How Did We Get Here?


itAisling-Twomey-crop-600x300Aisling Twomey (above) and coverage of the recent abortion crisis (top).

Aisling Twomey writes:

As one of the women ‘in their prime’ mid 20s, I have never had a chance to vote on an abortion plebiscite. I have grown up with Ireland’s appalling and destitute attitude to abortion and pregnancy and I don’t think we often consider the amount of time that has passed while policy deteriorates….

How is it that Ireland’s doctors find themselves using a dead woman as an incubator, in the vague, unqualified, unscientific hope that a child may be born eventually of the experiment? How is it that this could be, not just legal, but possibly Constitutionally protected?

To find the answer to the question, we have to go back in time and consider the status of women and the unborn in Ireland- as well as Irish society itself.

In January 1973, the United States Supreme Court heard the infamous case of Roe v Wade, where the Court held in favour of abortion on privacy grounds. The case is controversial to this day- but perhaps less understood is its impact on the international community. Later that year, the Irish Supreme Court heard the case of McGee v Attorney General and considered that there was a broad right to privacy in marital affairs- a similar reasoning to that used in Roe v Wade to allow abortion. There was a fear that this finding could be extended to include the right to an abortion in Ireland.

A campaign grew, led by the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign, to introduce a constitutional ban on abortion. The group lobbied political parties to introduce a Bill to amend the constitution. Just before the general election of 1981, political capital was at a premium. The heads of the major parties agreed to the proposal by PLAC and in a turgid time for Irish politics, two general elections were held in 1982. All three major parties found themselves holding power in a short space of time- the Fianna Fail government introduced the Amendment Bill, and the Fine Gael/Labour coalition later passed it and ran the referendum in 1983.

I didn’t vote in the 1983 referendum. I wasn’t born yet. The referendum passed, with 67% support from the electorate. The right to life of the unborn was introduced to the Irish Constitution.

Almost ten years passed. A fourteen year old girl was raped by a neighbour and became pregnant. She and her parents made a decision that they would travel to the United Kingdom to procure a termination. The Attorney General obtained an injunction to prevent that.

The girl told her family, the police and a psychiatrist that she had committed to ending her life to solve the problem. In the landmark case of Attorney General v X, the Supreme Court considered the 8th Amendment and the life of the 14 year old rape survivor. The Court (incidentally, five men) held that a woman had a right to an abortion under Article 40.3.3 if there was a “real and substantial risk” to her life. Suicide was considered to be such a risk and X was permitted to travel to the United Kingdom. X miscarried shortly after the decision was made.

After the X Case, in November 1992, a further three Amendments to the Constitution were brought before the people of Ireland. The 13th and 14th Amendments, allowing pregnant women to travel to another state and allowing the distribution of information about abortion services in foreign countries, passed. The 12th Amendment proposed that abortions would still be prohibited, even in cases where the pregnant woman was suicidal. The Irish electorate rejected the 12th Amendment.

When the X case was heard in 1992, I was not yet 2 years old. As a result, I didn’t vote in the 1992 referendum.

In 2002, an effort was made to tighten the constitutional ban on abortion- again, it sought to remove the threat of suicide as a grounds for legal abortion. Up to that time, no Government had yet legislated for the finding of the Supreme Court in the X case. The referendum was defeated, narrowly, by the people of Ireland- and the issue was put quietly back on the shelf.

I remember clearly that 2002 was the first time I saw the placards of foetuses on the streets. I have seen them many times since, but at the time, as a child, they frightened me. I was 12, and I didn’t understand.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found Ireland in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights in A, B and C v Ireland. Ireland was in breach of the Convention because of a lack of clarity- there was nowhere for a woman to go to secure a legally authoritative determination of what her rights were.

In 2010, I turned 20. Two years into my undergraduate degree, the issue of abortion had cropped up quite a bit. I didn’t (and don’t) like the idea of terminating a pregnancy. Nobody does. I am confident that not one person in this world has ever grown up thinking “I want to have an abortion some day!” But the more I learned and thought about it, the more I realised that abortions are necessary and as such the procedure should be safe and legal- and rare.

I had talked about it with friends over the years, though it was a tricky enough subject in an all girls Catholic school. We were given sex education when I was 17 and were told that we “couldn’t learn about condoms” because “the nuns wouldn’t like it.”

Not only was 17 way too late to be introduced to the idea of a condom, the sense of shame and moralising about the whole thing was infuriating. Sex education shouldn’t be shameful or criminal – it is necessary and the burden of it is a responsibility that isn’t given enough weight in Ireland.

We need to teach our young people about sex properly- about consent, about protection, about safety, responsibility and fun. We need to do it without a red face and with plain honesty. Sex isn’t shameful; disallowing sex education because the nuns wouldn’t like it is.

The A, B and C judgment sat there, rudely cropping up every now and then when Government was questioned, nationally and internationally, about abortion in Ireland. The news cycles were more concerned with the death of the Celtic Tiger and the emigration of thousands of Ireland’s young people- the bust had arrived and the word ‘Recession’ was for a time perhaps more hated than ‘Abortion’.

In October 2012, Savita Halappanavar died at University Hospital Galway, having been admitted suffering a miscarriage in the 17th week of her pregnancy. She requested an abortion but her requests were refused, as were those of her husband. “This is a Catholic country”, they were told, and the foetus still had a heartbeat. Savita was allowed to lie in a hospital bed for a number of days, developing septicaemia. After three days in hospital, the remains of the foetus were removed after a diagnosis of septic shock was made- but it was too late for Savita, who died of blood poisoning, organ failure and cardiac arrest seven days after she arrived at the hospital. She was 31 years old.

Protests sprang up overnight. A movement was started by pro-choice groups to legislate for the X case. The pro-life campaigns accused “abortion campaigners” of exploiting Halappanavar’s death for political gain.

They were correct: pro-choice campaigners did use Savita’s death for political gain – and it should happen again, over and over if need be, until women are treated with enough respect to make their own decisions about their own bodies in Ireland.

At the time of Halappanavar’s death, women in their thousands were going to the United Kingdom to procure abortions. Of course, those thousands were the women who could afford the plane or boat. Those thousands were the ones who could make the trip. Among those thousands are women who have experienced complications, who haven’t had counselling, who have hidden their journey, afraid, scared, demeaned and degraded by successive governments in their own country. Documented also are the migrant women who have sought safety, security and a future in Ireland – they too find themselves ill prepared and ill equipped when a termination, for whatever reason, is their preference.

Fatal foetal abnormality? Go to England. Raped? Go to England. Can’t afford to raise a child? Go to England. Severe health risks? Go to England. “Going to England” is a droll, dry joke in some conversations in Ireland. Those who have discussed it will know precisely the tone that comes with uttering those words.

I have spoken, at length, with friends about abortion. We have no choice; it has dominated countless national news cycles since we were infants. If the day should come, I know who I could ask to accompany me on such an awful journey- and I know who I could not, for fear of judgement and reproach. I have spoken to women who have made that trip and I honour their courage and their unending strength. No matter the reason, it is a path fraught with terror. Often, there is nobody there to hold a hand, give assurance, support and unconditional love. It is despicable precisely because it is unnecessarily punitive.

In 2013, the Government perhaps felt they had to bring some clarity to the situation. Pressure had mounted and the debate nationally had become angry and foul-mouthed. Terms like ‘abortionist’, ‘murderer’, ‘pro-abort’ and ‘Jesus freak’ were tossed around with aplomb.

Previously, the legislation governing abortion in Ireland was the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, transcribed into Irish law when Ireland gained independence in the 1920s. 20 years had passed since the X case judgment and no government had introduced legislation on the topic.

The awful, unbearable grief of the Halappanavar family changed the record and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 was passed by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition.

Under the 2013 Act, where there is risk of loss of life from physical illness, two physicians must concur that a termination is necessary to prevent a risk of death. They should consult the patient’s GP also. Where there is a suicide risk, three physicians must concur that the termination is necessary- an obstetrician and two psychiatrists. At least one of these should consult with the patient’s GP. Where a termination is requested and refused, a woman may appeal to the Health Service Executive (HSE), which establishes a panel of physicians, two or three of whom review the application.

In short, if you are a pregnant, suicidal woman, the Irish state does not, cannot, will not accept your interpretation of how you feel. Instead, you will be weighed and measured. If you are found wanting and demand a second opinion, one will be given to you by another group. Plenty of people will have a go at deciding if you, as a woman, are suicidal. Your own opinion is not and never will be enough for Ireland. Physicians who have a conscientious objection to abortion are absolved from these decisions; we care more for their sensitivities than we do thousands of women in dire pain and need.

Under the 2013 Act, the punishment for ‘destruction of unborn human life’ is a maximum custodial penalty of 14 years.

Let me give you some context for that fact. In 1994, X’s attacker was tried and convicted of rape and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He served 3 years before release. In 2002, he was convicted of sexual assault and false imprisonment of a 15 year old girl and was sentenced to 3 and a half years. In Ireland, a repeat sexual offender who preys on young teenage women is treated with more mercy than a women who procures an abortion.

If you’re not angry yet, you should be, but I’ll give you one more. In 2013, it was found that the average sentence for rape in Ireland is between 5 and 7 years. While the 2013 Act hasn’t yet been tested (that I know of, at the time of writing), the logic stands: a woman procuring an abortion could receive 14 years imprisonment. If she was raped, her rapist might serve 7. It is unfathomable, unthinkable; it isn’t right.

I remember when the Bill passed through the Dail and made its way down the hall to the Seanad. I commented on Twitter that I felt it would do more harm than good- and I was lambasted. Members of one political party sent me messages suggesting that I ‘change my tone’ and stop ‘letting down the women who have fought for this Bill.’ To this day, I believe that I was correct: the 2013 Act belongs in Victorian times, not in a progressive, democratic, egalitarian society. Women are not to be placed in a bed and examined by teams of others who proclaim to know better- because they don’t.

Unless they have been raped, experienced a crisis pregnancy, felt shame when purchasing the morning after pill or nauseous boarding that flight to London, they simply cannot know more than the woman who lived it. That feeling you got in your stomach when your parents fought as a kid, that squelchy, awful, tense, clammy fear? Multiply it, multiply it by millions and you might have some notion.

At some point during those debates on the 2013 Bill, the hashtag started: #repealthe8th. A reference to the hope that the 8th Amendment to the Constitution could be withdrawn; that the ban on abortion could be lifted. It grew and it grew.

And so we arrive back in 2014 – but not back to the beginning just yet. There’s one more story to tell here and to leave it out would be an injustice.

A young woman claimed asylum in Ireland. She was raped in her home country and during a medical check, learned that she was pregnant. She immediately expressed her desire to die, rather than bear her rapist’s child, eight weeks into her pregnancy.

As an asylum seeker, she had limited documentation and limited rights to travel. Asylum seekers in Ireland receive €19.10 per week as an allowance and they are not allowed to work. Frankly, she didn’t have the means to get to the United Kingdom to procure an abortion.

She began a hunger strike and refused fluids. Under the 2013 Act, a panel of three experts was convened and she was certified as suicidal. It was agreed the pregnancy should be terminated. A High Court order was obtained to force feed her.

She was told she could have an abortion- but then told that her only option was a Caesarean section, as the pregnancy, at 24 weeks, was too far along. A baby boy was delivered prematurely by C-section. The mother had no contact with him. She told The Irish Times that the course of events was, in her view, an injustice. Pr-life groups named the child ‘Hope’ and marched for him.

Ireland forced an asylum seeker on hunger strike to bear her rapist’s child. We call her Migrant Y- a follow on from the X case, the situation for a disenfranchised woman no better, no more humane.

It is still 2014. It’s Christmas and I am 24 years old. The abortion debate has been trudging on through my entire lifespan- and then some. It crops up often in conversation, in work and at home.

My thoughts on it have become clear as the years have passed; I have thought about it from every angle and I have emerged as one of those who believe that abortion is a medical procedure that should be available on demand. I don’t know the struggles of another woman’s life and I sure don’t have a right to moralise. I have been called baby killer, abortionist, murderer. I have been called disgusting.

On December 16th, the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar was commenting on a Private Members Bill introduced by Clare Daly- a Bill on a possible Constitutional amendment supporting bodily integrity and personal autonomy. The Minister’s political party is effectively a pro-life party- but I watched him as he questioned the 8th Amendment for the first time.

“Speaking today as Minister for Health and as a medical doctor, and knowing all that I do now, it is my considered view that the eighth amendment is too restrictive.”

“The eighth amendment continues to exert a chilling effect on doctors. Difficult decisions that should be made by women and their doctors, a couple or the next-of-kin where there is no capacity, and on the basis of best clinical practice, are now often made on foot of legal advice. That is not how it should be and is not how it used to be.”

The news cycle picked it up quickly. The Taoiseach was quick to reproach the comments and insisted they were made in personal capacity. I had a feeling something was about to crawl out of the woodwork. Something was rotten in the state of Denmark.

On December 17th, mere hours after Varadkar’s comments, the story broke. A brain dead woman was being kept alive for the purposes of the unborn foetus inside her which still, somehow, had a heartbeat. Medical decisions were perverted by a fear of unclear, restrictive laws.

I received a sudden, furious text that summed it up perfectly.

“There’s a dead woman being kept alive because she was pregnant. You are an incubator.”

The sender was right. Ireland’s laws treat women as incubators and little else. Quite literally, this woman was referred to as a ‘cadaveric incubator’ in one particular news article.

The woman’s father became the plaintiff in the High Court case that followed. The woman’s fading corpse was assigned a lawyer. The unborn foetus was also allowed legal representation, as was the Health Service Executive.

The doctors who gave evidence felt it was not practical to sustain the mother for up to 32 weeks, maximising the chance of the child being viable. The HSE felt similarly. The father’s position was clear; he wanted his daughted to be laid to rest with whatever dignity remained for her. The term “experimental medicine” was used more than once.

The High Court delivered their judgment on St Stephen’s Day: they gave the order that life support could be withdrawn. But the judgment turns on the best interests of the foetus- not the mother. The foetus was largely deemed to be unviable and efforts to maintain the situation to attempt delivery were acknowledged as ‘futile’.

This does not mean that the Court discounts or disregards the mother’s right to retain in death her dignity with receive proper respect for her autonomy with due regard to the grief and sorrow of her loved ones and their wishes. Such an approach has been the hallmark of civilised societies from the dawn of time. It is a deeply ingrained part of our humanity and may be seen as necessary both for those who have died and also for the sake of those who remain living and who must go on. The Court therefore is unimpressed with any suggestion that considerations of the dignity of the mother are not engaged once she has passed away.

So, it is the hallmark of civilised societies that the dead be allowed to retain dignity with proper respect for autonomy and the need to mourn. But. But. But. There is always a but.

You’ll remember my first question: how is it that Ireland’s doctors find themselves using a dead woman as an incubator, in the vague, unqualified, unscientific hope that a child may be born eventually of the experiment? How is it that this could be, not just legal, but possibly Constitutionally protected?

Here, from the court judgment in PP v HSE, is the answer.

However, when the mother who dies is bearing an unborn child at the time of her death, the rights of that child, who is living, and whose interests are not necessarily inimical to those just expressed, must prevail over the feelings of grief and respect for a mother who is no longer living.

There are questions to be answered after this judgment. A ‘best interests’ test for an unborn foetus appears to have cropped up from nowhere and the court focused much more on the foetus than the dignity of the deceased. The scope of the 8th Amendment appears to have broadened- focusing on all unborn life, and no longer just focusing on deliberate termination. The outcome is a good one for a family in grief- but the long term consequences have yet to be seen.

One thing is certain: if something like this happens again, we will still find ourselves in a Court, because degrees of viability have not been discussed; extreme foetal damage has not been discussed: this judgment was provided because the chance of foetal survival was simply negligible. That may not be the case next time.

In the judgment, the brain death is referred to as an “Act of God”- an unanswerable, unpreventable tragedy. If the brain death was an Act of God, then surely the fate of the foetus is also?

The idea that ‘God’ is invoked at all when considering Constitutional law is bizarre to me. God belongs in the heart and soul- but not in the Constitution.

Life is about love and compassion and fear and achievement and struggle and strife and celebration. It is defined by its quality. When did “Life at all costs” become the goal?

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has said that there is no obligation to use extraordinary means to maintain a life. It’s not that I think unborn foetuses are worthless- far from it. I disagree with experiments on women, and their babies. ‘Life at all costs’ to me sounds torturous and futile; empty.

We talk about being humane- of putting pets down when they become too old, too ill, too frail. We talk about the bravery of people who face terminal illness and condemn hooligans who would desecrate graves. But a desecrated woman, in Ireland, appears to be less cause for concern.

Every time the topic is brought up for discussion in parliament, politicians insist on framing the debate in the context of female relations. What if it was your daughter, they ask? Your sister, your grandmother, your wife? Lovely sentiment, but the reality is that just about every political party in the state has had the chance to change this and they have universally refused to step up to the plate. They clearly have not thought of their own sisters, wives and mothers.

Nowadays it’s popular to talk about legislating further for abortion in Ireland. The suggestion is that the ban on abortion should be lifted in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest. At least the first of those can be proven quickly and some suffering at least might be spared.

But rape, incest? The 2013 Act requires groups of people to examine a woman to decide if she is suicidal. What horror would await a woman who says she was raped? What level of proof and examination would have to occur to secure justice for her? Would it require a conviction for her rapist before she would be believed? Politicians talk about this idea as though it’s a goldmine of sense, but few of them have thought it through enough. It is a nonsense proposal as long as the 8th Amendment exists and as long as the 2013 Act is a precedent piece of legislation for abortion.

4000 women travel from Ireland to the United Kingdom each year to get an abortion. We like to close one eye and pretend that doesn’t happen, but it does. It is punitive and it is damaging- and it has to stop now. It institutionalises the shaming and degradation of women- an area in which Ireland is already a qualified expert. That should be the shame.

It’s funny- years of legal training, human rights work and journalism gave me a wide scope of investigation on this topic. I gave it years of thought, but my eventual decision on abortion rights came about because of my own parents. Lots of people are parents. A smaller portion are Moms and Dads, people who sacrifice and provide and love unconditionally. Mine are that and more- but not everyone has that capacity. Having a child remains a really big deal- and it’s a really big deal women should have a choice in.

I haven’t gotten a chance to vote in a plebiscite or a referendum on abortion. Three decades have passed and it is abundantly clear that the 8th Amendment to the Constitution has caused merciless, ruthless, unbearable pain for thousands of women, thousands of families.

Let the people decide if we should #repealthe8th.

Life at all costs: Growing up with Ireland’s abortion policies

93 thoughts on “How Did We Get Here?

  1. Miss Carroll

    I look forward to reading this in its entirety, but don’t agree with this sentence:

    “How is it that Ireland’s doctors find themselves using a dead woman as an incubator, in the vague, unqualified, unscientific hope that a child may be born eventually of the experiment?”

    I don’t think this is an accurate summary. From what I have read and from what the HSE lawyers said in court submissions, doctors wanted to turn off the life support but were unsure whether the constitution permitted them, or indeed prevented them, from doing so.

    Which is a different issue and leads to the logical conclusion to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

    1. isobleu

      Yeah I’d like to think that medical staff are now playing these things out to bring attention to how tied their hands are in so many situations or how grey the law is for them. So, like pro-choice ‘using’ Savita, they were ‘using’ this poor woman as a political devise to force a change in the law for their own sake. It definitely raised awareness and sparked a debate anyway, whatever their intensions.

      1. Aisling

        Based on the court report, it seems to be the case that they feel they have no choice. They find themselves having to follow procedures that they don’t even agree with themselves- and that’s the point. They have to suffer the issue in a different way to the involved women, but they’re still just as stuck. Does that make sense?

  2. Soundings

    Having perused that essay above, fair enough, it’s detailed and well-argued.

    Can anyone explain why no major political party – FF, FG, SF, Labour embraces the position argued for? And isn’t the logical conclusion that the position argued for above is the minority view opposed by the majority?

    1. Malta

      The point is that we don’t know what the majority opinion is. It’s unlikely that 67% of the electorate are still in support on the 8th amendment.

      The political parties stay away from it because of cowardice. Whatever the majority opinion, it’s a very divisive issue, and it’s the rare politician that’s going to touch it with a barge pole coming up to an election.

      Labour were the ones that drove the legislation of the X case, but they’re not going back to it now that they’re in such trouble in the next election anyway.

      1. Don Pidgeoni

        Is it really that divisive? I think people these days can support abortion for cars of increase, rape and foetal abnormalities yet not be prepared to support abortion ‘on demand’ ( hate this term, it’s not rte player or something).

          1. Malta

            Yes, I think that the issue of abortion in Ireland is very divisive, in that people tend not to have wishy-washy opinions. I’m talking about the overall issue, not sub-points about fatal foetal abnormality etc.
            In fact, the essay makes a v good point about rape – who would decide what was rape. Since we did such a good job on the suicidal issue, can you imagine how rape would be handled.

          2. Don Pidgeoni

            I disagree. I think after hearing from women who have had to travel to the UK for an abortion of a baby that would never survive has opened peoples eyes up to the fact that abortion is not as black and white as it is made out to be by pro-birth advocates.

            But yes, agree any legislation would need to be crystal to prevent anything like the debacle that has just happened

    2. Ms Piggy

      no, not at all. Topics which produce both strong and divergent views tend (in general) to be avoided by political parties simply because they’re risky. The old film industry adage that no-one ever got fired for not making a film applies to party politics as well. Politicians prefer not to have to engage (one way or another) with topics which will produce vivid argument and sharp for/against positions among voters – because even taking a majority viewpoint (whatever that may be) will still alienate the minority, and possibly lose their votes. And in a country like Ireland where every vote really does count, the political will to avoid such topics becomes really strong. It doesn’t tell us anything at all about what might be a majority view if a referendum were held – it just tells us that politicians (especially in mainstream parties) are risk-averse and try to avoid giving clear opinions on any contentious topic. All of which is a huge failing of our political system, obviously.

      1. Spartacus

        In short, our elected representatives continue to replect the nature of our people. We are demonstrably a nation of cowards.

        1. Ms Piggy

          I don’t think it’s a specifically national phenomenon, to be fair. But some moral courage, from politicians and the general population, would be welcome about now.

    3. Milo

      Correct. Aisling has to understand whether she likes it or not we are still a morally conservative society. I’m dubious if the vote was held tomorrow that the act would be repealed. And one thing that needs repeating – the core of the anti abortion vote are female. There seems to be an undercurrent that this is some feminist campaign against the patriarchy- when the anti abortion crew are largely driven by women, young and old!

      1. Ms Piggy

        First of all, that wouldn’t stop it being a feminist issue. But I’m more intrigued to know where you’re getting your info from. You seem very sure that the majority of pro-lifers are women, but how do you know this?

    4. Shanti

      It is indeed baffling that outside of Labour there’s no party willing to act upon successive polls that show support for far wider access to abortion services than our Constitution permits.

      Not only this, but when you actually look at the results of the referendums it becomes clear that Ireland no longer holds the same ideologies that saw the 8th passed.

      Simply look at the voter turnout and the time elapsed.
      The voter turnout in 1983 was 53.67%, a little over half the registered voters. Of this group, 67% voted for the 8th amendment.
      I’m no mathematician – so I won’t try to work out what percentage of actual voters that amounts to – but it was not a clear majority of voters, merely those who bothered voting.
      It’s worth noting that the youngest voter in this referendum would be in their 50s now. And Ireland has a history for having apathetic youth vs active older voters – so there’s a chance many of the citizens casting their votes that year are no longer with us.

      In 1992, for the 12th, 13th and 14th amendments the voter turnout was:
      12th amendment – 68.16%, 65.35% of which voted “no” (refusing to remove the suicide clause)
      13th amendment – 68.18%, 62.39% voting yes to the right to travel
      14th amendment – 68.13%, 59.88% voting yes to the right to information on abortion services overseas.,_November_1992
      The youngest voters in 1992 would be 42 now. Plus – the turnout for this referendum was higher than the one for the 8th.. Again – not a math whizz, but even I can see that this indicates a move toward slightly less rigid “pro life” ideals.
      I mean, we voted for abortion elsewhere – it’s as close to voting for it here as you can get. And is the closest we have got to an option to widen abortion access from the 8th.

      The 25th amendment had a poor turnout, less than the 8th at only 42.89% turning out to vote, but 50.42% rejected it. Very little could be drawn from these results seeing as it’s less than half the voters.,_2002_(Ireland)

      If anything our most reliable polls (eg, referendums) indicate that ireland is not as “pro life” as we were back in 1983.

    1. ABM

      Quite a few mistakes actually.

      In the main, it’s re-hashed opinionated drivel masquerading as an impartial analysis that’s rooted in logic (logic of the feminist extremist variety).

      They’ve done a good job brainwashing her. I hope she gets that quango job she has her eye on.

      1. Jordofthejungle

        Poor deranged troll. Not to your liking?

        And what amazing job do you have that allows you to comment, for years now, within minutes of an abortion-related post going up? Doctor? Lawyer? Dentist? Accountant? Do tell…

        Crawl back under your dank rock ABM and try appreciate the squalor of your own hypocrisy. Maybe you’re on longterm sickness leave? That would make sense. One thing is for sure: the only thing you screw is the State. Leech.

        1. ABM

          I’m on long term sick leave? I’m a dentist? I screw the state? You do realise that the person who wrote this death cult drivel works for Pavee Point?

          Though in fairness, it’s the “respectable” Irish ministers who do a much better job at “screwing the state” than Pavee Point – at least travellers are a God-fearing, family-orientated people. I wonder are the travelling people of Ireland aware that Ms Twomey’s pro-gay, anti-life, anti-family, feminist views are wholly incompatible with the culture (and main religion) of Irish travellers? Sure abortion is but a “stigma” that needs to be erradicated from travellers’ minds – if only they were brainwashed to the level of a metropolitan expert (with a degree, no less) who has a job in a quango and a platform in the establishment media.

          1. Jordofthejungle

            ABM, never change. You’re as mad as a bag of spanners! Utterly and certifiably bonkers. Watch out for “Pavee Point”, they’re coming to get you…they’re all
            around. And the gays are under your dank bed…Of course if you only had a job and focus in your life…Hit the road crazy.

          2. Shanti

            If it’s a rehash of anything it’s the facts. Facts those on the pro lies side would prefer were forgotten about because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

            Your glee for attacking the writer rather than the subject speaks volumes about you, whoever you are..

  3. Marina

    I have rarely seen an article written so clearly on the right to abortion, I am a middle aged mother of 3 who is sitting here crying about all the people you describe so well. It is time that this country grew up and faced the world in a grown up manner – it is just another way that successive governments of men have dominated womens issues since the time of De Valera. I have 2 beautiful daughters who are of a similar age to you and I will ensure they read your article so they are ready to vote when the time comes.

    1. ABM

      You’re lucky that you have your three children. How would you feel, as a woman, to have to live in a country with no abortion restrictions where women and girls are routinely pressurised into killing their own flesh and blood? We don’t need abortion in Ireland – we need honourable people who do the right thing and live up to their responsibilities. Telling vulnerable women and girls that they have “option” to go to a list of preferred clinics in England is one of many grave injustices in contemporary Irish society.

      I hope the family acknowledge both lives and aren’t bullied (by the anti-God probort brigade) into closing their faculties to common sense.

      1. Alison

        “Probort” – lol! Not much going on in your lonely and sad life ABM, is there? I notice you’ve been quite active trolling on here over Christmas – not really the season for you to be jolly and in the company of others is it?

        1. ABM

          I’m sure your husband would love to know there’s a high probability that you will “choose” to destroy his offspring.

          I can only imagine what the rest of your New Ireland “high society” social circle is like.

          If you must know, I had a very happy Christmas with my family and am almost back in Dublin having been on a friends farm for a few days. Down in a quiet country pub last night – talked about the news from Leopardstown and drove home (shock horror) on an icy road. I’m sorry to disappoint you that I wasn’t having coffee with my token gay friend off Grafton Street, updating Facebook “friend” #121 (who I haven’t heard from in at least 12 months) with my latest middle class hire purchase possessions, or wasn’t seen at the latest Irish c-list celebrity night club in Dublin.

          Back on the phone tomorrow at 9. I suppose you’ll be out pissing your PAYE money up against the wall until at least next Monday?

          1. Alison

            But you still flind time to comment on broadsheet at 3am on posts that are a few days old – a little tipsy were we? Cut the crap you chronically lonely low born wretch from the dregs of society. It is nothing more than crushing loneliness, social dysfunction and unhappiness which causes you to to do what you do. Do you honesty expect me to believe you actually are a contributing member of society, lol!

          2. Jordofthejungle

            So you spent Christmas on a “friend’s farm”?! Guffaw. Yeah, that’s right ABM, whatever you say.

            By the way ABM what “job” allows you to post on broadsheet with revealing alacrity usually within minutes of one of your causes célèbres of abortion and marriage for same-sex couples being mentioned? Doctor? Solicitor? Barrister? Accountant? Do tell…

            Nail on the head Alison.

          3. Don Pidgeoni

            ABM, that’s a real Christian attitude right there – judgemental and preachy rather than behaving anyway like Jesus would

          4. Alison

            My, what a diatribe, replete with misogny referring to my readiness to abort. I suspect ABM that your encounters with women are extremely limited.

            Despite your pitiful denials ABM, your posts today reek of one thing. Hatred born of unhappiness. I hope for your sake you can attain some sort of peace with yourself.

            I don’t think ABM it would take a very accomplished psychiatrist to work out that you don’t very much like yourself, now do you?

          5. ABM

            Hatred born of unhappiness? Eh, no – I do, however, have a hatred of people who want to kill the unborn.

            Psychiatrist? You’re a real gem you are – not only do you appear to have a qualification in gynecology, medical ethics and are a world expert on theology – Alison is also an expert in psychiatry (who also like to casually contribute to the stigmatisation of those who suffer from mental illness).

            Though I am glad to hear you’re not a total sociopath who’d kill her own flesh and blood.

            Misogny? I suppose I do have a fear of marrying a woman who’d think nothing of going to Liverpool for a “short break” with her sister.

            I’m sure your husband is delighted. I suspect you picked the type of husband who does what he’s told, yeah?

          6. ABM

            That’s right, Jesus never judged. What Bible are you referring to?

            You could write a book on judgement, Pontius Pilate and Jesus. Though I’ll leave that to the experts (like our friend Alison).

            And you do know that Jesus is the ultimate Judge?

          7. ABM

            As for this “what would Jesus do” mantra, well, why don’t you read pick up the Bible and find out? Western civilisation has studied the moral question of abortion and infanticide for a long, long, long time now. The Catholic Church has published its position – you are free to argue a different view, but I doubt you have either knowledge and understanding. All I’ve seen here is personal abuse of people who speak up on behalf of the unborn (not that I was ever expecting an intelligent discussion from you lot).

            Anyway, if you have new information or have discovered some hidden passage somewhere (that supports the idea that abortion is perfectly normal), well I’m sure the Vatican will love to hear from you. The way you anti-God bores go on, you’d think there was a conspiracy to keep the top secret “Hidden Bible Passages” (which spells out that women should kill their own babies whenever they feel like it) in a dusty basement vault in the Vatican.

          8. Don Pidgeoni

            The nice bible. But I bet you prefer the fire n brimstone, whore-stoning, witch-burning old one.

            Jesus was the ultimate socialist hippie, miles away from you and your opinions on here.

          9. Alison

            Ha! Poor ABM – how many men behave as you do online? Do you honestly think your rants are those of a happy, fulfilled and socially functional man. You miss the point my dear – your loneliness and unhappiness is quite apparent – a first year pscychology student could tell you that.

            And bless – you hope to marry – and a woman to boot. You’ll have to sort out your strange ideas ( and of course they’re just ideas) about human sexual expression.

            Revel in your abusive online presence as a displacement activity for a sad and lonely life all you want but you ain’t fooling anyone dear.

            and I doubt you fool even yourself, loser.

          10. ABM

            What age are you Alison? You sound like a happily married young woman. A happily married young woman with a busy house and mouths to feed – iPad in the other hand waiting for a response from an evil man she hates. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the other tabs on your internet browser are a selection of: Dublin fertility clinics,,,, and

          11. Alison

            Lol! Try harder ABM – this says more about your own hypocritical online obsessions and displacement activities.

            By the way, you appear to be dreadfully wound-up. Diddums and I was only doing it for fun.

            Unhappy and lonely – hit a nerve did I? Have a drink ABM – it helps you.

          12. ABM

            That’s right. The “Christian” thing to do is to ignore evil and say/do nothing.

            Privileged hipsters making a parody out of the Christian culture that they inherited, were brought up and benefit from is an even greater ill than the daily promotion of abortion/homosexuality/gay adoption/divorce/free love and anti-Catholicism.

          13. Niallo

            Christian ? As in based on the original christ ? The rabbi ? A follower of the original abrahamic religion ? (The wellspring of judaism, islam and laterly christianity) Where abraham was asked to sacrifice his son isaac by the prankster god ?
            Yeah, he sounds like a barrel of laughs right enough.
            Remind us, who wrote the new testament ? Was it jesus ? No ? Not autobiographical ? He had a “ghost” writer (pardon the pun) ?
            Funny that, maybe humans with all their frailties were involved ? please dont drag down jc’s name if your spouting your horseshit around the place.
            Christianity is still a source of comfort and peace of mind to a lot of people, all you suceed in doing is dragging it down to your level, the level of the nutter, you turn people off religion, well done dipshit.
            How ironic it will be when you pass through the pearly gates and you get the slow handclap…
            As one who was (beaten) brought up by the jesuits i speak with a degree of authority on the subject, further to that, consider that i’m speaking with a degree of knowledge on the subject at hand.
            Until you’ve been forced into a “situation” you have no idea what the meaning of the word “hell” is until you have been through that particular emotional mill.
            I understand jc’s core message was, “try to be nice and reasonable to each other”
            That message seems to be getting drowned out by fuckwits like u.
            I believe in free speech but do please
            Shut up.

          14. Alison

            “Free love”. Yet there is no one to love you not even yourself ABM.

            You get all wound up ABM (and have done so for years now) at subjects that will never impact you (well, I wouldn’t put money on the fact of you being sure sure of your sexuality but that’s for another day) at the expense of living your own life. You lack a basic ability to appreciate nuance and the human condition. You have a warped view of the world precisely because you don’t really participate in it I’ve no doubt.

            I might be winding you up ABM partly for my own amusement but seriously, you do not strike me as a very happy individual and you certainly don’t fool me with what are classic displacment activities more revelatory or your own malaise and anger. Even if you genuinely believe the tripe you write, surely the unhinged manner in which you ventilate it, should give you cause for concern.

            Your behaviour online is abnormal whether you wish to believe it or not. Sort yourself out before it’s too late.

          15. Jesst

            Remember those annoying emotionally stunted boys in school, that used to hit and pull the hair of the girls they fancied? ABM’s comments towards Alison kinda remind me of that. I’d lock you doors at night Alison, he’s not well.

          16. Don Pidgeoni

            The bible doesn’t discuss abortion so I don’t know what you are on. You are the one going on about God this, Jesus that but getting your panties in a twist if anyone else mentions religion. What a tool.

          17. ABM

            “The bible doesn’t discuss abortion”. Sigh. It was called “killing” back then. “Abortion” is a recent addition to the lexicon.

            Genesis 16:11
            Genesis 25:21-22
            Hosea 12:3
            Romans 9:10-11

            Are good entry points for discussion. Though I’ve a gut feeling that there’s neither the interest, nor the expertise (except for Alison, our very own in-house scholar) here to come to any meaningful advancement of the current position.

          18. Shanti

            The Bible tells us when a foetus becomes a living being.
            “Many people think that a human being is created at the time of conception but this belief is not supported by the bible. The fact that a living sperm penetrates a living ovum resulting in the formation of a living fetus does not mean that the fetus is a living human being. According to the bible, a fetus is not a living person with a soul until after drawing its first breath.

            After God formed man in Genesis 2:7, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being”. Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath.

            In Job 33:4, it states: “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

            Again, to quote Ezekiel 37:5&6, “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

            In Exodus 21:22 it states that if a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined; however, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. It should be apparent from this that the aborted fetus is not considered a living human being since the resulting punishment for the abortion is nothing more than a fine; it is not classified by the bible as a capital offense.”

          19. Don Pidgeoni

            They do not prove what you think they do. You must be fake ABM or just full of sh**

            Although, if the bible was so pro-life, why in exodus is the man who causes a women to miscarry fined for loss of property rather than charged with murder?

          20. ABM

            “They do not prove”
            “The bible doesn’t discuss”
            “I don’t know”
            “that’s a real Christian attitude”
            “like Jesus would”
            “Jesus was the ultimate socialist hippie”

            Ah yes, Don Pidgeoni the hidden Italian cardinal we’ve never heard of? He must be one of those secret cardinals in charge of the classified dusty basement vault beneath the Vatican?

            Regarding Exodus – I have no idea. I’m not well up on this instance that you are referring to. If you’re really that interested, perhaps you could have a chat with your local curate? I’m sure he’d be only too happy to chat to you (and would be aware of the context and the development of the question that you pose).

            Or maybe you could just ask the resident expert Alison?

          21. realPolithicks

            ABM, what you don’t get is that most people don’t give a rats ass about what the bible says. Quoting passages from a piece of fiction written by followers of a zombie prophet who claimed to be his own father, is more redundant than your attempt to portray yourself as an intellectual. You are a misogynist, a homophobe and an all round miserable individual.

          22. Don Pidgeoni

            Lol oh ABM. Must be so sad to base your entire existence on a book that doesn’t even support your arguments and that you don’t even know!!!!

            Haha brilliant!!!

          23. Alison

            ABM baiting was fun!

            Heartening to see the sad and lonely creep still going at nearly 1am, struggling to come up with trite and obvious abuse. ABM, why can you still post away and froth at the mouth with gay abandon (lol) right into the wee hours? Not much going on? Nobody around? Nothing to get up for in the morning? Don’t sleep so well? Do many sane, happy and real (emphasis) men behave as you do? At least Broadsheet provides you with an outlet and perhaps keeps you off the streets.

            Thank you for the mirth, you tragic goon.

          24. Someone

            “Hi Alison, should I add “free love” to the list of areas you’re an expert in?”

            Why? Do you suggest that we have to pay for it or something?

  4. The Citizen

    Great summary and well written.

    Bit of confusion over the linking of these two clauses though:

    “In the judgment, the brain death is referred to as an “Act of God”- an unanswerable, unpreventable tragedy. If the brain death was an Act of God, then surely the fate of the foetus is also?

    The idea that ‘God’ is invoked at all when considering Constitutional law is bizarre to me. God belongs in the heart and soul- but not in the Constitution.”

    ‘Act of God’ is not a religious term but has a clearly defined meaning in common law and is vital to interpretation of obligation. I agree the 8th should be repealed but I also think that there are plenty of cases where the right to dignity of a corpse plays second fiddle to other ‘higher’ interests. Organ donation being one.

    1. Aisling

      Hello! As the person who wrote it, I can clarify this a little- and probably should have in the piece. It’s wider than the use of the term ‘Act of God’ which was a pretty fair appraisal of what happened in this medical case.

      The second clause has to do with the wider use and interpretation of God in the Constitution. Several cases in the higher courts in Ireland have debated the ‘Christian and democratic’ nature of the state and the preface to the Constitution mentions God. Campaigns to separate Church and State have been ineffective. My point is that God is a source of hope for millions, and though I’m not a believer, I think that religion has a place in the world. Just not in the Constitution of a multi-cultural State.

      Hope that clears it up- perhaps I should edit it to add in this point, but I figure it’s damn long enough without forcing people to read more! ;)

      1. Shanti

        Good to be able to contact the author – first off, kudos, a well written summary of the state of tragic affairs here.
        One thing though – the AB&C vs Ireland required the state to act, they had commissioned a report and it was due (albeit at that stage it was already very late) on O Reilly’s desk when the story about Savita broke. At the time the expert report made mention of TFMR, because that was the hot issue of the time of publishing.

        The government had already committed to legislation – they were facing sanctions if they didn’t.
        I firmly believe that it was those sanctions rather than Savita’s death that spurred the government into action. You know what they’re like when money is involved.

  5. Emily

    Brilliant article, well written and well-researched.

    Very annoying to read the whole thing in italics, though.

  6. Odis

    What’s the legal significance of decision, in the zombie incubator case.
    As far as I can tell. If you are a doctor you can avoid a fourteen year prison, if when using a corpse as an incubator, said corpse, starts to turn a bit gamey, thus severely reducing the survival chances of the unborn.


    1. Shanti

      The case was weighted on the best interest of the child – and as that is contingent upon several factors this case didn’t really set any precedent at all, should it happen again and the woman is closer to viability she will likely need to remain on life support until it ceases to be a viable option any longer.

  7. Anomanomanom

    There really should not be any vote on this, they can change laws over night if they want. Stop prohibiting women in extreme cases like rape or if there is a genuine threat to the women’s well being. Anyone opposed to this I can give you 100% guarantee you won’t be forced to have an abortion so no problem for you.

    1. Shanti

      They can’t change the constitution – only we can.
      They can write laws, but only if they’re constitutional, and the constitution belongs to us, nothing in it changes without our say so – which is why we get to vote on EU treaties when other nations don’t.

      So if we want to widen access, we need to repeal the 8th, we the people, not them.

  8. Ferret McGruber

    If our politicians gave even one tenth of the consideration to the abortion ‘debate’ as Aisling Twomey has we might get somewhere. Twice in my life I have been faced with partners who were considering abortions because they felt they were not ready to have children at that time. Both times I could only reply: “it’s your body, you’re the one who will have to carry the child and care for it so the decision is yours. I will support your decision and support you whatever choice you make.”

    On both occasions the decision was made to have the baby and I am the proud father of 3 children now. But I still believe my stance above was the right one. As a man I believe I have no right to dictate what any woman should do with her own body.

  9. Gerry Johns

    “it is abundantly clear that the 8th Amendment to the Constitution has caused merciless, ruthless, unbearable pain for thousands of women, thousands of families.”

    It’s undoubtedly caused pain for the women in those (relatively few) hard cases that you mention. But for all those other women – the ones that have had abortions of convenience – do you think having their terminations in Dublin instead of somewhere in the UK would have been THAT much easier?

      1. Gerry Johns

        It’s all about balance, Don.

        You said yourself above. If a referendum was held tomorrow regarding abortion on demand, it would not pass.
        Even if you restricted voters to women of child-bearing age.

    1. Odis

      Yes actually, I do.
      Speaking from experience, the horrific journey to the UK, via Ryan Air is the cheapest, quickest and probably most unpleasant option.
      Then there’s the boats, I’ll not go there.
      But then, presumably the unfortunate and distressed woman has too also find accommodation, in an unfamiliar town.

      So what are you trying to say here Gerry? Maybe an enterprising young abortionee, could check out Buckingham Palace and the changing of the Guards whilst she’s at it.

      I think you are a horrid ****, by the way.

      1. Gerry Johns

        Why horrid? Because I oppose abortion.

        You’d swear it was just me and ABM that were against it.

        Go on then. Convince me that abortion on demand [as opposed to abortion for hard cases] is a Good Thing.

    2. Ms Piggy

      You write “abortions of convenience” as if it’s a bad thing. It’s not. They should indeed be as convenient as is medically possible. Free at point of use, on demand, and entirely taken for granted.

        1. Ms Piggy

          Well I think all health care should be free at point of use, so I’m not making a special case for abortion.

  10. Medium Sized C

    Every time someone refers to this as “using her as an incubator” they are quite clearly Objectifying pregnant women in a truly nasty way.

    1. Shanti

      I thought the woman was literally being objectified in this case, which I would deem worse than speaking about said objectification – but that is merely my opinion.
      The whole thing is wrong, that it happened, that we must talk about it, that her family were put through it – everything..

Comments are closed.