Tag Archives: Abortion

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Readers may recall how Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly’s identical bill was voted down last year 20-104.

Previously: A Fine Republic

Table of who voted how via Gavan Reilly

UPDATE:

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Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone at a homeless event this morning

Then.

The Bill does not legislate for termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. The Government has argued that it is only obliged to deal with the issues that relate to the European Convention, the implementing of the A, B and C judgment and the X case and that it is not obligated to go any further.

Obligated by whom or what? Why is this an issue for another day? It may be for another day in light of political strategy and tactics. I do not agree that it is for another day in light of ethical considerations and international human rights obligations.

Then Senator Katherine Zappone, during the seanad debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, 2013.

Now.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone says she wishes her fellow Independent Ministers hadn’t insisted on a free vote on abortion.
Mick Wallace’s bill has caused a rift in Cabinet, with Independent Ministers including Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, due to vote against the rest of the government later when they support the “fatal foetal abnormalities” bill.
Minister Zappone, regrets that her fellow Independent Cabinet Ministers have refused to side with the Government on abortion.

Zappone Wishes Fellow Independents Hadn’t Insisted On A Free Vote (Clare Fm)

There you go.

Previously: Unconstitutional Deference

Rollingnews

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Education Minister Richard Bruton speaking on RTÉ Radio One at lunchtime

Audrey Carville, on RTÉ’s News At One, interviewed Minister for Education Richard Bruton earlier today.

The interview followed an earlier report by Conor McMorrow which included exchanges between Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly and Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dáil this morning, ahead of tomorrow’s vote on Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace’s bill on fatal foetal abnormalities.

During her speech, Ms Daly said:

You hide behind the advice of the Attorney General, advice we haven’t seen, advice which is substantially at variance with the advice of other Attorney Generals and disputed by a whole array of legal experts. Taoiseach, my question to you is: who do you think you are? That you believe that you can allow the continued violation of human rights. The constitution can never be used to deal with this. If you haven’t go the leadership or the guts to do it yourself, will you stop using your position to block the courts or the people from dealing with this.”

During the interview…

Audrey Carville: “Just, following on there from those exchanges [between Ms Daly and Mr Kenny], Clare Daly says your government, and others, have been repeatedly told by the UN and others that you’re violating women’s human rights. Is that acceptable to you?”

Richard Bruton: “No, it’s certainly not. I think the situation though is three times attempts have been made to change the Constitution in this area and three times they failed. Now they’re on different issues but it clearly shows that constitutional change needs careful preparation and that’s what the Citizens’ Assembly is designed to do. Now in the context of Deputy Wallace’s bill, the medical advise has been absolutely stark, that this bill would be of no value to mothers or to doctors who would be faced with the sort of difficult situation that Clare Daly described. The Attorney General’s view is also clear, that this bill conflicts with the constitution. So we are driven back to the situation that if we want change, we have to create an environment where the people can reflect on the change that’s needed and make a decision in due course in a referendum, that’s the only way which you can change a constitution which provides a protection, at present, for the unborn with due regard to the life of the mother.”

Carville: “Indeed, so why not just call the referendum? Everything else is a delaying tactic.”

Bruton: “That’s not the case. I mean, as I say, efforts have been made in the past to change the constitution and have failed and I think that experience that we have seen for example, in dealing with this issue when we were simply trying to legislate, as you know, for the Life in Pregnancy Bill in the last session, that the work of having a Citizens’ Assembly reflect or hearings, to reflect on the content and what changes were about was really important to getting the degree of support that was possible. This is really complicated when you go to the people. And people will have to be able to see when they are faced with a vote, what it is they’re voting on, what are the implications of the changes that are being proposed to them. And that will take careful teasing out. There are many cases that will have to be teased out. Fatal foetal abnormality and other situations like rape and incest where very difficult circumstances are consulted…”

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile…

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Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former Tanaiste Mary Harney

In the Irish Times on September 11, 1999…

The newspaper’s then chief political correspondent Denis Coghlan wrote:

Publication of a Government Green Paper on abortion has reopened divisive debate and raised the prospect of serious friction between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. In 1992 Albert Reynolds sought to roll back the Supreme Court judgment in the X case and dared Dessie O’Malley to risk a general election on the issue. This time, Bertie Ahern seems willing to face down Mary Harney.

Of course, we don’t know precisely what the Taoiseach has in mind. And he is unlikely to tell us in the short term. But the pre-election commitment he gave to the Irish Catholic in 1997 appears to lean towards a restriction of the X case judgment or a legislative restatement of the prohibition on abortion.

But nothing is static in politics, and the commitment given by the Fianna Fail leader in opposition could crumble in the face of internal and external pressures. The only certainty at this stage is that Mr Ahern and his backbenchers are the main comfort-providers to the anti-abortion lobby and are anxious to retain its support.

The Progressive Democrats are doing what they did in 1992: reluctantly going along with a process they do not relish.

On the first occasion, the collapse of the coalition government allowed Mr O’Malley to advocate legislation to deal with the implications of the X case, rather than the constitutional referendum put forward by Mr Reynolds. And there is no indication that party policy has changed under the Tanaiste.

Reaching a consensus on this issue within Cabinet appears as remote as the possibility of Brian Lenihan and his all-party Committee of the Constitution producing an agreed set of recommendations.

For the main Opposition parties are still firmly entrenched in the positions they took up in 1997, when Mr Ahern resurrected abortion as an election issue.

Yesterday Alan Shatter of Fine Gael dutifully reiterated the position adopted by John Bruton when he was Taoiseach. The party was opposed to a referendum, he said, because no constitutional wording could fully and properly address this difficult area.

And they were concerned that any legislation would have the opposite effect to that intended, when applied in practice or interpreted by the courts.

Rather than embark on another referendum, Mr Shatter said, the Government should expand counselling services for women in crisis pregnancies and reform the adoption laws and services so that adoption would be seen as a preferred alternative to abortion.

Ruairi Quinn took a similar line. The way to reduce the number ofabortions among Irish women was to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies through education on sexuality, personal responsibility and access to contraception.

As for the deliberations of the all-party Committee on the Constitution, Mr Quinn felt it was unlikely to come to a different conclusion from that reached by the Expert Committee on the Constitution in 1995.

That approach would require giving legislative effect to the Supreme Court judgment in the X case, and was the position favoured by the Labour Party.

The Government sub-committee that produced the Green Paper – Brian Cowen, Mary O’Rourke, John O’Donoghue, Michael McDowell and Liz O’Donnell – took the five recommendations of the expert committee and expanded them to seven.

Four of the recommendations were common: the insertion of an absolute ban on abortion in the Constitution; to legislate for the X case; to restrict the terms of the X case’ and to return to the pre-1983 position.

The fifth recommendation from the expert committee suggested amending Article 40.3.3 so as to legalise abortion in constitutionally defined circumstances.

This was reworked into two options by the Government sub-committee: amend the Constitution so as to restrict application of the X case, and retain the “status quo” with a legislative restatement of the prohibition on abortion.

Finally, the sub-committee suggested that abortion might be permitted on grounds beyond those specified in the X case.

The last referendum on abortion, in 1992, clarified one issue. A solid 35 per cent of the electorate opposed giving women the right to travel and information on abortion.

It was that constituency Mr Ahern courted as Fianna Fail’s new leader in 1995 when he allowed his backbenchers off the leash to oppose Michael Noonan’s legislation giving effect to the electorate’s decisions to permit travel and abortion information.

Having established his anti-abortion credentials, Mr Ahern went on to cultivate that constituency by establishing an expert group on abortion within Fianna Fail.

Two years later he promised a referendum and legislation in the run-up to the general election of 1997.

At the time, his announcement went down like a lead balloon with the Progressive Democrats.

More than two years after those promises were made, the public is no wiser about what precisely the Taoiseach has in mind.

An early notion about utilising Article 27 of the Constitution has been dropped. The status of a commitment to draft the heads of legislation that would be put to the people – as happened in the divorce referendum – is unclear.

The Taoiseach now appears to be taking cover behind the Oireachtas committee and collective Cabinet responsibility.

It is a delicate stage in the exercise. The next step will involve open-ended consideration by the all-party committee on the Constitution. If a miracle happens and agreement is reached there on a way forward, the matter will come back to the Government. There could then be further consultations, a White Paper and a referendum/legislation.

It should come as no surprise that in spite of pressure from the Independent TDs, Mildred Fox and Harry Blaney, few Ministers expect a referendum to be held in the lifetime of this Government.

But anti-abortion groups are determined to pressurise the Government and Fianna Fail backbenchers into completing the process by next summer.

They have a mountain to climb. Resistance to an outright constitutional ban on abortion is widespread within the political system. Mr Ahern may be anxious to retain their support in advance of the next general election.

But he may be neither willing nor able to deliver their demands.

Plus ça change.

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

Earlier: ‘It Sure As Hell Is Not Politics As Normal’

Pic: Richard Bruton

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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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SinéadKennedy

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