The religious advocacy group the Iona Institute said the Government’s statement on its intention to introduce legislation for abortion next year was “not entirely clear” in relation to the issue of suicide, but that it would be “wrong and unnecessary” to allow for it in cases where there is deemed to be suicidal intent.
A combination of legislation and regulations will be introduced to comply with the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the A, B and C case, a statement from the Department of Health said today. The Government is expected to allow the fear of suicide as a ground for abortion but may not provide for rape or sexual abuse, neither of which formed part of the X case ruling.
Iona Institute spokeswoman Maria Steen said including the threat of suicide as grounds for abortion in the legislation “would not save a single life”.
“Irish law already allows the ending of a pregnancy when there is no other choice and there is a clear threat to the life of the mother,” she said.
“A decision to include a threat of suicide as a ground for abortion would also be wrong in principle because it would authorise for the first time ever the deliberate and direct destruction of unborn human life in Ireland.”
Pro-choice groups welcomed today’s announcement, but said the government must commit to a timeframe for the introduction of legislation.
In a joint statement, Irish Choice Network, Choice Ireland, Action on X, Galway Pro-Choice, Cork Women’s Right to Choose and Doctors for Choice said the proposed legislation “should only be considered a first step towards liberalising abortion laws in Ireland”.
Action on X spokeswoman Sinéad Kennedy called on the Government to deal with the issue immediately after the Dáil returns from the Christmas break.
She said it was vital that there be no curtailment of a woman’s right to access abortion on the ground that she is suicidal in the new legislation.
“We are aware that there are moves from some TDs to have this rolled back, however this is a constitutional right confirmed by the Supreme Court decision in the X Case and the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the ABC case,” she said.
The pro-choice groups have also called for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, which gives the unborn an equal right to life as the mother.
Choice Ireland spokeswoman Stephanie Lord said it was “inhumane” that the amendment has not been repealed before now.
“There are 4,500 women that travel overseas for abortion services every year, and many more that order pills online to induce abortions at home,” she said.
“Women have a right to make the best choice for them under their circumstances, and their right to health care must also be upheld. It is now time to introduce free, safe, and legal abortion on demand in Ireland.”
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said the decision to put a legislative and regulatory regime in place would provide clear and effective procedures which would enable women to access lawful abortion in Ireland.
ICCL director Mark Kelly said the decision sends a clear message that the Government is committed to honouring its legal obligations to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of A, B and C.
“There is no good reason why the Government should limit itself to the minimum action required to implement this one judgment,” he said.
“It should seize the opportunity to thoroughly overhaul Ireland’s antediluvian laws on abortion, including by rendering lawful the termination of pregnancies involving fatal foetal abnormalities.”
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said the “tragic death” of Savita Halappanavar emphasised the need for legislation on abortion.
“We must act swiftly to ensure that pregnant women have access to necessary life-saving medical treatment,” she said. “We have waited 20 years for this law – it is long overdue.”
Labour Women chairwoman Sinead Ahern said Labour had gone through with its promise to be the first government to act on the abortion issue and legislate for the X case.
“Six governments in this State have failed to act on the Supreme Court judgement in 1992. Labour in government has ensured that this will not be the seventh,” she said.
The Government announced today that a combination of legislation and regulations will be introduced to comply with the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the A, B and C case.
Minister for Health James Reilly presented a memorandum to this morning’s Cabinet meeting. The decision was taken to follow this route – the fourth option from the expert group on abortion – rather than proposing guidelines, an option favoured by anti-abortion campaign groups.
A statement released by the Department of Health said: “Having considered the report of the of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland the Government has decided that the implementation of this judgement by way of legislation with regulations offers the most appropriate method for dealing with the issue.”
In a statement, the Government said the drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case. “It was also agreed to make appropriate amendments to the criminal law in this area,” it said.
The Heads of a Bill will be published in the new year following deliberations by the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in early January, before the Dáil resumes.This will be followed by a debate in the Oireachtas before the Bill and regulations are finalised.
“The Government has also noted and agreed to the request from the Health Minister Dr James Reilly for further decisions at a later stage related to policy matters that will inform the drafting of the legislation,” the statement said.
Dr Reilly said he was very conscious of the sensitivities around the issue of abortion.
“I know that most people have personal views on this matter. However, the Government is committed to ensuring that the safety of pregnant women in Ireland is maintained and strengthened. We must fulfill our duty of care towards them,” he said.
“For that purpose, we will clarify in legislation and regulation what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman’s life. We will also clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child.”
Dr Reilly said the Government would not “preempt the debate that must follow by speculating on details to be decided later in the process”.
The Government is expected to allow the fear of suicide as a ground for abortion but may not provide for rape or sexual abuse, neither of which formed part of the X case ruling. On foot of the decision, the Government is also expected to repeal provisions in the Offences against the State Act 1861, which criminalises abortion.
Varadkar opposed to abortion for rape victims
By Mary Regan, Political Reporter
Monday, May 03, 2010
ALLOWING rape victims to terminate their pregnancies could lead to “abortion on demand” according to controversial Fine Gael TD, Leo Varadkar.
The front-bench spokes-person on enterprise also said he “went easier” on Tánaiste Mary Coughlan in the Dáil “because she is a woman” in an effort to dismiss claims that he had been sexist towards her.
The conservative TD and medical doctor said he would “not be in favour of abortion” and, although he is not religious, he would “accept a lot of Catholic social thinking”.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled in the X case that a woman had a right to an abortion if there was “a real and substantial risk” to her life. Mr Varadkar said: “The only thing that would be a grey area is if there’s a genuine threat or risk to the life of the mother.”
But he said he wouldn’t be in favour of legalising abortions for victims of rape: “I wouldn’t be in favour of it in that case, and, you know, first of all, it isn’t the child’s fault that they’re the child of rape.”
“How would that work practically? Would someone have to prove that they’ve been raped? I think where that’s been brought in in countries it has more or less led to abortion on demand,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Independent magazine. “You can say the same thing about disabled children. You know, some people would make that argument in favour of abortion. It’s not their fault they’re disabled. I wouldn’t be in favour of it in those circumstances either.”
It’s estimated that around 5,000 women travel from Ireland to Britain for abortions every year, but Mr Varadkar said there was no double standards on the issue. “People travel overseas to do things overseas that aren’t legal in Ireland all the time. You know, are we going to stop people going to Las Vegas? Are we going to stop people going to Amsterdam? There are things that are illegal in Ireland and we don’t prevent people from travelling overseas to avail of them.”
The 31-year-old said it was “very unfair” that he was accused of sexism in the Dáil because of the way he attacked Ms Coughlan when she was Minister for Enterprise.
“If anything I went easier on her because she was a woman,” he said. “She’s accused everyone of sexism. Nobody that I know would ever say that I’m sexist. Most people would accept it was the last line of defence for Mary Coughlan.”
Doctors for Choice: A founder member of the Doctors for Choice group has said she believes another referendum is inevitable to allow even a limited form of abortion in Ireland.
Dr Mary Favier told a public meeting in Cobh, Co Cork, that the expert group’s report on abortion was to be welcomed.
However, Dr Favier pointed out that the expert group looked at only a very narrow section of the current law and she believed a referendum to change the Constitution was necessary.
“I think inevitably we are going to have to look at repealing the 1983 amendment, which was always a very faulty insertion into the Irish Constitution,” said Dr Favier.
“Until it is repealed, we will not be able to legislate in any circumstances to protect women who have been raped or who are pregnant as the result of incest,” she told Cork’s 96FM.
It is becoming more and more clear that to safe guard the health, life and equality of women in Ireland we need to remove the 8th amendment.
“We should not pretend that limited measures, ensure true equality for all members of this republic.” Alan Shatter’s speech in the Dáil on Claire Daly’s most recent bill to legislate for X.
Chants of “Repeal the 8th” rang out outside the Dáil last Wednesday as people gathered in the cold to listen to the debate, it rang out every time a politician said that hands were tied due to the constitution.
For the last few years I have steadfastly said we did not need another referendum on abortion in this country, that we as a nation twice have voted no to not legislating for the X case.
I was wrong, any legislation is subservient to the constitution and can not conflict with our Constitution, so yes we do need a referendum. One to repeal the 8th amendment.
Review shows maternal deaths under-reported
[Posted: Fri 23/11/2012 by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
Ireland’s maternal mortality rate is twice as high as has been previously reported, new figures show.
The first report from the recently-established Maternal Death Enquiry – MDE Ireland system shows that our maternal death rate is 8 per 100,000 births, compared with 4 per 100,000 reported by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The MDE Ireland report, which uses wider criteria for defining maternal death than that used by the CSO, found that in the years 2009 to 2011 inclusive, 25 mothers who attended maternity hospitals with their pregnancies died.
The Irish report adopted the more comprehensive British classification system for determining maternal death, and collated detailed data on mortality from hospitals. It classified two of the deaths in the period as being due to suicide.
In the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar, assurances have been made by health authorities and the medical profession that Ireland has one of the lowest maternal death rates in the world. However, the new report shows that while our maternal death rate is still relatively low by international standards, it is higher than has been previously reported in official statistics.
According to the report, seen by irishhealth.com, six of the 25 deaths were classified as direct maternal deaths, 13 as indirect maternal deaths, while the remaining six were attributed to ‘coincidental cause’. Forty per cent of the deaths recorded were in women not born in Ireland.
It says of the 25 deaths MDE Ireland recorded between 2009 and 2011 inclusive, among the six direct maternal deaths, three were due to pulmonary embolism, one from amniotic fluid embolism, one due to uterine rupture and one due to multi-organ failure secondary to the HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication related to pre-eclampsia.
The report says of the 13 indirect maternal deaths recorded during the period, five were due to heart disease, two due to suicide, two were due to swine flu, two due to epilepsy, one due to serious lung disease and one due to an oesophageal bleed.
Of the six ‘coincidental’ deaths, two were due to metastatic cancer, one due to a road traffic accident, one due to lymphoma and two due to substance abuse.
The MDE Ireland system, set up in 2009 and run by leading medical and midwifery experts, is linked to the Confidential Maternal Death Inquiry system for England and Wales. This system is regarded as the ‘gold standard’ for confidential maternal death inquiry.
MDE Ireland classifies maternal deaths under the criteria of:
* ‘Maternal’ deaths of women while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy.
* ‘Direct’ deaths resulting from obstetric complications of pregnancy, from ‘interventions, omissions, incorrect treatment or from a chain of events resulting from any of the above’.
* ‘Indirect’ deaths resulting from a previous existing disease, or a disease developing during pregnancy and which was not due to obstetric causes, but where the disease was aggravated by the physical effects of the pregnancy.
* ‘Coincidental’ maternal deaths, from unrelated causes which happen to occur in pregnancy or the during or just after childbirth.
* ‘Late’ deaths occurring between 42 days and one year after abortion, miscarriage or delivery that are the result of direct or indirect maternal causes.
Figures used by the CSO for maternal deaths rely on the cause of death as recorded on the coroner’s death certificate alone, which experts believe limits the definition of a maternal death and has led to under-reporting of the true rate.
The most recent CSO figures recorded only one maternal death in 2010 and three in 2009.
The MDE Ireland report says its aim is to investigate why some women die during or shortly after pregnancy, and to learn how such tragedies can be avoided in the future.
The new figures mean our maternal mortality rate is on the same level as that of France, it is still less than that of the UK and the US, but is higher than that of Sweden and Norway.
Referring to the significant number of maternal deaths in Ireland among women born outside the country, the report says the issue of how these women engage with our maternity services needs to be dealt with, and highlighted the importance of the availability of interpretive services.
A particular concern, the report says, is the issue of engagement with maternity services by non-national patients getting alternative medical advice from outside the country.
The MDE Ireland report says there was reluctance in some hospitals to share maternal death data due to concerns over data protection, potential litigation and anticipated review of cases by other agencies.
It says pregnant women with pre-existing medical and mental health disorders should have risk assessment on booking into a maternity hospital, and they should be afforded high priority when referred for assessment by doctors in other medical disciplines.
The report recommends that a question on pregnancy status at time of death, similar to that on the medical death cert, should be included on the coroner’s death cert.
Those who opposed the 8th amendment were accused of being pro abortion and running a campaign for abortion when they were questioning the flawed nature of the 8th amendment.
The 8th Amendment introduced the following clause into Article 40.3 of the Constitution:
3° The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
In 1968 contraceptives were still illegal in Ireland, this didn’t change until the mid 80s. Women were often told after having anything between 8 to 12 children to not have any more by drs but would be told by priests they had to do their duty and it was not possible to press charges if your husband raped you.
The contraceptive pill could how ever be prescribed for other reasons.
But every pill taken was deemed a mortal sin and if a woman was known to be on the pill she could be refused communion and even barred from the church.
This film was recorded in Ballyfermot and two women speak about their large families and the moral and legal dilemma they faced in order to take the contraceptive pill for the sake of their health, their lives and their families.
My Nana was one of those women rearing 10 children in a small 3 bedroom house.
When one of the neighbors in confession admitted to do doing her duties to her husband the priest ran her out of the church and told her not to darken the door until she had preformed them. My grandmother with the rest of the women’s solidarity in the parish boycotted the priest until he was moved.
Ireland has come a long way in shrugging off the shackles imposed on it but the roman catholic church which has caused such suffering, but we still have a long way to go, as most of our schools and hospitals are still controlled by it.