectation is that there will be one and the process that we have put in place is designed to look at, what is a sensitive matter for many, in a careful way but that continues to be a commitment of this Government.”

In response to Mr Donohoe’s comments, Irish Council for Civil Liberties executive director Mark Kelly says:

“Minister Donohoe’s announcement this morning would appear to be another direct outworking of Ireland’s appearance before the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, at which its restrictive abortion regime was harshly criticised.”

“The Convention on the Constitution model proved to be a highly-effective means of debating sensitive matters in an intelligent and nuanced way, leading to a cross-party consensus on proposals to be put to the people.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties believes that it is now incumbent upon the Government to publish its full blueprint for the new Citizen’s Assembly on Repeal of the 8th Amendment that the Tánaiste yesterday promised the United Nations would be up and running within six months.”

Listen back in full here

Rights Watchdog Calls for “Blueprint” of Repeal the 8th Assembly (ICCL)

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