How Clare Daly’s bill to allow for abortions in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities was voted down in February 2015
Yesterday Ellen Coyne, in the Ireland edition of The Times, reported that a consultant in Ireland advised mother-of-two Sarah – who had a nonviable pregnancy – to go to England for the first part of a termination and then return home and fake a miscarriage.
Sarah, and her partner, Michael (not real names) went to England with the intention of following the consultant’s advice.
However, upon arrival, the doctors told the couple they would have to contact Sarah’s consultant in Ireland to make sure she would induce Sarah and deliver the baby.
The doctors later informed the couple the consultant in Ireland told them she wouldn’t agree to treat Sarah.
The couple came back to Ireland and then returned to England for the full procedure. Their son was delivered at 24 weeks.
Sarah and Michael had to “smuggle his coffin on the ferry” home while Sarah later became seriously ill with sepsis.
Further to this, Ms Coyne reports today from Michael’s perspective and, specifically, about how Irish doctors are legally restricted from referring couples to hospitals in the UK.
Michael told Ms Coyne:
“Everyone was sort of saying it, but saying nothing at the same time. We couldn’t get advice on that from Irish hospitals because they’re bound by Irish law, they explained that to us. We’d been told in roundabout ways about the options, and really the only option we had was to travel for a termination.”
“We had absolutely zero support here in Ireland. There was some people we could talk to, but essentially, by law, nobody could help us.”
“…It was very traumatic to think that we were essentially in three different hospitals over the space of a few weeks and it ended with Sarah potentially losing her life. This problem could have been dealt with so much further back.”
“That was very, very hard to take. It was worrying times for ourselves here. My future that was staring at me was being a single dad to the kids. Not alone losing Sarah, that would be agonising enough but just after that, the kids losing their mother.”
“…We could see that we were failed by the system. Ireland just doesn’t want to know. The main concern I have would be that Britain one day says, well, we don’t want to know either.”
A protest is taking place outside the GPO on O’Connell Street in Dublin at 6pm, following the arrest and prosecution of a 21-year-old woman in Northern Ireland, under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.
She’s facing life imprisonment for taking abortion pills.
The Abortion Rights Campaign writes:
“We condemn the arrest and prosecution of a 21-year-old woman in County Down who has been accused of using poison to procure abortion. Both Mifepristone and Misoprostol are on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential drugs; these drugs are not poison. These are the same drugs used for medical abortions in the rest of the UK. If this woman lived in England instead of Northern Ireland she would have been prescribed this medication on the NHS. Mifepristone and Misoprostol are also routinely used for miscarriage management.”
José Angel Rodríguez Reyes: “I would like briefly to ask whether you intend to consult the Irish people to hear their opinion with regard to article 43.3.3 on abortion? And at the same time, how do you reconcile the legal prohibition on abortion with the need for adolescents to be provided with appropriate medical services of any type, if they’re faced with any type of situation that requires medical attention? Thank you.”
Irish government official: “… First, in relation to the need for appropriate services, the services reflect the existing legal position in relation to abortion in Ireland and that is the extent to which the State services will address the issue…yes, minister [nods in direction of Dr James Reilly]. And secondly in relation to consulting the people, the minister will be pleased to answer that.”
Dr James Reilly: “Thank you very much. Just in relation to the first part of the question. As the minister who brought in the Protection of Life In Pregnancy Bill at the time, it was very clearly, the advises that we had that if we were to go any further than we did, we would require a referendum. In relation to that issue the Taoiseach, the prime minister of the country, has made it very clear that this issue needs to be addressed through a citizens’ convention because by simply repealing the 8th amendment, you leave a vacuum and therefore, if there was to be a repeal of the 8th amendment, there would be a need for something to replace it.
And clearly we would need to have a citizens’ convention to discuss if a) that would happen and b) what wording would replace the existing wording. I just want, for the benefit of the committee, to make it clear that the X case, from the 1990s, made it very clear that abortion was legal in certain circumstances in Ireland and that the purpose of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill was to clarify for women what was available to them under the law and clarify for the medical profession what was permissible under the law. I hope that clarifies the situation. None the less, it’s a matter for the next government and I make no presumption what the next government a) be constituted of or b) what it might do.”
From top: Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child members Gehad Madi, of Egypt, and Suzanne Aho Assouma, of Togo
Today members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are looking at Ireland’s record on children’s rights.
It’s been ten years since the committee last reviewed Ireland’s record.
This morning, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly spoke before the committee at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and fielded questions in relation to school patronage.
At one point, one of the committee’s members, Suzanne Aho Assouma, from Togo, interrupted to as if Ireland plans to decriminalise abortion.
It’s understood Dr Reilly, and members of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, will reply to questions this afternoon when a second session gets under way at 2pm (Irish time).
From this morning’s session:
Dr James Reilly: “To reassure the committee, the Equal Status Act prohibit discrimination on nine grounds, namely gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, race, membership of the Traveller community and disability. And the Employment Acts cover discrimination in the workplace and the Equal Status Act provides protection against discrimination in the provision of goods and services. And the legislation is designed to promote equality and prohibit discrimination in any form that it comes. So that applies in the general sense to both, to all people and also to Travellers and Roma.
In relation to the issue around patronage of the schools, I suppose it’s important to point out that our school system evolved from the religious orders themselves and so it’s not surprise that we have such a preponderance of denominational schools with 95 per cent of primary and 70 per cent of secondary schools of a denominational nature. Butwe are committed, as a Government, to move to a more pluralist system of patronage for our schools.
The report of the advisory group to the forum among patronage and pluralism in the primary sector, which was published in April 2012, recommended steps that could be taken to ensure that the education system can provide a sufficiently diverse number and range of primary schools to cater for all religions and none. And, as clear evidence that change is occurring, in relation to the ethos of newly provided schools to meet demographic need, since 2011 patronage and decisions have been made in respect of 45 new schools established to meet demographic need and all of these decisions have involved consultation with parents, as to the preferred type of school. Over 90 per cent of the new schools have a multi-denominational ethos.
So where demographic need does not exist the means of achieving pluralism in school choice is through a process of divestment of existing school patronage and this, I have to admit, is a slow process. But the Minister for Education has recently emphasised the importance of accelerating the process in that regard.
Can I just also say, I think it’s important, to point out that, we do have a much more pluralist society and a much more open society in Ireland. Now, there is one school I’m aware of in my own constituency where there’s 81 different nationalities attending that school.
So the issue is one of concern to us, that the patronage of our schools is lagging way behind the actuality of our education system which is, you know, the separation of state and church is clearly well defined. And secondly, the minister has also indicated that she’s going to repeal part of an act that dates from 1965 which states that religious education was the most important element of education in primary schools.”
Gehad Madi: “Thank you very much… The problem is implementation on the ground and we see that there is a big portion of people who would like to enrol their children in non-denominational education do not find the right school in their community, in their county, to do that.
And we understand, also, that religious education, I stand here to be corrected, is part of the curriculum of many schools. Is this the case? Because a student who does not participate in such lessons will have some problems in their grades or graduation. So I wanted to be clear on this issue, to help us better understand the information. And we do acknowledge that the process of transfer is being very slow. Thank you.”
Suzanne Aho Assouma: “Thank you. I haven’t yet had an answer concerning discrimination against boys because they’ve had sexual intercourse. I would like to also know what is being done to prevent stigmatisation of girls. Now on the abortion act, do you plan decriminalise abortion? And, in this regard, we believe that there is discrimination against pregnant girls who have to travel to another country in order to have an abortion. So we are asking why abortions cannot be carried out in Ireland? Is this for religious reasons? And I’d also like to know what happens to those girls who travel abroad to get an abortion? What happens if they haven’t got the necessary resources? What do they do in this case?”
An anti-abortion campaign group in Ireland have been derided online for holding an event on women’s healthcare – with only male speakers.
Family and Life, a Dublin-based organisation, is holding an event tomorrow evening in the capital city. Titled ‘How to Protect the 8th amendment’ in reference to the constitutional clause which bans abortion, the event is described as “pro-life”.
The discussion will feature three men; David Quinn, Patrick Carr and Paddy Manning.
“X-ile project is an ongoing online gallery of women and trans-men who have accessed abortion services outside of Ireland. Our objective is to give a much-needed face to women who have effectively been exiled from Ireland and ignored due to unduly strict abortion laws.”
“We aim to demonstrate that those who choose to travel to have an abortion are responsible, ordinary women and are our neighbours, friends, colleagues, mothers, daughters and partners. X-ile Project contributes to and bolsters pro-choice campaigning that aims to break down the overwhelming stigma around women who travel from Ireland for the purpose of having an abortion.”
“In recent times several women have come forward through various media outlets to share their abortion stories. X-ile Project builds on the important work undertaken by such women. We believe that it is vital to strengthen links between women who have travelled for abortion services, and to present such women as one cohesive group. Our website launched on 10 December 2015 with our first batch of 11 photographs. We will continue to seek participants for our online gallery into the foreseeable future.”
“It is the time to confront the abortion issue in Ireland and to build toward a more progressive future where women are heard, respected and trusted. We are committed to the destigmatisation of abortion in Ireland. We stand firmly in support of the 170,000-plus women who have left Ireland to avail of abortion services.”
Anyone who wishes to can contact the X-ile Project, in confidence, here.
You may recall how, last year, ahead of the same-sex marriage referendum, David Quinn said:
“If they can beat us badly on marriage, they’ll feel they can beat us on the abortion issue. So this is really, really an important battle – not for just what marriage and what the family is all about but for the pro-life section of the constitution, too.”
Mr Quinn, in today’s Irish Independent, writes:
“The big majority of voters in this country, like in every democratic country, vote mainly on the basis of the economy. Only a minority will vote on the basis of social issues. Some of this minority will be attracted to a party because it is ‘liberal’ on social issues and others to a party that is ‘conservative’ on those same issues.”
“…Journalists will incessantly ask a politician who is socially conservative about issues like abortion. It will become very hard for that candidate (or his or her party) to show voters that they also have interesting things to say about the economy which is what will allow them to reach out to more voters. This immediately makes them ‘niche’ candidates and can limit their electorate prospects.”
“Liberal candidates do not have this problem. Their support for the likes of abortion will find favour with most journalists. They won’t be harassed about it at press conferences and will be perfectly free to talk at length and directly to the electorate about the big economic issues. This allows them to appeal to a much bigger section of the electorate than they would if they were seen as social issue candidates only.”
“My suggestion is that if you are pro-life, and you have a Renua candidate locally, find out if they back the Eighth Amendment and if they do, then consider giving them a vote. If pro-lifers don’t do that,then all of those who lost the Fine Gael whip over the abortion issue, not just the members of Renua, might begin to wonder if the pro-life vote is worth courting in any way, shape or form.”