Those of you who were feeling that Ireland was heading too far in the direction of separation of Church and State will be pleased to know that Fine Gael’s Michelle Mulherin, self-appointed moral arbiter, brought things skidding back to the Dark Ages today by remarking 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“.
Michelle will be happy, I’m guessing, that the Government voted down today’s private members’ bill to legislate for the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s judgement in the 1992 X case.
The X case was an incredibly sad affair, and a stark marker of exactly how deep misogyny can run in this country. Ms. X was a young woman who became pregnant as the result of a rape. She wished to have the embryo aborted, as she was considering suicide due to the combined trauma of the rape and the pregnancy. Her family supported her decision, and were going to travel with her to England to have her abortion. However, her father’s question to the Gardaí (police) over whether DNA from the aborted foetus would be admissable in the criminal case against the rapist alerted the authorities to her plans, and the Attorney General brought an injunction to the High Court to stop the woman travelling.
If you’re not Irish, I’ll give you a moment here to recover from that sentence.
The unimaginable cruelty required to keep a suicidal teenager within the borders of this country lest she relieve herself of the physical conditions causing her mental distress was justified by the AG under Article 40.3.3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann (the Irish Constitution), which states that “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”.
The High Court upheld the injunction, but (thankfully) the Supreme Court overturned it, stating that an abortion would be justified if there was ‘a real and substantial risk’ to the life of the mother. Suicidality constituted such a risk; the X family had put forward medical documentation asserting that Ms. X was likely to make an attempt on her life if she could not terminate her pregnancy.
Later in 1992, three referenda were put to the Irish public, containing the proposed Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Twelfth, seeking to extend the ban on abortion even in cases of suicidality, failed; the Thirteenth and Fourteenth, allowing travel to a different country for the purposes of procuring an abortion, and allowing Irish medics to give information on overseas abortion services, passed.
Returning to the present day, not much has changed. Even in cases where the pregnant person is suicidal, abortion is unavailable in Ireland. The A, B, and C vs Ireland case of 2009, heard by the European Court of Human Rights, did not grant abortions to Irish women under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which deals with privacy rights), but it did impress upon Ireland the need for proper information to be made available to pregnant women on whether or not they could legally obtain an abortion in cases where the woman’s life is thought to be at risk. It noted that the Irish laws have a ‘chilling effect’ on the willingness of women to come forward and ask what their rights are in that situation.
It should be noted that the Labour Party conference of 2012, held this month, unanimously passed a motion seeking to enforce the A, B, and C judgement, and to pass further legislation after Minister James Reilly’s Expert Group on abortion presents its conclusions in June.
The Government’s rejection of the Private Members’ Bill today was, to put it kindly, due to a wish to be informed by the Minister for Health’s Expert Group, or, to put it more bluntly, due to a wish to stall until June before they have to face the issue.
Minister James Reilly stated last night that the government is committed to putting into force the decision in the X Case. (This writer stated that it’s about bloody time.) A Red C poll in 2010 found that 60% of the younger generation of Irish adults (18-35) favour legalised abortion, at least in limited circumstances. Last week, a poll found that most Irish Catholics – or at least, nominal Catholics – no longer find the Church’s teachings on sexuality and relationships to have relevance to their lives. Taoiseach Enda Kenny won widespread approval last year for standing up to the Catholic Church with regard to the Vatican’s response to the child sex abuse scandal, and the government is refusing to re-open the closed Irish Embassy to the Vatican City.
Things are looking up for the old Church/State divide.
But naturally, the Catholics have to stick their bigoted, reactionary, oar in – and today that came in the form of the honourable Deputy Mulherin and her ridiculous statements. Deputy, I’m having some trouble parsing your statements – or possibly it’s my Garbage to English translator playing up – but I’d mainly like to tell you that we don’t legislate on the basis of sin. Really! If I dishonour my father and mother, I may get into a certain amount of trouble over the dinner table, but the Guards won’t be turning up looking for me.
You categorise abortion as ‘murder’, but it’s very hard to murder something that isn’t alive. And I know, I know, the Bishop said that the soul arrives in the embryo at the point of conception – maybe – even the Catholics aren’t united on that one – but scientists and doctors don’t believe the foetus to be alive until it’s a baby, outside the womb. Even conservatives can understand that up to about 22 weeks, the foetus can’t viably survive outside the mother’s body. That isn’t ‘life’, and stopping it isn’t ‘murder’. It’s a medical procedure.
Your previous statement that “I am against abortion in any form myself. The grace of God is so liberating and provides so many options to get the best out of life despite our fall in nature, and we all have that.” is so arrogant as to be somewhat unbelievable. If I – an already mentally ill woman – were to fall pregnant and have that drive me to an attempt on my life, you would prescribe ‘the grace of God’ as a remedy?
Thanks very much, but I’m guessing you’ve never actually spoken to a young Irish woman. We have a working knowledge of abortifacients, Deputy, and most of us have thought out a plan for how to obtain an abortion if we need one. We’re more than aware that you can’t pray away a medical issue, and no amount of praying will allow money for a GP visit to obtain a morning-after pill, or a quick Ryanair trip to the UK, to materialise in our pockets. We’re terrible dirty fornicators, like myself, or young wives, like some of my friends, who are trying to build a career or finish our education or who just don’t want children.
I’m aware the Deputy probably won’t listen to secular arguments concerning silly things like mental health or financial ruin, so turn off your secular-vision for a minute. Ready? If ‘the grace of God’ is so very liberating and allows us to get the best out of life, surely something which allows women to keep going with working the best out of their lives would come God-approved.
Worth a shot.