The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, enacted following the death of Savita Halappanavar, was meant to bring to an end the agonising about Ireland’s abortion regime and the long failure to legislate for the existing constitutional provision. The news that a vulnerable and suicidal young rape victim was denied an abortion in a timely way and ended up having a Caesarean section to deliver her baby prematurely shows that it has signally failed to do so.
The facts of the case, as we know them, are horrific. The young woman came to Ireland following a traumatic rape in her own country, resulting in pregnancy. She immediately told certain statutory authorities (though apparently not the HSE) she wanted an abortion. She was not directed to the appropriate medical services. Her circumstances were such that she could not travel abroad for an abortion, so she was forced to continue with the pregnancy against her will, as evidenced by the fact that she went on hunger and thirst strike. When she eventually obtained medical help she was found by the panel of experts to be suicidal, but they considered it was too late for an abortion and medical intervention, also against her will, became necessary to save her life and that of the child.
Little seems to have changed in the Republic of Ireland’s profoundly anti-abortion stance since Savita Halappanavar died of sepsis in a Galway hospital two years ago.’ Photograph: The Irish Times/PA
Ireland’s abortion act promised access to abortion at least in a few cases. In practice, it seems to have made no difference at all.
A vulnerable young woman in Ireland has been forced to give birth by caesarean section, even though she was so desperate for an abortion she was ready to starve to death rather than have the baby. These are almost the only known details of one of the first appeals for permission for an abortion to take place since the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act – allowing for the first time very limited abortion – came into effect at the start of the year. Scant as it is, the news appears to confirm that little has changed in the country’s profoundly anti-abortion stance since Savita Halappanavar died of sepsis in a Galway hospital after being denied an abortion two years ago.
The act, which was a response not just to the Galway tragedy but to a 20-year-old supreme court ruling, was supposed to be revolutionary. But it is so tightly drawn that only where a mother’s life is physically at risk, or where she is suicidal, could the process of approving an abortion even be launched. Victims of rape and incest are explicitly excluded. Then, earlier this month, the Guardian obtained the clinical guidelines under which it operated. They are so restrictively framed that women and girls in severe distress because of unwanted pregnancies continue to face cumbersome and distressing barriers. They could have to see as many as seven different medical professionals before a request for a termination is granted. In effect, as this weekend’s case appears to show, it makes abortion all but impossible even for a suicidal woman.
Read full article: www.theguardian.com
Ireland must without delay take steps to reform its abortion law and ensure that women have access to safe and legal abortion without discrimination in line with its human rights obligations. In this regard, the Center for Reproductive Rights urges the Irish government to:
Decriminalize abortion for both women and health care providers.
Allow women safe and legal access to abortion in Ireland, at aminimum, when their life or health is at risk, when the pregnancy results from rape or incest, and in case of fatal or serious fetal impairments in line with international human rights standards.
Repeal the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Act, 1995 and adopt positive measures to ensure that women have access to comprehensive information about legal abortion both within and outside Ireland without restrictions in line with international human rights standards.
Adopt effective and accessible procedures for women to exercise their rights to access legal abortion services in Ireland that are non-discriminatory and sensitive to the particular circumstances and needs of different groups of women.
Put in place an effective and time-sensitive process through which individual women can challenge refusals to provide them a legal abortion.
irishtimes.com, Tue, Jun 10, 2014 by Fintan O’Toole
Opinion: In an Irish Times article in 1964, Michael Viney referred to ‘the secret-service mother-and-baby homes’ run by religious orders in Ireland.
‘Most “fallen” women knew well enough that they were expected to create a narrative of disappearance, usually one that involved the boat to Holyhead.’ Photograph: HJ Allen/Evening Standard/Getty Images
The Irish psychosis whose latest expression is thousands of dead babies in unmarked graves is a compound of four elements: superiority, shame, cruelty and exclusion. The Taoiseach last week called the deaths of those children “yet another element of our country’s past”. Are we so sure that these forces are not also our country’s present?
The superiority complex in Irish society came from the desperate need of an insecure middle class to have someone to look down on, an inferior Other against which to define its own respectability.
In 1943, the Joint Committee of Women’s Societies and Social Workers compiled a well-meaning memorandum on children in institutions. It noted of those in mother-and-baby homes that “These illegitimate children start with a handicap. Owing to the circumstances of their birth, their heredity, the state of mind of the mother before birth, their liability to hereditary disease and mental weakness, we do not get, and we should not expect to get, the large percentage of healthy vigorous babies we get in normal circumstances. This was noticeable in the institutions we visited.”
These were humane and compassionate reformers. And it seemed obvious to them that children born out of wedlock would be physically and mentally weak and that “we should not expect” them to be normally healthy.
Sense of inferiority
A Catholic priest writing in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record in 1922 under the pen-name Sagart, actually objected to the establishment of mother-and-baby homes, not on the grounds that they were horribly oppressive in principle, but that they might let unmarried mothers lose their proper sense of inferiority.
Government rules that prevent women from Northern Ireland receiving free abortions on the NHS in England have been upheld by the High Court Mortgage.
High Court says Government rules that prevent women from Northern Ireland receiving free abortions on the NHS in England will stand
A test case was brought by a girl, referred to as “A”, unable to access services free of charge.
The law on abortion is stricter in Northern Ireland than in England and Wales, where the 1967 Abortion Act liberalised the position.
In Northern Ireland, termination of pregnancies generally remains unlawful unless carried out to preserve the life of the mother.
Mr Justice King, handing down judgment at London’s High Court, said the differences in the legal position had “not surprisingly led to a steady stream” of pregnant women from Northern Ireland to England to access abortion services not available to them at home.
But he ruled that the Health Secretary’s duty to promote a comprehensive health service in England “is a duty in relation to the physical and mental health of the people of England”, and that duty did not extend “to persons who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland”.
The judge said the latest Department of Health statistics, relating to 2011, showed over 1,000 women from Northern Ireland had abortions in England, the vast majority in fee-charging independent clinics.
Only five were provided free of charge on the NHS.
He said A was aged 15 when, in October 2012, she and her mother, who helped her bring her legal challenge, travelled to England to have a pregnancy terminated at the Marie Stopes clinic in Manchester.
The operation cost £600 plus travel costs of some £300, half of which was provided by the Abortion Network, a NI voluntary organisation.
The teenager had been denied a termination by the medical authorities in Northern Ireland.
The mother described “the whole experience and stress” of not knowing whether it was going to be possible for her daughter to have the procedure and raise the funds as “harrowing”.
She said in a statement to the court: “Had we known from the outset that we would be able to travel to the UK and that A could have the procedure free on the NHS, this would have significantly reduced the stress and trauma she experienced.”
Read full article: www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk
Barrister and former IFPA Chairperson Catherine Forde presided over a panel of national and international experts who analysed abortion law in Ireland through the lens of equality, criminalisation, human rights and stigma, and explored ways forward to advance Irish abortion law reform.
Dr Ruth Fletcher, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Rebecca Cook, University of Toronto
Julie Kay, Lead Counsel in A, B and C v Ireland
Professor Siobhán Mullally, University College Cork
Mark Kelly, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties
The Center filed a new case against Ireland to stop its health care system from turning its back on women in desperate need of help.
03.13.14 - It’s nearly impossible to go through this life and not encounter a serious medical issue. In those moments of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, we desperately want information: about what has happened, what will happen, the choices we have, the consequences of our decisions. And we want that information from the people who should know best—doctors and other health professionals.
We filed another lawsuit this week against Ireland with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. A woman named Siobhán asked for our help to demand justice because of the horrendous treatment she experienced in her encounter with the Irish health care system, at a time when she was utterly vulnerable. When she needed doctors the most, they abdicated their responsibilities and abandoned her. They did so because of Ireland’s draconian law on abortion—a near absolute ban—and the deep-seated stigma it has instilled throughout the country.
Siobhán’s story is like many stories we hear coming out of Ireland. She and her husband were thrilled to give their 20-month old son a sibling. They even brought him to the 20-week ultrasound, in 2010, so he could see the sonogram image himself. But there wouldn’t be any joy that day.
A few minutes into the procedure, the sonographer told Siobhán that something was wrong. She did everything she could not to lose emotional control in an effort to avoid upsetting her son.
A doctor performed another scan and told her that she had the condition holoprosencephaly, a disorder caused by a chromosomal abnormality in which the fetus’ brain fails to fully develop. The doctor said that the fetus would likely die in the womb but could possibly go full term. But there was no chance of survival post birth. Then the doctor said, “In another jurisdiction, they would offer a termination, but obviously not in this country.” The doctor then advised Siobhán to carry on with the pregnancy “as normal.”
There was absolutely no way to continue “as normal.” The idea seems outrageous. It’s not hard to imagine the shock Siobhán felt. “It was as if we were in a bad dream,” she writes in her affidavit to the Human Rights Committee. “I was scared about how I was going to cope with potentially another 20 weeks of pregnancy.”
Posted in politics on February 16th, 2014 by monika
irishtimes.com, Fri Feb 14, 2014, by Veronica O’Keane
Opinion: A society that aspires to be humane must recognise the reality of human difficulties
The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (PLDP Act) was signed into law in July last year and became operative at the start of 2014. This law was 20 years in gestation, since the Supreme Court ruling in the X case in 1993, which allowed for lawful abortion when the mother’s life was at risk, including the risk to life from suicide. In two subsequent referendums the Irish people voted to support the Supreme Court decision that suicidality could be a legitimate reason for terminating a pregnancy.
The regulations and procedures about how the service will operate are laid out in the PLDP Act and statutory instrument. But a hitch has now come to light: guidelines for clinicians on the new legislation are still pending. This was brought to light in an Irish Times article by Kitty Holland on January 3rd. While there are some minor professional issues related to training that remain to be resolved, the real problem is how women will access the service. The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland had expressed “extreme concern” at the absence of guidance for GPs in finding suitable psychiatrists to assess a suicidal woman requesting an abortion. Sexual violence
Let us imagine a hypothetical case. A woman, let us call her Kate, becomes pregnant following an act of sexual violence. She is distressed and inconsolable and cannot contemplate continuing with the pregnancy. She would rather die than continue with the pregnancy and forced motherhood. She is not depressed, but she is suicidal and the only remedy for her is the termination of the pregnancy.
Read full article: www.irishtimes.com