The woman died in January 2012. An inquest has not yet been held into the woman’s death as the police investigation is continuing.The husband said the couple was told that treatment of the condition could involve a procedure that would leave her infertile. “We were worried about what would happen when she became pregnant again,” he said.
“She was sick, but we were told that nothing could be done in Ireland. We were left on our own to deal with it. We didn’t get any help at all,” he said.
The judge has allowed time for the woman to take legal advice.
The woman’s boyfriend claims she is being forced to have an abortion by her parents.
The judge said she would not proceed until the woman had received legal advice.
The case was adjourned until Friday.
The boyfriend has applied for injunctions to prevent the woman from having an abortion or travelling outside the country.
He says his girlfriend’s family are unhappy with the fact she is in a relationship with someone of non-European origin.
The man’s lawyer said his client discovered that his girlfriend has been booked into a clinic in the UK and was due to have an abortion on Thursday.
In a sworn statement, the man told the court that his girlfriend was “happy to be pregnant” was looking forward to having a scan and had bought baby clothes.
The man said he had no desire to prevent her from travelling if it was of her own free will, and that a member of the girlfriend’s family had threatened to kill him if he tried to come near her.
On Thursday 11 July, Ireland passed an abortion law legalising abortions for women if a woman’s life is under threat.
The critical part of the legalisation bill that I take issue with is the specification that a woman’s life must be threatened by the continuation of the pregnancy, including by threat of suicide, and that neither rape nor a woman’s values, interests and wants are given any consideration in the matter.
How positive a step towards women’s rights has the Irish government made if it considers death to be the only valid release clause from an unwanted pregnancy? By its own words, the state is content to withhold the power of a woman to control what happens to her own body to the point that she resorts to suicide as a final act of control. This is an act of a government that has no respect for its women.
Anti-abortionists need to recognise that suicide is not the only way a woman’s life can be destroyed by an unwanted pregnancy, and that failure to acknowledge this fact is a failure to acknowledge the value and personhood of women.
Imagine a medical student. She is in her first year of university when she is brutally raped and subsequently falls pregnant. Suddenly, any plans or aspirations she may have had – to finish her degree, begin her career, help hundreds of sick people, and start on the road to achieving any number of anticipated life-goals – are blown out of the water. The life she would have had is terminated, for better or worse, before a physiological threat to her life even enters the picture.
On top of this, this woman then has to face a number of oft unappreciated, sometimes grim, realities of pregnancy.
When carrying a foetus, a woman’s body is no longer her own, it becomes unpredictable, even uncooperative. She may get nauseous for weeks on end, feel exhausted, physically and mentally, her changed body may well prevent her from doing many of the things that she finds important or enjoyable, she might even lose her job.
She then faces uncountable hours of labour, the threat of post-natal depression, or other, non-life-threatening consequences of childbirth. But most importantly of all, she has to take responsibility for a human life, even if this takes the form of putting that child up for adoption.
Even with the smoothest of pregnancies, the changes it wreaks on the mother’s life will stay with her for ever. To assume that the threat posed by pregnancy to a woman can be such a simple, black and white, life or death calculation is insulting and sexist.
Historically men have been permitted, if not encouraged, to take out threats to their valued way of life, whether in the form of a household intruder or a war-time enemy. It is viewed as a necessary and sometimes honourable act, even if it means harming an unwitting assailant.
Yet when the threat is to a woman’s valued way of life in the form of an unwanted pregnancy, the threat is ignored and the woman is refused powers to protect herself. This sends the misogynistic message that a woman’s only real purpose is as a mother, and her life could not possibly have as much value and meaning to herself and society as that of the undeveloped foetus.
It is time opponents of abortion realise that the debate surrounding the legalisation of abortion is not simply a question about the biological health of the mother, or the imagined potential of the foetus. It is about the complexities of a human life, and respecting a woman’s intelligence, autonomy and desire for fulfilment as having equal status and complexity as any man’s.
Countless people stepped up to testify before the Texas Senate committee on the restrictive abortion law, which would essentially ban abortions in most of the state. One stood out as Katie Heim from Austin bravely gave her testimony before the committee in the form of a poem titled, “If My Vagina Was a Gun.”
The poem, by Katie Heim, was a hit with opponents of any abortion restrictions and has been reblogged extensively:
You would ride on buses and fight all the fights.
If my vagina was a gun, you would treat it with care,
You wouldn’t spill all its secrets because, well, why go there.
If my vagina was a gun, you’d say what it holds is private
From cold dead hands we could pry, you surely would riot.
If my vagina was a gun, its rights would all be protected,
no matter the body count or the children affected.
If my vagina was a gun, I could bypass security,
concealed carry laws would ensure I’d have impunity.
If my vagina was a gun, I wouldn’t have to beg you,
I could hunt this great land and do all the things men do.
But my vagina is not a gun, it is a mightier thing,
With a voice that rings true making lawmakers’ ears ring.
Vaginas are not delicate, they are muscular and magic,
So stop messing with mine, with legislation that’s tragic.
My vagina’s here to demand from the source,
Listen to the voices of thousands or feel their full force.
Why, why, why, why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t want to fuck in the first place, huh? Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re pre-born, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.
Conservatives don’t give a shit about you until you reach “military age”. Then they think you are just fine. Just what they’ve been looking for. Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers. Pro-life… pro-life… These people aren’t pro-life, they’re killing doctors! What kind of pro-life is that? What, they’ll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it?They’re not pro-life. You know what they are? They’re anti-woman. Simple as it gets, anti-woman. They don’t like them. They don’t like women.They believe a woman’s primary role is to function as a brood mare for the state.
Pro-life… You don’t see many of these white anti-abortion women volunteering to have any black fetuses transplanted into their uterus’s, do you? No, you don’t see them adopting a whole lot of crack babies, do you? No, that might be something Christ would do. And, you won’t see a lot of these pro-life people dousing themselves in kerosene and lighting themselves on fire. You know, morally committed religious people in South Vietnam knew how to stage a goddamn demonstration, didn’t they?! They knew how to put on a fucking protest. Light yourself on FIRE!! C’mon, you moral crusaders, let’s see a little smoke. To match that fire in your belly.
Here’s another question I have: how come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelet? Are we so much better than chickens all of a sudden? When did this happen, that we passed chickens in goodness? Name six ways we’re better than chickens… See, nobody can do it! You know why? ‘Cuz chickens are decent people. You don’t see chickens hanging around in drug gangs, do you? No, you don’t see a chicken strapping some guy to a chair and hooking up his nuts to a car battery, do you? When’s the last chicken you heard about came home from work and beat the shit out of his hen, huh? Doesn’t happen. ‘Cuz chickens are decent people.
But let’s get back to this abortion shit. Now, is a fetus a human being? This seems to be the central question. Well, if a fetus is a human being, how come the census doesn’t count them? If a fetus is a human being, how come when there’s a miscarriage they don’t have a funeral? If a fetus is a human being, how come people say “we have two children and one on the way” instead of saying “we have three children?” People say life begins at conception, I say life began about a billion years ago and it’s a continuous process. Continuous, just keeps rolling along. Rolling, rolling, rolling along.
And say you know something? Listen, you can go back further than that. What about the carbon atoms? Hah? Human life could not exist without carbon. So is it just possible that maybe we shouldn’t be burning all this coal? Just looking for a little consistency here in these anti-abortion arguments. See the really hardcore people will tell you life begins at fertilization. Fertilization, when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Which is usually a few moments after the man says “Gee, honey, I was going to pull out but the phone rang and it startled me.” Fertilization. Source: LYBIO.net
But even after the egg is fertilized, it’s still six or seven days before it reaches the uterus and pregnancy begins, and not every egg makes it that far. Eighty percent of a woman’s fertilized eggs are rinsed and flushed out of her body once a month during those delightful few days she has. They wind up on sanitary napkins, and yet they are fertilized eggs. So basically what these anti-abortion people are telling us is that any woman who’s had more than more than one period is a serial killer! Consistency. Consistency. Hey, hey, if they really want to get serious, what about all the sperm that are wasted when the state executes a condemned man, one of these pro-life guys who’s watching cums in his pants, huh? Here’s a guy standing over there with his jockey shorts full of little Vinnies and Debbies, and nobody’s saying a word to the guy. Not every ejaculation deserves a name.
On LYBIO.net you can find – The Largest community of text-script-video blogging service. http://www.lybio.net
Now, speaking of consistency, Catholics, which I was until I reached the age of reason, Catholics and other Christians are against abortions, and they’re against homosexuals. Well who has less abortions than homosexuals?! Leave these fucking people alone, for Christ sakes! Here is an entire class of people guaranteed never to have an abortion! And the Catholics and Christians are just tossing them aside! You’d think they’d make natural allies. Go look for consistency in religion. And speaking of my friends the Catholics, when John Cardinal O’Connor of New York and some of these other Cardinals and Bishops have experienced their first pregnancies and their first labor pains and they’ve raised a couple of children on minimum wage, then I’ll be glad to hear what they have to say about abortion. I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Enlightening, too. But, in the meantime what they ought to be doing is telling these priests who took a vow of chastity to keep their hands off the altar boys! Keep your hands to yourself, Father! You know? When Jesus said “Suffer the little children come unto me”, that’s not what he was talking about!
So you know what I tell these anti-abortion people? I say “Hey. Hey. If you think a fetus is more important that a woman, try getting a fetus to wash the shit stains out of your underwear. For no pay and no pension.” I tell them “Think of an abortion as term limits. That’s all it is. Biological term limits.
But you know, the longer you listen to this abortion debate, the more you hear this phrase “sanctity of life”. You’ve heard that. Sanctity of life. You believe in it? Personally, I think it’s a bunch of shit. Well, I mean, life is sacred? Who said so? God? Hey, if you read history, you realize that God is one of the leading causes of death. Has been for thousands of years. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians all taking turns killing each other ‘cuz God told them it was a good idea. The sword of God, the blood of the land, vengeance is mine. Millions of dead motherfuckers. Millions of dead motherfuckers all because they gave the wrong answer to the God question. “You believe in God?” “No.” *Pdoom*. Dead. “You believe in God?” “Yes.” “You believe in my God? “No.” *Poom*. Dead. “My God has a bigger dick than your God!” Thousands of years. Thousands of years, and all the best wars, too. The bloodiest, most brutal wars fought, all based on religious hatred. Which is fine with me. Hey, any time a bunch of holy people want to kill each other I’m a happy guy.
But don’t be giving me all this shit about the sanctity of life. I mean, even if there were such a thing, I don’t think it’s something you can blame on God. No, you know where the sanctity of life came from? We made it up. You know why? ‘Cuz we’re alive. Self-interest. Living people have a strong interest in promoting the idea that somehow life is sacred. You don’t see Abbott and Costello running around, talking about this shit, do you? We’re not hearing a whole lot from Mussolini on the subject. What’s the latest from JFK? Not a goddamn thing. ‘Cuz JFK, Mussolini and Abbott and Costello are fucking dead. They’re fucking dead. And dead people give less than a shit about the sanctity of life. Only living people care about it so the whole thing grows out of a completely biased point of view. It’s a self serving, man-made bullshit story.
It’s one of these things we tell ourselves so we’ll feel noble. Life is sacred. Makes you feel noble. Well let me ask you this: if everything that ever lived is dead, and everything alive is gonna die, where does the sacred part come in? I’m having trouble with that. ‘Cuz, I mean, even with all this stuff we preach about the sanctity of life, we don’t practice it. We don’t practice it. Look at what we’d kill: Mosquitoes and flies. ‘Cuz they’re pests. Lions and tigers. ‘Cuz it’s fun! Chickens and pigs. ‘Cuz we’re hungry. Pheasants and quails. ‘Cuz it’s fun. And we’re hungry. And people. We kill people… ‘Cuz they’re pests. And it’s fun!
And you might have noticed something else. The sanctity of life doesn’t seem to apply to cancer cells, does it? You rarely see a bumper sticker that says “Save the tumors.”. Or “I brake for advanced melanoma.”. No, viruses, mold, mildew, maggots, fungus, weeds, E. Coli bacteria, the crabs. Nothing sacred about those things. So at best the sanctity of life is kind of a selective thing. We get to choose which forms of life we feel are sacred, and we get to kill the rest. Pretty neat deal, huh? You know how we got it? We made the whole fucking thing up! Made it up! The same way… Thank you.
George Carlin – Pro Life, Abortion, And The Sanctity Of Life. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Complete Full Transcript, Dialogue, Remarks, Saying, Quotes, Words And Text.
Much time is spent during abortion debates on the imputing and impugning of motives. Without it, coverage of the Texas legislative battle over late-term abortion, for example, would consist mainly of blank pages and dead air.
But political outcomes are not always reducible to the intentions of the winner. Results are often influenced by deeper trends that neither side of a debate can do much to change or control.
The national abortion settlement declared by Roe v. Wade — rooting a nearly unrestricted right to abortion in the right to privacy — has been unstable for 40 years. The reason is a tension between the state of the law and a durable public consensus that human life has an increasing claim on our sympathy as it develops. This view does not reflect either pro-life or pro-choice orthodoxy. But it predicts a more sustainable political resolution.
The media have a slothful tendency to place Americans into rigid categories of pro-life and pro-choice. The reality is more complicated. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 79 percent of people who describe themselves as pro-choice support making abortion illegal in the third trimester. “One of the clearest messages from Gallup trends,” concludes Gallup’s Lydia Saad, “is that Americans oppose late-term abortion.” Saad adds: “A solid majority of Americans (61 percent) believe abortion should generally be legal in the first three months of pregnancy, while 31 percent disagree. However support drops off sharply, to 27 percent, for second-trimester abortions, and further still, to 14 percent, for third-trimester abortions. Gallup has found this pattern each time it has asked this question since 1996, indicating that Americans attach much greater value to the fetus as it approaches viability, starting in the second trimester.”
An opinion this consistent and nearly universal must be based on something. The late political scientist James Q. Wilson gave the most persuasive explanation. In his 1994 essay, “On Abortion,” he argued bluntly that “people treat as human that which appears to be human; people treat as quasi-human that which appears quasi-human.” Sympathy, in his view, grows with resemblance. This explains why the miscarriage of an embryo is (generally) treated differently than the death of a newborn. It is also the reason, according to Wilson, that we recoil from “the thought of killing an infant that does not differ from the newborn in any respect other than that it receives oxygen and food via an umbilical cord instead of through its nose and mouth.”
“Life emerges,” Wilson said, “or more accurately, the claims that developing life exert upon us emerge, gradually but powerfully.” As a fetus becomes more recognizably human, it invokes “attachment that is as natural as any sentiment that ever enters the human breast.” Wilson placed the decisive stage of development, as many Americans seem to place it, at 10 to 12 weeks of gestation.
Wilson was broadly criticized, by both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, for attempting to turn sentiments into principles. As a moral matter, I share that criticism. His gradations strike me as ethically arbitrary, and even universal opinions do not add up to moral rules. But Wilson’s theory of natural “moral sentiments” on abortion does seem to describe the way most Americans think about this issue. Which makes it politically predictive.
If Wilson’s description is correct, pro-life advocates are unlikely to secure legal limits on abortion during the first trimester — the period in which most abortions take place. At some point, after late-term abortions are restricted, legislative approaches will become unproductive, and persuasion and the provision of alternatives to abortion will become the main avenues of activism.
But because the Supreme Court imposed a national settlement at odds with natural sentiments, pro-choice advocates are on the defensive. Their political challenge is to prevent the working of politics. Their real opponent is democracy, as state after state considers late-term abortion restrictions.
We have some models of what happens, even in very liberal societies, when public views prevail on abortion. Across most of Western Europe, abortion is legal during the first trimester but heavily restricted later in pregnancy — after the 14th week in France, Germany and Spain. These limits are not a violation of liberal principles but a recognition that the inherent violence of late-term abortion is at odds with liberal principles.
A Wilson-like settlement on abortion in America would be unsatisfying to many. But it would have the virtue of being sustained by consensus, not imposed by fiat.
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It’s a freezing Saturday afternoon in Dublin and, on the corner of O’Connell Street, a nervous young man called Dennis wants me to sign a petition with a picture of a dead baby on it. Dennis is 21 years old and doesn’t like abortion one bit. Especially not now that there’s a chance, for the first time in a generation, of liberalising the law just a little to allow women at risk of actual death to terminate their pregnancies.
“I’m trying to keep abortion away from Ireland,” repeats Dennis, churning out the slogan being yelled by stern older men behind him. “If [a woman] doesn’t want a child, there’s obvious steps she can take to not have a child.” Like what? “Well, for example, abstinence,” he says, looking down at me uncomfortably. “Purity before marriage.” What about sexual equality? Dennis is blushing, despite the cold. “Well, I’m here against abortion. I wouldn’t have anything to say to that.”
It’s illegal for a woman to have an abortion under almost any circumstances in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if she might die in the delivery room. Every year, thousands of women with crisis pregnancies scrape together the money to travel overseas to have abortions – and that’s if they’re lucky. If they’re unlucky – immigrants, shift-workers or too poor to afford a red-eye Ryanair flight to London – the only options are to take black-market abortion pills or be forced to give birth. Right now, members of the Irish parliament are trying to push through legislation to allow women to have abortions if they’re at risk of suicide, but the Catholic hard-right are fighting back.
Since 1967, when Britain made abortion legal, over 150,000 Irish women have gone to England to end their pregnancies. They go in secret and, since that figure only covers those who list Irish addresses, the true number is probably much higher. It’s a situation that has been tacitly accepted in Irish society for years: abortion is sinful, but we’ll put up with it as long as it happens far away and the women involved are shamed into silence. “It’s an Irish solution to an Irish problem,” says Sinead Ahern, an activist with Choice Ireland. Now all that might be about to change.
A protest against Ireland’s abortion laws in Dublin after the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Last November, 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar died of septicaemia in a Galway hospital after being refused an emergency abortion. The inquest into her death is ongoing, but Savita’s husband and family are adamant that she would be alive had the doctors not insisted that, because there was still a foetal heartbeat, a life-saving termination couldn’t be performed. If the results of the inquest show that Savita died as a direct result of Galway doctors’ refusal to abort, she will not have been the first woman to die in great pain because of the Irish Catholic Church’s war on reproductive rights.
In 2010, Michelle Harte – a cancer patient who had to travel to England to have the abortion that would have prolonged her life – spoke before she died of how Cork doctors turned her away. It’s happened before, and without legislation it’ll happen again. But it’s the story of Savita Halapannavar that has drawn global attention and outrage to the situation.
Suddenly the grisly reality of women being forced to go through months of pregnancy and painful labour, begging to have dead babies removed from their bodies and sometimes dying in pain has a name and a face. Vigils have been held for Savita across Ireland. Pro-choice marches are being held in a country where calling yourself “pro-choice” is still a risk to your job and your safety. Answers are being demanded from the government, and now the government is being forced to listen.
Something is changing in Ireland. For women across the country, shame and intimidation are no longer quite enough to stop them from speaking out about abortion, about contraception and about sexual equality. A majority of the population now agrees, according to the latest polls, that the laws need to be relaxed. In response, Ireland’s pro-life movement, backed by big money from the United States, has poured its energies into a massive propaganda campaign, informing women that if they have abortions they will go mad, get breast cancer, kill themselves or, with any luck, all three.
On O’Connell Street the rain is blowing in horizontally. Two little girls in matching red jackets who can’t be more than six years old are handing out pictures of oozing, bloody foetal corpses. Muffled up in scarves and mittens, they look like they’ve stepped off the front of a Victorian biscuit box and smile as they offer you leaflets telling you that your sister, your mother, your best friend is a sinner. “We call these street information sessions,” says 29-year-old Rebecca, a spokeswoman for Youth Defence, one of Ireland’s largest pro-life organisations, which has recently attracted controversy because of its acceptance of large financial donations from the Christian right in the United States.
Rebecca tells me that opposition to abortion in all circumstances is “a value that’s held deeply by Irish people”. She is quite correct that in both the Republic and the North, and on both sides of the sectarian divide, anti-choice proselytising is one issue where religious men in positions of power find common cause. “In the North, where in previous years there would have been conflict between Catholics and Protestants, this is the one thing they both agree on,” says Rebecca. Her broad lipglossed smile seems to indicate that this is a good thing.
Some of the more extreme pro-life campaign groups make exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape, reasoning in their generous, Christian way that women who didn’t want to have sex in the first place should not be punished by being forced to carry a child to term. Even that, however, is too liberal for Ireland’s Youth Defence. “Rape is a horrific crime”, says Rebecca, “but even though that child is conceived in a non-ideal situation, two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The smile seems to be sprayed on to her face, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. Although they claim to represent a broad, grassroots movement against abortion, most of the pro-life groups operating out of Ireland list the same address as their base of operations. That address is 6A, Capel Street, Dublin – a building called Life House. Its facade is the colour of arterial blood.
In a hotel lobby in downtown Dublin, six pro-choice activists are distracted by a baby. Little Ailbhe Redmond is four weeks old and freshly-baked, blinking and wriggling as she is passed from hand to hand by a bunch of excited young women who spend their free time being called baby killers by the Catholic right. Ailbhe’s mum, Sinead Redmond of Choice Ireland, was new to activism when she started an online campaign against pro-life propaganda this August.
Since then, over the course of a lot of rainy marches and a reeking heap of harassment, the women of Choice Ireland have become, amongst other things, good mates, and these women need all the friends they can get. Pro-choice activists in Ireland face targeted retribution – harassment of a kind that feminist activists in many other countries would struggle to comprehend.
Many have been individually targeted by right-wing groups. Over four days in Dublin, I spoke to women who had been followed home, had phone-calls tipping off their employers about their politics and made to fear for their jobs, and had graphic hate-mail and death threats delivered to their homes and the homes of their families. The favourite flavour of hyper-religious hate-mail is the delivery of a set of rosary beads in an unmarked package, which seems an odd message to send: “Jesus knows where you live.”
Sinead Redmond got a rosary whose individual beads were carved to look like foetuses in pain. She unhooks herself to breastfeed Ailbhe as she tells me, “Being pregnant made me so much more pro-choice. It brought it home to me how barbaric it is to force a woman to go through pregnancy, never mind labour.
Photo by Andrew Flood.
“Pregnancy is incredibly emotionally and physically debilitating. I would never, ever dream of forcing that on another woman and I don’t know how anyone who’s been through it can. Furthermore, having given birth to a baby girl, I don’t understand how anyone who’s the parent of daughters can not be pro choice. I just don’t get it.”
Fear of prosecution and of social backlash has kept generations of Irish women from speaking out against abortion and contraception. The paranoia is so pervasive that, of the many women and girls I spoke to who had had abortions, only two were willing to go on the record. “A lot of people talk about having abortions, but they don’t want to put their name or their face to it,” says 23-year-old Suzanne Lee, a shy mathematics student at the University College Dublin. Last summer, Suzanne ended an accidental pregnancy at six weeks by taking the abortion pill, which she ordered off the internet.
As one of the few people willing to speak out about her abortion experience, Suzanne has been interviewed on television before and received death-threats from pro-life individuals. “I knew if I was ever going to have a child I needed to be in a position where it could have everything,” she says, explaining her decision.
Ordering the abortion pill online is risky, but international organisations like Women on Web attempt to make the process simpler for those who can’t afford to travel to England. “What I’ve done is completely illegal,” says Suzanne, who had to cross the border and travel to Belfast to pick up the pills. “It’s weird knowing that I could be facing years in prison.”
A pro-choice group demonstrating outside the courts during the “Miss D” case.
“In some ways, I’m not the best face for this cause because mine was what they’d call a ‘social abortion’ – my life wasn’t at risk,” she says. “But the majority of women having abortions are probably having them for social reasons.” “Social reasons” would include: not wanting to go through pregnancy against your will, being too young or too poor to have a child or simply not being ready, which are – when you get down to it – the reasons most people decide that abortion is the best option for them.
Even if the new laws do pass, they won’t permit women any real choice about abortion unless they’re on death’s door, at which point a doctor will choose for them. Thousands of women will continue to travel abroad every year and risk their health by taking black market abortion pills, unless there are major changes to the constitution, which was amended in the 1980s to enshrine the “rights of the unborn” as equal to the rights of women.
The shambolic state of the Irish economy makes the situation more urgent for women in need. Unemployment in Ireland is 14.6 percent, and standards of living and income are falling all over the country. “A lot of it is to do with the recession,” says Bebhinn Farrell, an activist with Choice Ireland. “Before, there wasn’t as much talk about social issues, it was all about money and spending. If you needed to have an abortion, you went to England.” Now, however, with the economy wheezing and stuttering, the class divide between those who can afford to travel to England and have an abortion and the many who can’t has been brought home.
Many of those who can’t receive help from the Abortion Support Network (ASN), a group that funds and supports women flying from Ireland to terminate unwanted pregnancies. ASN sends money to hundreds of Irish who can’t afford the ticket to an English clinic, but because of the time it takes to organise travel and drum up the cash for the procedure, many don’t arrive at English clinics until they’re at a late stage of pregnancy.
A pro-life counter demonstration during the “Miss D” case.
That delay makes every difference. It means that the procedure is often costlier and more complicated than it needs to be, that British abortion law directly affects Irish women and that current efforts by British pro-life groups to reduce the time limit on legal abortion will have devastating implications for women travelling from Ireland.
Abortion is, effectively, the one issue where the laws of the English still hold sway over Irish citizens. “It’s really ironic,” comments Anthea McTiernan, a journalist at the Irish Times, “that the loyalists are fighting to keep the Union Flag over Belfast city hall, but we’re willing to have the flag of the Catholic church flying over the wombs of Irish women 365 days a year.”
“It’s a democratic issue about women’s bodily integrity,” says Ivana Bacik, a politician in the Upper House of the Oirechtas and a leading spokesperson for abortion rights in Ireland. It is pure chance, Bacik tells me, that the case of Savita Halappanavar hit international headlines just as the new laws allowing abortion in the case of a risk to the pregnant woman’s life started passing through parliament. These laws centre on the story of an anonymous woman 20 years ago, a woman known only as “Miss X”, whose human rights were found to have been violated by the Irish Supreme Court.
Demonstrations during the “Miss X” case. Photo by Andrew Flood.
Miss X, a 14-year-old rape victim, was denied permission to travel to England to terminate her pregnancy. The police found out about her travel plans after her parents asked them if DNA from the aborted foetus could be used to convict the rapist. Miss X was left suicidal as a result of being forced to continue to pregnancy and the Supreme Court ruled that, in her case and others, risk of suicide should be considered a case for legal abortion. By the time the ruling came through, Miss X had had a miscarriage.
That was in 1992. Wherever she is now, Miss X is 35 years old. It has taken 20 years for Irish politicians to even begin to implement the legal changes. This, according to Bacik, is “because the anti-choice lobby is so powerful that no politician has wanted to touch it. Until the last election in February 2011, there were only a handful of us willing to identify as pro-choice, but the mood has changed politically. We will bring in legislation before the summer,” she insists.
Ivana Bacik has been fighting the lonely battle for women’s sexual health since long before she entered parliament. As a student at Trinity Dublin, she was taken to court for providing information on abortion and contraception and almost went to prison. “The introduction of this legislation will undoubtedly change the culture in Ireland,” she says. Bacik, like many others, hopes that the extremely limited legal changes coming in this year will pave the way for real choice for women in the future. “Things are changing, and for many young women [the suicide exception] won’t be enough.”
Right now, though, thousands of women and girls continue to catch budget flights to London every year, alone and scared to have abortions they aren’t allowed to speak about without shame. Jan O’Sullivan was caught travelling to England to have an abortion 20 years ago at the age of 18. “I’d seen how unmarried mothers get treated,” says Jan, who now has two kids of her own. “There’s huge stigma even now – you’re damned if you have the baby and damned if you don’t.”
Contraceptives were only made legally available over the counter in Ireland in 1993 and the infamousMagdalene laundries were still open for any young woman who slipped up. “We’d been using condoms, but one broke and I ended up pregnant,” says Jan. “Sheer panic. I’d never left the country before, never been on a plane. Between finding out, trying to get an appointment and sorting out traveling and money, I was 11 or 12 weeks pregnant when we arrived in London. My hands shook nearly the entire time. We were terrified we’d meet people – we had already done so much lying about leaving the country for three days for a ‘romantic break.'”
“I woke up after the procedure to find I was lying flat on my front, and I knew before I was even awake that I wasn’t pregnant any more. It took a year to pay back the credit union loan.” Jan still believes it was the right decision, but the trauma of the journey has stayed with her over two decades. It’s a journey that thousands of desperate Irish women continue to make every year. “I haven’t been back to London. I’ve travelled plenty of other places, but not there, never there,” she says.
“Abortion isn’t rare in this country, it’s just not talked about.”
To find out more, or if you’d like to donate to the Abortion Support Network, visit abortionsupport.org.uk.
Follow Laurie on Twitter: @PennyRed
This past Friday, an Irish coalition government introduced a bill which weakens Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws. Debate over the bill follows the horrific death of Savita Halappanavar, who was denied a direct abortion that likely would have saved her life. The bill, among other things, would allow direct abortions in cases where the mother’s health was in danger—even in cases of suicide risk.
The church, in part because Catholic institutions would be compelled to do these abortions, has reacted strongly against the measure. The Irish Bishops, for instance, point out that abortion, “is never a remedy for suicidal ideation and therefore should never be cited as a justification for the direct killing of an innocent human being.” There is even talk of excommunication of Irish lawmakers depending on how this all plays out.
Sadly, this feeds into the worst stereotypes of the institutional Catholic Church. It is difficult for many to understand how the bishops, even on modest reforms like this one which are designed to protect the life and health of women, can be so extreme on abortion. If women are to flourish many we need to leave behind this antiquated way of thinking. Some even went so far as to say that Savita “died in the name of religion.”
But this simply misunderstands the facts of this tragic case. First, it is perfectly legal under Irish law to induce labor, even on a preterm child, to save the life of the mother. That Savita’s doctors did not do this is medical malpractice on their part, not a result of Ireland’s admirable and progressive insistence that their vulnerable prenatal children have equal protection of the law. Ireland remains one of the safest countries in the world for pregnant women– significantly safer than the United States and the United Kingdom, for instance, both of which allows broad access to direct abortion. Indeed, the medical science remains unclear on whether anything beyond indirect abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.
But the energy in support of the Ireland’s shifting abortion law goes far beyond protecting women’s health. Pro-choice activists (both in Ireland and elsewhere) are seizing the moment as a chance to push their broader agenda forward. Declaring that Savita’s death “won’t be in vain,” they are beginning systematic pro-choice campaigns which, among other things, direct Irish women to Web sites where they can illegally obtain the abortion pill.
One might think that this agenda serves the interest of women, but a new Pew poll shows not only that women are more likely than men to claim that abortion is morally wrong, they are also more likely to want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Pro-life feminists have been explaining for decades how abortion rights paradoxically serve the sexual agenda of men, obscure the inequality of women, and force mothers into horrific situations where the “choice” to kill their child means anything but freedom.
These kinds of pro-life concerns are gaining ground. Of the laws that are enacted about abortion in the United States, the overwhelming majority of them give our prenatal children more protection of the law, not less. The abortion market shows this trend as well: there is only one clinic each remaining in Alabama and Mississippi, and there are reports that the last clinic in Delaware has been closed.
Unsurprisingly, these trends reflect a growing shift in public opinion. According to Gallup only 41 percent of Americans are pro-choice, a record low. The shift is even more dramatic among young people: only 37 percent of Millennials consider abortion to be morally acceptable. Especially because the last two generations became more pro-life as they got older, this trend is does not bode well for abortion activists.
Even after the malpractice which led to Savita’s horrible death, Ireland remains one of the safest places in the world for pregnant women. It is a great example of a developed country which refuses to choose between women and their prenatal children. They are not only on the right side of justice, they are on the right side of history.
Prof. Charles C. Camosy of Fordham University is the founding director of the Catholic Conversation Project and author of “Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization” with Cambridge University Press.
Obama agency rules Pepsi’s use of aborted fetal cells in soft drinks constitutes ‘ordinary business operations’
The Obama Administration has given its blessing to PepsiCo to continue utilizing the services of a company that produces flavor chemicals for the beverage giant using aborted human fetal tissue. LifeSiteNews.com reports that the Obama Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has decided that PepsiCo’s arrangement with San Diego, Cal.-based Senomyx, which produces flavor enhancing chemicals for Pepsi using human embryonic kidney tissue, simply constitutes “ordinary business operations.”
The issue began in 2011 when the non-profit group Children of God for Life (CGL) first broke the news about Pepsi’s alliance with Senomyx, which led to massive outcry and a worldwide boycott of Pepsi products. At that time, it was revealed that Pepsi had many other options at its disposal to produce flavor chemicals, which is what its competitors do, but had instead chosen to continue using aborted fetal cells — or as Senomyx deceptively puts it, “isolated human taste receptors” (http://www.naturalnews.com).
A few months later, Pepsi’ shareholders filed a resolution petitioning the company to “adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements.” But the Obama Administration shut down this 36-page proposal, deciding instead that Pepsi’s used of aborted babies to flavor its beverage products is just business as usual, and not a significant concern.
“We’re not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use — we are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child for profit,” said Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of CGL, concerning the SEC decision. “Using human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) to produce flavor enhancers for their beverages is a far cry from routine operations!”
To be clear, the aborted fetal tissue used to make Pepsi’s flavor chemicals does not end up in the final product sold to customers, according to reports — it is used, instead, to evaluate how actual human taste receptors respond to these chemical flavorings. But the fact that Pepsi uses them at all when viable, non-human alternatives are available illustrates the company’s blatant disregard for ethical and moral concerns in the matter.
Back in January, Oklahoma Senator Ralph Shortey proposed legislation to ban the production of aborted fetal cell-derived flavor chemicals in his home state. If passed, S.B. 1418 would also reportedly ban the sale of any products that contain flavor chemicals derived from human fetal tissue, which includes Pepsi products as well as products produced by Kraft and Nestle (http://www.naturalnews.com).
Sources for this article include:
BLOODY hell, New Mexico. In that corner of the land of the free, moves are being made to force rape victims to carry any resulting pregnancy full term. Abortion will be deemed “tampering with evidence”. If a mugger breaks your face, you should not keep it showing sings of brutality to please the judge when the trial comes up. In what demented mind is a pregnancy evidence of rape?
The bill is being brought by Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R).
According to HB 206, if a woman terminates her pregnancy after being raped, she and the medic who performed the abortion face 3 years in state prison:
Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.
So, rape victim, what’s it to be: prison or carrying the rapist’s child?
Aviva Shen notes:
While anti-choice advocates maintain that a fetus should be afforded the full rights of personhood, charging abortion as “tampering with evidence” effectively turns the fetus into an object. This isn’t the first time so-called pro-life supporters have dropped the fetal personhood crusade when it was convenient — last year, a Catholic hospital in Colorado reversed its stance on fetal personhood in a malpractice suit, arguing in court that the term “person” should only apply to individuals who have already been born.
One question: who the hell voted for
Cathrynn Brown, the pressure group Rapists for Dads?
The abortion controversy has reignited after Catholic bishops accused the Government of opening the floodgates to the “intentional killing of the unborn”.
The hierarchy issued a hard-hitting statement after the Coalition confirmed that it will introduce legislation and regulation before summer to deal with abortion – with suicide to be included as a ground for termination.
But just hours after the decision was announced, the rift between the Government and the Catholic hierarchy was visibly widening.
The archbishops said it would “pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children”.
The four leading churchmen in the country swiftly issued a strongly worded statement condemning the Coalition move.
Cardinal Sean Brady along with Archbishops Diarmuid Martin, Dermot Clifford and Michael Neary signed off on the co-ordinated attack on the government proposal.
Emphasising that the right to life is the most fundamental right, the archbishops said that the lives of the unborn depend on the choices that will be made by public representatives.
“The unavoidable choice that now faces all our public representatives is: will I choose to defend and vindicate the equal right to life of a mother and the child in her womb in all circumstances, or will I choose to licence the direct and intentional killing of the innocent baby in the womb?” they said.
Several Fine Gael ministers and TDs are concerned about the move to legislate, but are holding fire until they see the actual wording of the law.
They will be pushing for an extremely tight and limited regime.
However, party backbencher Peter Mathews was threatening last night to vote against the Government if he was not satisfied with its contents.
And heaping further pressure TDs, the archbishops appealed to their moral conscience.
They said the legislation would fundamentally change “the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland”.
The government decision is based on the recommendations of an expert group, which came up with a range of options, but pointed toward regulations backed up by legislation.
It was compiled to set out options on how to respond to a European Court of Human Rights ruling on the so-called ABC case, which found the State violated the rights of a woman in remission from cancer who was forced to travel abroad to terminate her pregnancy.
In its formal announcement, the Government indicated the regulation and legislation will include the threat of suicide being grounds for abortion.
Catholic campaign group the Iona Institute argued it would be both wrong and unnecessary to allow abortion to prevent suicide.
A collection of pro-choice groups welcomed the government’s decision, but warned politicians must stop dragging their feet.
– Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Cabinet will decide what course to follow on the abortion issue tomorrow and would proceed to act on the issue in the New Year.
Mr Kenny also said that there will not be a free vote on the issue.
He said he did not want to force through any measure but he did not want it to drag on interminably either.
TDs were debating the issue in the Dáil today.
Junior minister Kathleen Lynch said she believed the Government would opt for a mixture of both legislation and regulation on abortion.
Ms Lynch said when the Government does make its decision, it will not meet the expectation of the vast majority of Irish people.
She said all the Government can do is legislate and regulate in such a restrictive manner that there will be a future case that will demand our attention then.
Ms Fitzgerald said the illusion that there is no abortion in Ireland needs to be stopped.
She said this existed because our close neighbour is providing the service to 4,000 Irish women every year.
Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy said the Government had to act on the issue, and said it was not enough to say that someone had a right to travel.
Mr Murphy said that while he was against abortion, he was in favour of a free vote on the issue.
Labour TD Michael Conaghan said that he favours the availability of abortion in limited circumstances, but said he thinks “killing babies is wrong”.
He said that this was about women’s health and that when the mother’s life is at risk, we must choose on the side of the mother’s life.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health Anand Grover has said abortion should be an option for women where their health is affected and not only where the life of the mother is at risk.
Speaking to RTÉ News, Mr Grover said he is concerned about the health of women around the world, but in particular the health of women in Ireland following the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Ms Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, died at University Hospital Galway following a miscarriage.
The rapporteur, who is currently in Ireland, said that what happened to her “would never happen in India”.
Elsewhere, In a statement this evening the Pro-Life campaign has warned Government that if legislation for the X case is introduced that it will lead to abortions ‘on demand’.
Dr Ruth Cullen said that “Claims that legislation for the X case is a compromise between pro-choice and pro-life sides is nothing more than a political ploy to make any legislation appear restrictive.”
She continued; “The reality is, however, that any legislation for the X case would blur the distinction between life saving medical interventions in pregnancy and induced abortion, the sole aim of which is to intentionally end the life of the baby.”
Separately, the Life Institute has slammed UN Rapporteur comments as “wholly offensive and inaccurate”.
Spokeswoman for Life Institute Niamh Uí Bhriain said that Mr Anand should withdraw his remarks.
She said the comments were a “grave insult to Ireland, to her people, and to the excellent maternal health care specialist who have made Ireland one of the safest places in the world for a mother to have a baby”.
She added that if the Minister for Health, James Reilly, “had any respect for our doctors he would demand that Mr Anand apologise for the his wholly offensive and inaccurate remarks.”