The political cowardice behind Ireland’s abortion shame


by Guest    
2:35 pm - November 15th 2012

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by Evan O’Quigley

Ireland and the world were shocked and appalled when the story broke that a young Indian women Savita Halappanavar died unnecessarily in a Galway hospital because she was denied a termination of pregnancy. The cause of death was septicaemia as a result of a miscarriage.

Her husband Praveen repeatedly asked for a medical abortion to be carried out to reduce the risk to his wife’s life but was denied this, allegedly being told by the doctors ‘this is a catholic country’. Such a statement about Ireland, which is supposed to be a liberal and secular republic, is a disgrace.

The actual law regarding abortion in Ireland is currently in a state of ambiguity. The Irish Supreme Court ruled twenty years ago that abortions in cases where the life of the mother is at risk are legal.

Over 4,000 Irish women travel to Britain every year for abortions. Irish TD’s (MP’s) have repeatedly brought forward bills to the Irish Parliament (Dáil Eireann), yet no legal progress has been made on this issue, for fear of all of Ireland’s main political parties losing the votes of elderly conservative voters.

Ireland is disrespecting the rights of its citizens; Catholic and non-Catholic, as an increasing number are, with numbers rising for the last twenty years. Politicians have tried to avoid talking about this issue for twenty years, constantly hoping for a better time to discuss it.

Even in 2012, where there is no longer any threat of backlash from now powerless Bishops in the Catholic Church, a majority. A poll conducted by Sunday Times ‘Behaviour and Attitudes’ in September showed that an overwhelming majority of 80% of voters would support a change to the law to allow for abortions in cases like Savita’s where a mother’s life be at risk.

The Irish Labour party, currently in government as a junior-coalition partner, with the centre-right Fine Gael leading, are openly pro-choice, although earlier this year unanimously due to their party whip, rejected a bill proposed by Clare Daly and Joan Collins, two members of a small left-wing coalition called the ULA, that would finally legislate for the decision held by the courts in 1992. This was to avoid causing a rift in the government.

Such politicking with a serious issue is a shame, and Ireland’s international disgracing is a result of this should be taken very seriously by the government.

The Labour government have been criticised for this by the Campaign for Labour Policies, an activist group that calls for more progressive policies in the Labour Parliamentary Party.

Spokesperson Mags O’Brien said today “The Labour Party must immediately initiate emergency legislation in the Dáil to allow for termination of pregnancies based on the X case. The needless death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway could have been avoided.!

With Ireland now internationally embarrassed, with the story being reported across the world, it is up to the government to finally legislate for Abortion, to prevent another tragic and unnecessary
death.

—-
A longer and slightly different version of this article originally appeared on at the University Observer.

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Reader comments


1. So Much for Subtlety

Irish TD’s (MP’s) have repeatedly brought forward bills to the Irish Parliament (Dáil Eireann), yet no legal progress has been made on this issue, for fear of all of Ireland’s main political parties losing the votes of elderly conservative voters.

Ireland is disrespecting the rights of its citizens

The Rights of Irish citizens include the right to have an opinion on the subject of abortion and a say in the laws. The Irish have supported a ban on abortion in most cases. Ireland has such a ban. How is doing what the voters want a violation of their rights? How is forcing a massive social change on them that they do not want in an undemocratic and autocratic way respecting their rights?

Catholic and non-Catholic, as an increasing number are, with numbers rising for the last twenty years.

Was this article poorly translated from Irish? It is just bizarre. I think we can all agreed that roughly 100% of Irish people are Catholic or non-Catholic, although few of them are Catholic and non-Catholic. What is more the percentage that is Catholic and/or non-Catholic is roughly the same as it was twenty years ago.

Politicians have tried to avoid talking about this issue for twenty years, constantly hoping for a better time to discuss it.

So Irish politicians are constantly introducing bills to legalise abortion of demand but they are also constantly trying to avoid talking about it? Interesting.

Even in 2012, where there is no longer any threat of backlash from now powerless Bishops in the Catholic Church, a majority.

What is that even supposed to mean? But of course the whole point of the Abuse hysteria is to beat the Church into submission over issues like this. It was never about child sexual abuse. As children are safest in the care of the Church.

A poll conducted by Sunday Times ‘Behaviour and Attitudes’ in September showed that an overwhelming majority of 80% of voters would support a change to the law to allow for abortions in cases like Savita’s where a mother’s life be at risk.

Except, as you point out, such abortions are already legal. There is no need to change the law.

” But of course the whole point of the Abuse hysteria is to beat the Church into submission over issues like this. It was never about child sexual abuse. As children are safest in the care of the Church.”

With that piece of idiocy you condemn yourself as a reactionary right wing cretin. We already know you are a racist from other clap trap you have written. Now you reveal yourself as a anti woman, pro sex abuse, pro fetus fetishists knuckle dragger.

You represent everything that is backward and decaying about conservatism. But you reveal the true soul of the conservative. Bigoted, racist, and terrified of the other. Private power of inadequate men is the conservative mantra. Your fawning of the Catholic Church, is a typical of most conservatives. Male, conservative power must be protected at all costs, no matter what harm it does. You are a mirror image of the Taliban.

3. Churm Rincewind

My understanding is that the teachings of the Catholic Church are unambiguous on the subject of abortion – that is, that the embryonic child has a soul; that it is therefore human from the time of its conception; that under the Divine law “Thou Shalt not Kill” neither the mother, nor the medical practitioner, nor any human being may lawfully take that life away; and that the State cannot grant that right to a Doctor for the State itself does not have the right to end the life of an innocent person even if the life of the mother is at risk.

I myself am greatly troubled by what that actually means in practice. But at the same time I have no adequate answer to the Church’s argument.

With Ireland now internationally embarrassed, with the story being reported across the world, it is up to the government to finally legislate for Abortion, to prevent another tragic and unnecessary death.

It does seem a bit cynical to be using this poor woman’s death to further another political cause.
If the rules had been adhered to properly she shouldn’t have died. It must be down to misdiagnosis, or someone erring too far on the side of caution and perhaps being afraid to implement lawful medical procedures.
Of course, she might have been OK if she’d had the early termination that she’d requested. But they don’t do abortion on demand in Ireland.
I think they should, but I don’t live there, and enough of those that do live there don’t want it.

@ 1

“The Rights of Irish citizens include the right to have an opinion on the subject of abortion and a say in the laws. The Irish have supported a ban on abortion in most cases. Ireland has such a ban. How is doing what the voters want a violation of their rights? How is forcing a massive social change on them that they do not want in an undemocratic and autocratic way respecting their rights?”

Wrong. Actually the majority of the Irish would support an abortion in these circumstances. Take a look at this poll from September 2012. http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/0915/sunday-times-poll-politics.html

“Asked whether they would or would not support a change in law to allow abortion where the life of a mother was at risk, 80% said they would, 14% said they would not, and 6% were undecided.”

The problem with abortion is that it is legal in exceptional circumstances but there are no guidelines what these circumstances are. As a result medical professionals are hesitant to do anything.

@OP: “…Savita Halappanavar died unnecessarily in a Galway hospital because she was denied a termination of pregnancy. The cause of death was septicaemia as a result of a miscarriage.

Her husband Praveen repeatedly asked for a medical abortion to be carried out to reduce the risk to his wife’s life but was denied this…”

So this story is about alleged malpractice. It is alleged that a doctor did not treat a patient appropriately.

If we are to consider arguments sensibly, we have to know what happened. Facts and stuff like that.

Praveen Halappanavar has lost a child and his wife; I sympathise.

“…husband Praveen..allegedly being told by the doctors ‘this is a catholic country’..”

skeptical of this, like to see it corroborated. Its been the opener in many rants on the subject.

Census 2011: 84% self-identifying as “Roman Catholic” and 47% describing themselves as “practicing Roman Catholics”. So its not about “elderly conservative voters.” And I can confirm there have been no bishops in the voting booths during referendum on the issue. 19th century stereotypes of the Irish die hard it seems.

Claims about the mothers life being saved are (of course) overstated. Investigation pending, details to make such a claim unreported at this stage, presumes negligence by medical staff- remains to be established.

My growing suspicion is that Father Amorth is on the right track:

The Devil is lurking in the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican’s chief exorcist claimed on Wednesday.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/7416458/Chief-exorcist-says-Devil-is-in-Vatican.html#

By internet reports, what happened was that Satan got into the voters in Ireland to vote down sensible pro-choice law to discredit the Catholic chuch, which is just what has happened. Mind you, with all the discrediting of the Catholic church from the abuse of the young by those paedophile priests, I can’t quite see why the church needed any extra discrediting but then Satan does tend to go over the top, they tell me.

@ 7 No Irish stereotypes – i’m irish and live in Ireland and have my whole life.

11. the a&e charge nurse

[6] ‘If we are to consider arguments sensibly, we have to know what happened. Facts and stuff like that’ – OK lets start with simple stuff.

How many abortions have been performed in ireland (in the last 5 years say) and in what circumstances?

12. So Much for Subtlety

5. Chris

Wrong. Actually the majority of the Irish would support an abortion in these circumstances. Take a look at this poll from September 2012. http://www.rte.ie/news/2012/0915/sunday-times-poll-politics.html

Except that abortions in these circumstances are legal. As the article points out:

“The actual law regarding abortion in Ireland is currently in a state of ambiguity. The Irish Supreme Court ruled twenty years ago that abortions in cases where the life of the mother is at risk are legal.”

So this is not about abortions in these exceptionally rare cases. It is about forcing the Irish to accept abortion on demand. The Irish voters have expressed their views. How can it be anything but undemocratic to ignore them and insist their laws are changed?

Perhaps because they date from before the Second Vatican Council, it seems that no one in the Irish Republic is any longer being taught the words of Pope Pius XII in 1951:

If the saving of the life of the future mother … should urgently require a surgical act or other therapeutic treatment which would have as an accessory consequence, in no way desired nor intended, but inevitable, the death of the fetus, such an act could no longer be called a direct attempt on an innocent life. Under these conditions the operation can be lawful, like other similar medical interventions — granted always that a good of high worth is concerned, such as life, and that it is not possible to postpone the operation until after the birth of the child, nor to have recourse to other efficacious remedies.

The pro-life cause is now safest on the island of Ireland in that part which remains within the United Kingdom. There will be no change there without consensus among the parties. And there will never be any such consensus.

“And there will never be any such consensus.”

Satan works in marvellous ways His wonders to perform.

15. James from Durham

It sounds as though this is a personal tragedy but not about Roman Catholic beliefs – David Lindsay has sown that a termination in these circumstances would be consistent with Catholic teaching. It is not even about the Irish law – others have shown the the law would have permitted a termination. It may be about ineptitude by the staff, but that we will only know when the report is issued.

For those who are pro-choice (as I am), this case is not an argument.

16. the a&e charge nurse

[15] ‘It may be about ineptitude by the staff’ – yes, it’s always easiest to point the finger at those at the end of a long, dysfunctional chain.

But would YOU be brave enough to perform an abortion in a country that does not publish data on abortion prevalence, or where the boffins have claimed “as experienced practitioners and researchers in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion is NOT medically necessary to save the life of a woman”, or where there is no explicit criteria to determine what constitutes ‘life threatening’ complications during miscarriage.

Such a climate must promote confident and relaxed decision making amongst irish obstetricians when confronted with a women begging for termination.

17. Robin Levett

@Churm Rincewind #3:

I myself am greatly troubled by what that actually means in practice. But at the same time I have no adequate answer to the Church’s argument

Try becoming a traditional Catholic; from late in the 4th century until a little over 150 years ago (barring a 3 year period), abortion was permissible until ensoulment, which was not at conception. Quickening became the test, and Pope Gregory determined that that happened 116 days into pregnancy. The modern RC Church does not follow traditional RC teachings.

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 Robin

Interesting – any idea why quickening was set at that point?

19. Churm Rincewind

@17 Robin Levett

Thanks for your very interesting and useful reply.

So this is not about abortions in these exceptionally rare cases. It is about forcing the Irish to accept abortion on demand.

You can frame it a ‘forcing the Irish to accept abortion on demand’ if you wish but what it amounts to is allowing Irish women control over their own bodies. Nobody is forcing women who don’t want an abortion to have one.

The Irish voters have expressed their views. How can it be anything but undemocratic to ignore them and insist their laws are changed?

Democracy is fine for deciding issues where voters have an equal stake in the outcome; there’s no such symmetry here. On the one hand you have women with their freedom, health and even lives at stake; on the other you have superstitious misogynists who will suffer no more than a feeling of ‘offence’.

Moral relativism wears the clothing of ‘liberalism’ but in practice always supports powerful elites against the powerless

21. Robin Levett

@Chaise #18:

The Popes, like their God, move in mysterious ways their wonders to perform.

Or – I have no idea; so far as I am aware, Pope Gregory had no personal experience to go on.

It also occurs to me that given the difficulties they would have had in establishing the date of conception, 116 days is impracticably precise.

@12 SMFS

“Except that abortions in these circumstances are legal. As the article points out:”

Did you not finish reading my post? Abortion in special circumstances is legal but the Irish government has yet to define what the circumstances are. It’s like having a speed limit but not telling anyone what it is.

“So this is not about abortions in these exceptionally rare cases. It is about forcing the Irish to accept abortion on demand. The Irish voters have expressed their views. How can it be anything but undemocratic to ignore them and insist their laws are changed?”

No, this is about abortion in exceptional circumstances which 80% are in favour of. More widely available abortion is a separate issue from this case.

23. The XYZ Line

Shatterface @ 20:

“Democracy is fine for deciding issues where voters have an equal stake in the outcome; there’s no such symmetry here. On the one hand you have women with their freedom, health and even lives at stake; on the other you have superstitious misogynists who will suffer no more than a feeling of ‘offence’.”

Are you an Irish woman? No? If not, then what do you suffer from the current situation in Ireland, other than a feeling of “offence”?

24. The XYZ Line

Although actually, I do think it sounds fun to go around attacking ridiculous strawmen like Shatterface is. Let’s see:

Democracy is fine for deciding issues where people have an equal stake in the outcome; there’s no such symmetry here. On the one hand you have innocent unborn babies with their very lives at stake; on the other you have self-centred sluts who would rather kill their own babies than suffer nine months’ inconvenience.

Yeah, I could see myself getting into this…

@24

Would you say that about Savita Halappanavar?

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 XYZ

“Are you an Irish woman? No? If not, then what do you suffer from the current situation in Ireland, other than a feeling of “offence”?”

It’s called empathy. Although I do agree with you about the very lopsided phrasing of Shatterface’s comment.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 Chris

Might be wrong, but I think XYZ is making a deliberately biased statement to juxtapose that made by Shatterface.

28. The XYZ Line

@ Chaise:

“It’s called empathy.”

Yes I know, and I’m not actually against people trying to change bad situations in other countries. I was just illustrating that the “abortion laws don’t affect you one way or the other, so shut up!” argument commonly found in this debate could equally be used against those making it.

“Might be wrong, but I think XYZ is making a deliberately biased statement to juxtapose that made by Shatterface.”

Yes, that’s pretty much it.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ XYZ

Cool, and I agree with you about that line. It’s pretty silly to present pro-life views as if they have nothing to do with the unborn child.

Ireland became independant of the UK only to be clapped in irons by the Vatican

31. Robin Levett

@Chaise #29:

It’s pretty silly to present pro-life views as if they have nothing to do with the unborn child.

Except that often they have nothing to do with the zygote/embryo/foetus. The comment from Michelle Mulherin TD (opposing the private members bill to define the circumstances in which abortion should be permitted) that:

Abortion as murder, therefore sin, which is the religious argument, is no more sinful, from a scriptural point of view, than all other sins we don’t legislate against, like greed, hate and fornication. The latter, being fornication, I would say, is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies in this country

makes this quite clear. For her at least, the religious issue is not protection of the weak, it is sin, and if only those sluts would stop sinfully fornicating there would be no demand for sinful abortion…

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 Robin

OK, sure, but generally (in my experience) they’re focused on the z/e/f and it’s churlish to ignore that. A lot of pro-choicers try to “assess” the pro-life position in a way that acts as if the z/e/f doesn’t exist – or that its status as a non-person is settled. Leading them to conclusions like the only reason anyone could be pro-life is hatred of women.

I don’t understand how anyone can talk about “fornication” with a straight face, unless they’re discussing architecture.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Martin

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley

  2. Asha A

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley

  3. Noel Aitchison

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley

  4. PWMcCarthy

    This story not so good – 'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/MAm3nMYs

  5. Eka Cooperative

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley

  6. Glenn Hanson

    The political cowardice behind Ireland’s abortion shame http://t.co/rwmzUrAO

  7. Paul Miro

    The political cowardice behind Ireland’s abortion shame http://t.co/rwmzUrAO

  8. Lynda Constable

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley

  9. Kamaljeet Jandu

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley

  10. Mitchell Torok

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley

  11. Ben Raza

    'The political cowardice behind Ireland's abortion shame' http://t.co/sOUsMxMm – good piece by @evoquigley





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