A protestor at the Our Bodies; Our Right Rally to Repeal the 8th in Dublin last Saturday
“Because they are in direct touch with the electorate Irish politicians know this and that is why they repeatedly say there is no appetite for another referendum. Politicians are understandably reluctant to spend even more time and energy on constitutional proposals that have no real prospect of being passed or lawmaking that would do little to alter the plight of those in crisis pregnancies in the absence of constitutional change. Many might wish it otherwise but that is the political reality.”
Justine McCarthy, of The Sunday Times, addressing the Trailblazery ‘We Need To Talk About Ireland’ conference in March
In 1992, the judges of the Supreme Court heard evidence that Ms X, the pregnant 14-year-old girl, had told her mother she wanted to throw herself downstairs and had contemplated jumping in front of an oncoming train. Anti-abortion advocates have rubbished the court’s landmark judgment in the X case, on the grounds that it heard no expert psychiatric evidence. So what should the judges have done? Told the girl to get a grip, go home and give birth to her rapist’s baby? Medieval as it sounds, this is precisely what the Irish state will continue to tell rape victims after the current bill has passed into law. Should they attempt to terminate their pregnancies on Irish soil, they will be liable to arrest, trial and 14 years in prison.
Ms McCarthy in her Sunday Times column on June 30, 2013, before the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act was signed into law.
This weekend, as one of his predecessors is mourned, [Taoiseach Enda] Kenny should note how the encomiums to Albert Reynolds ring with tributes to his political courage. That personal quality helped deliver the 1993 Downing Street declaration and the IRA’s 1994 ceasefire, the early shoots of lasting peace on this island. Reynolds was the taoiseach for only 33 months but his guts won him an eternal place in history.
Kenny has demonstrated his own political valour. Now he has the opportunity to apply it to resolving an issue that has caused more than 150,000 females to sneak abroad for abortions since the 1983 referendum and that has caused others physical and psychological trauma, and even death. If he can bring an end to this 31-year horror, he too will have his place in history. More immediately, he could reap a reward in the next general election.
Bernie Smith of Pro-Life group, Precious Life is interviewed in today’s Belfast Telegraph.
Q. Do you not think you are adding to a vulnerable woman’s distress by trying to make her feel guilty about her choice?
A. Let’s turn this around and look at child abuse. If there was a child abuser in a community is that not the responsibility of people in society to highlight how horrible child abuse is. Abortion is the ultimate child abuse and for a woman in that situation it couldn’t be made worse because there is nothing worse for a woman than to have an abortion. I have sat with women who were suicidal because they had an abortion because there was nobody to say to them beforehand there was another way.
Q. What about the young girl or woman who is suicidal because she doesn’t want to go through with the pregnancy?
A. Well what do we do when people are suicidal? Take a woman who has just given birth and she has postnatal depression. I suffered from severe postnatal depression and like many women I needed someone to help me through that difficult stage. Would eliminating that baby, killing that baby have prevented me from being suicidal? I needed medical intervention. In some cases women who are suicidal during pregnancy may even need to be institutionalised in some cases.
Q. Are you saying a woman who is feeling suicidal about their pregnancy and doesn’t want to continue with the pregnancy should be institutionalised?
A. Well if her life is at risk.
Q. So you would do this against her will?
A. Not against her will, but if someone’s life is in danger we immediately have to offer medical intervention. Abortion does not eliminate suicidal thoughts. Abortion causes suicidal thoughts. I don’t believe aborting a child for any reason is in anyway beneficial to that child.
Q. What about the young girl in the republic, raped and suicidal. Was it not cruel to force her to continue with her pregnancy?
A. Well how much more cruel would it have been to rip that child from her womb. A loving society offers support and help to women. If she was suicidal she should have received immediate psychiatric care and sometimes that involves medical intervention that would include hospitalisation and the proper medication. The right decision was made in this case not to abort the baby. She’ll never regret giving birth to her baby but she would have regretted an abortion.
“Pro Choice March on Saturday from the Spire on O’Connell Street to Leinster House. Featuring excerpts from speeches by (in order) Sinead Redmond of AIMS, Ross Kelly from Doctors For Choice Ireland, Ruth Coppinger TD and Monika Janas from ROSA.”
Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, Dr Peter Boylan (consultant obstetrician and former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street) has called for cross-party support to either repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment:
The vast majority of Irish women who seek abortions do so in the UK. This avenue should not be presumed to be available forever. Growing public awareness in Britain of the extent to which we are exporting our problem, as well as on-going financial constraints in the NHS, make it likely that British hospitals will increasingly restrict access to women from Ireland for termination.
Our current law is governed by the 1983 Eighth Amendment, which provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn. As we saw with the case of Savita, this has resulted in abortion being lawful only where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.
Obstetricians find this difficult to interpret. Put simply, obstetricians have to decide how close to death a woman has to be before they can intervene and the woman herself has no say in the matter.
Psychiatrists have to assess the risk of suicide. In practice this really only applies to those who are not able to travel, the majority of whom are in the care of the state.
…I suggest that our politicians reach cross-party agreement, as soon as possible, that a referendum – whose sole issue should be the removal or retention of the Eighth Amendment – will be held at a specified date early in the term of the next government. Such political consensus would not bind parties to a particular stance on the referendum to follow, but would take much of the toxicity out of the issue of a referendum itself from the politics of the next general election campaign and lessen the kind of aggressive lobbying to which TDs have been subject in the past.
We can only hope thereafter for a mature, factual, and compassionate debate on this most difficult of subjects. In the meantime, bad law makes hard cases.