Abortion issue resurfaces

The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has launched a 13-point plan to have abortion legalised in the Irish Republic, under the motto ‘Safe and Legal in Ireland’.

Strangely, while the 6,000 Irish women who travel to Britain and further afield annually to have abortions are discussed, there is no mention, in the press release at least (it was brought up before), of the supposed growing number of backstreet abortions carried out for those within the new immigrant community, who don’t have the funds to travel or are afraid to leave the jurisdiction for fear of not being allowed back in.

There is also no mention of the illegal sale of the RU486 pill on the streets of Dublin to the Chinese community especially.

the IFPA is calling for the removal of of Article 40.3.3 from the Constitution and says that abortion is a decision that should be made by a woman in consultation with her medical advisor.

Article 40.3.3 states: “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.”

RTE reports that the campaign will include seeking meetings with the leaders of each political party to lobby them to change the current laws.

Also, the Association is supporting three Irish women who have had abortions abroad and who are now taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The women say their human rights were breached by not being allowed have an abortion in Ireland.

Anti-abortion group Youth Defence tried to break into the press conference and IFPA’s Ivana Bacik, who ran for the European Parliament with Labour, said this is just the latest in a series of aggresive tactics against her and the organisation.

229 thoughts on “Abortion issue resurfaces”

  1. ‘I’m opressing nothing!’

    Tsk! Call yourself a feminist!

    Okay. Time to go home to my wife. She’d better have my dinner ready and my Thursday slippers waiting at the front door.

  2. Alan,

    I see Dr Reeve is a trainee solicitor. She is just plain wrong. For example a foetus that has been injured in the womb has been able to successfully sue a mnaufacturer of drugs. To do so the foetus has to be a person in order to initiate proceedings There are a host of other examples.

  3. Rethinking,

    My research so far only points to cases where states (here in the US) have legislated rights to fetuses. That is different from the Common Law that rules in the absence of statutes.

    Are you saying that, in the UK, the foetus has been ruled to be a person in common law in the absence of a statute? If so, could you give me a reference to the case(s)?

  4. Alan,

    I enclose extract from Halsbury’ Laws of England. Strictly speaking the foetus does have rights at common law and statute. It would be fair to say though that whatever right that accrues only vests in the child at birth. It is correct to say therefore that a foetus would not be able to prevent an abortion. There is also soem uncertainty regardinmg Artice 2 of the ECHR (right to life) This again is not the common law

    ii) Duty of Care: Particular Problems

    606. The foetus and family relationships.

    In respect of births after the passing of the Congenital Disabilities (Civil Liability) Act 19761 there is a statutory right of action available to a child who is born alive but with disabilities which would not otherwise be present because of an occurrence before its birth which affected either parent’s ability to have a normal healthy child, or affected the mother during pregnancy, or affected her or the child in the course of its birth2. Births prior to the commencement of the Act are governed by the common law which, after a period of some uncertainty, now provides the duty to take care not to cause damage to newly born child through injuries inflicted whilst the child was en ventre sa mere

  5. Rethinking,

    To let you see where my impression of English Common Law comes from, in the Canadian case of REGINA V. JAMES ROGER DEMERS, the court says:

    [para 13] What then is the status of the fetus at common law? In Tremblay v. Daigle, the father of a fetus sought an injunction to prevent the mother from terminating the pregnancy. He argued that a fetus was a “human being” entitled to the “enjoyment of life” under. 1 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, R.S.Q., c. C-12. This Court unanimously rejected that contention on the ground that neither the Quebec civil law nor the common law of England and Canada recognize the fetus as a juridical person. While injury to a
    fetus due to the negligence of third parties is
    actionable, the right to sue does not arise until the infant is born.

    The following outlines my understanding ot US law:

    Some of the homicide statutes give you examples of how homicide law protects fetuses. The common law was that fetus was not protected until it was born alive. In recent years, states have started to move away from this policy, amending the statutes to protect fetuses. Other states have made killing of fetus its own crime, making it manslaughter, say. Each of these approaches has to provide some kind of exception for legal abortions, because Roe v. Wade supercedes the state’s interest in protecting life.

    BTW, the reason I brought this up in the first place was to point out that the idea of the f(o)etus as a person is relatively new, and it’s nothing like 1000 years old, let alone 2000 years old.

  6. With the commonest date rape drug being alchohol, a failure to allow abortion amounts to inbreeding brutes, alcoholics, and underage mothers.

    Although I don’t expect to see that spelt out in any local party manifesto.

    Expect though to see more scared skinny girls in search of their own Irish solution.

  7. I dont think the issue has arisen Alan because it was not until comparatively recently that abortion was not a crime. If one looks at natural law, the teaching of the major religions and the laws of virtually all societies abortion was eschewed. It was for that reason that the status of the foetus was not an issue. It has become an issue precisely becsuse of the debate about the legality of abortion.

  8. Rethinking,

    No, I don’t think that the status of the foetus in common law and the issue of abortion are related as you suggest. Also, the history of religion and abortion is much more varied than you suggest. See, for example, Abortion and Personhood: Historical and Comparative Notes.

    It is particularly interesting that:

    There are no passages in the Bible specifically mentioning induced abortion

    and that:

    Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, wrote in On Exodus (ca. 415) that early abortion should not be regarded “as homicide, for there cannot be a living soul in a body that lacks sensation due to its not yet being fully formed.”

  9. People, like it or not the vast majority of irish people are against abortion. AS a SF supporter and coming from an area of massive republican support i can say that the about 95 percent if not more of them are totally opposed to abortion.

    If would be madness for SF to support a policy of introducing abortion in Ireland.

    As a man you can say that its easy for me to be against abortion but having 4 sisters i can gauge their opinion quite easily and thier more opposed to abortion than me.

    People can decry all they want about religon but as far as i learned in history Hitler, Stalin and POl Pot were all non belivers and correct me if i’m wrong but i think they were the biggest mass murderers of the previous century.

  10. Who is for abortion? Who waves flags and claps their hands at the thought? I can’t think of anyone who relishes the idea. Who is in favour of crime? Not many. But prisons are still a necessity aren’t they?

    Unwanted pregnancy is an unfortunate fact of life – the solution isn’t great, but for many it’s better than bringing a child into the world. But the notion that women use abortion as birth control is just ridiculous.

    I have a young baby myself and remember at the 20 week scan hoping that nothing was wrong which would result in a necessary termination. I did not accept that my child was a person yet, but that would not have stopped me grieving if I had lost him.

    I think we can confuse emotion and hopes for a baby with actual personhood. When a foetus is terminated at that stage, it is hope that dies, all the dreams one had for the baby. However, we should not let emotion cloud the issue of deciding how women make such decisions. No one likes abortion and no one wants one, so instead of pointing fingers at ‘women who make mistakes’ how about a little compassion?

  11. Abortion is an emotional issue. It is true Sinn Fein have an ambigious stance on the issue- many female members disagree very openly with party policy. I do understand their stance however, considering their constituents- therefore I think their policy makes sense for the time being. It is smart politics.
    There is an awful lot of ignorance surrounding the abortion issue, for example taking a pro-choice stance does not mean that one is pro-abortion, it does mean that a pro-choicer allows for others to make their own moral decisions. My beliefs are not your beliefs and why should my morality be considered more or less relevant that the next persons.
    An interesting point. In a lecture a few years ago, in a module on justice, a lecturer pointed out that states have no business legislating to reduce/ban access to abortion until that same state adequately provides the means, legislatively, through which each child has unhindered and equal access to healthcare, education, and the other factors involved in living and growing in a society.In too many socities, children are going to bed hungry, sick abused etc. Until states are willing to make guarantees to all children that this will not be their fate then they have no business in taking away this choice from any woman who feels she will never be able to provie for her child.

    In the case of the US, I have read that the Bush crowd are really not ‘that committed’ to the abortion issue, but use it as a way of getting elected. This seems to have been well proven.This too, not matter how much some of us may despise the Bush administration, is smart politics.
    ( or excellent analysis of this read Franks ‘What’s the Matter with Kansas’- an excellent book). Even with a new supreme court justice of Robert’s rightwing tendencies, it is suggested that abortion will continue in many states, under state law. Also that it will take YEARS for RoevWade to be overturned, as any constitutional matter is.
    As for my own stance- I am solidly pro-choice.I do not believe human life begins at conception, and that is where the argument begins. Let us take care of the 6-10 million children around the world who are starving to death- how come these moral chest thumpers can not see them?

  12. Alan,

    Sorry hadn’t a chance to read your riposte.

    I understand and that there has historically been a distinction between abortion and murder. The Offences against the Person Act refers to it as a misdemeanour and it has never been viewed in the same category as homicide. I think that the distinction is probably merited.

    I accept that the emphasis has differed but there is a pretty strong consensus historically that abortion was wrong.

    In relation to the sciptures, I’m afraid I am not of the school which argues that if it is not in the bible it must be alright.That is a peculiar product of the sola scriptura approach in the Reformation and one of its less welcome legacies.All sorts of difficult issues are not covered in the Bible and one has to understand the end and purpose of the commandments and the moral law to reach a conclusion I think you have to look at a rather wider varity of sources… natural law, the fathers of the Church the historical teaching of the church (or tradition properly understood) as well as medical and other sciences. You appear to have a fairly eclectic approach yourself which is a reasonable start.

    Even if one accepts that a foetus does not completely fulfil the definition of person then one is still dealing with something that is absolutely unique and something that cannot be treated with anything but profound respect.It does not follow that because you dont accept that the foetus is a person then you are free to discard it as a mere amalgamation of cells

  13. Alan,

    Sorry hadn’t a chance to read your riposte.

    I understand and that there has historically been a distinction between abortion and murder. The Offences against the Person Act refers to it as a misdemeanour and it has never been viewed in the same category as homicide. I think that the distinction is probably merited.

    I accept that the emphasis has differed but there is a pretty strong consensus historically that abortion was wrong.

    In relation to the sciptures, I’m afraid I am not of the school which argues that if it is not in the bible it must be alright.That is a peculiar product of the sola scriptura approach in the Reformation and one of its less welcome legacies.All sorts of difficult issues are not covered in the Bible and one has to understand the end and purpose of the commandments and the moral law to reach a conclusion I think you have to look at a rather wider varity of sources… natural law, the fathers of the Church the historical teaching of the church (or tradition properly understood) as well as medical and other sciences. You appear to have a fairly eclectic approach yourself which is a reasonable start.

    Even if one accepts that a foetus does not completely fulfil the definition of person then one is still dealing with something that is absolutely unique and something that cannot be treated with anything but profound respect.It does not follow that because you dont accept that the foetus is a person then you are free to discard it as a mere amalgamation of cells

  14. Rethinking,

    Thanks for the feedback. I think we’ve exhausted the historical background of abortion. Now, let’s go forward from here and now.

    My approach in discussing political issues is to ask “What is it that you want to change?” Here in the US, we have the Roe v. Wade decision that many want to change. In Ireland, there is the constitutional article. In Northern Ireland, I’m not sure what there is, but I’m guessing that normal UK law does not apply based on all the parties being, essentially, anti-abortion.

    The change envisioned in the US must entail re-criminalizing abortion. This would be quite a shock after a generation of legal abortions. It raises the question, how is the crime of abortion handled where it is illegal? Is there criminal legislation in Ireland to enforce the article in the constitution? What do they do in Northern Ireland? What do other countries do to deter abortion through criminal laws?

    Kitty,

    I agree that the Bush administration does not really care about most of the social agenda issues they appear to support and that its all politics. Bush insiders are extremely well off and will always be able to obtain abortions for their wives/children/paramours even if they have to leave the country to do it. Sounds a lot like Ireland!

  15. Alan,

    Abortion in the North is still handled under the Offence Agfainst the Person Act. As I mentioned previously it is not regarded as homicide. The 1967 Act does not apply and we have our own guidelines for when abortion is legal(the usual exceptions. mothers life etc).In the South the matter is dealt with in the Costitution, but even here following the X case there are exceptions when the mothers physical or mental s health is threatened.

    My big problem with Roe and Wade is that it approaches the issue as one of privacy and esssentially enshrines choice.Abortion therfore becomes simply a differnt form of contraceptuion and the foetus is afforded no protection whatsover If it were repealed there would still need to be laws which governed abortion.

  16. Thanks, Rethinking, for filling me in on the legal situation over there. You are right that Roe v. Wade is based on privacy rights. It was a supreme court decision that pre-empted state laws. When it was decided in 1973, some US state permitted abortion while others criminalized it.

    The political climate since then has focused on restricting access to legal abortions (mostly through economic pressures like not funding abortions or even abortion counseling for poor women, and boycotting doctors who provide abortions). As Kitty points out, most of the partisan political posturing around abortion is just for the purpose of getting votes from single-issue voters.

    If Roe v. Wade is overturned by a new, more conservative supreme court, the issue will move back to the states. Advocates on both sides are already preparing for this, and you will see the checkerboard approach return with the possibility of 50 different abortion laws in the 50 states.

  17. Alan I can understand the desire not to have a patchwork quilt of different laws. I also suspect that overturning Roe will not that be easy as it has been established law for over 30 years. As I said my difficulty is in making abortion a human right ot approaching it in the consumerist language of choice. From afar it does seem that most are uncomfortable in dealing with it from that angle. For all the inadequacies and loopholes of the 1967 Act in England it was predicated on the protection of women and trying to prevent back street abortion. It seems to me that you get into a lot of diffculties from the “choice” angle because it appears like a lifestyle option which most people instinctively recoil from

    I would be interested to here your views on whether the Democrats are going to have to change the framework of their approach to the issue of abortion before they tempt back a fairly sizeable number of key voters in the “fly over” states.

  18. This will be a quick answer, Rethinking, with more to come.

    Re: whether the Democrats are going to have to change the framework of their approach to the issue of abortion

    Yes.

  19. Isn’t abortion in reality a choice now both in the UK and US. Regardless of the wording of the law in the UK I doubt if there are any cases where a woman is denied an abortion where she insists on having one.

  20. @I would be interested to here your views on whether the Democrats are going to have to change the framework of their approach to the issue of abortion before they tempt back a fairly sizeable number of key voters in the “fly over” states.’

    Hillary Clinton has already changed her discourse on the abortion issue, in anticipation I suppose, of her run for the presidency. That does not necessarily mean she has changed her mind, but she has changed the discourse.
    You will find this trend recently in the US Deomcratic party. It is an obvious decision by the hierarchy of the party – to change the tone of their policy so that it appeals to the red states and the more religious consitituents.
    Again, if I can recommend the book ‘Whats the Matter with Kansas’ to anyone interested in what has happened in US politics, and why these ‘moral issues’ have become the deciding factor in the voting trends.
    Some frightening yet amusing stuff.

  21. Is the core of the problem not the focus (nay obsession)on choice.? When Clinton stated abortion should be “safe legal and rare” he implicitly undermined the choice concept. Hilary has continued with this theme and sooner or later the edifice on which Roe was built will crumble. You cannot have a serious moral debate within the consumerist langusage of choice.It seems to me that Democrats in making Roe a litmus test for the Supreme Court have done exactly what they accuse Republicans of..single issue politics. Why have they made pro life democrats an oxymoron…there were people like Gov Casey in Pennsylvania who once styled themselves such and yet now it has become an issue on which no card carrying Democrat can have an alternative view.Why are they then surprised when large numbers of voters feel they cannot in conscience vote Democrat despite their sympathy with many Democrat policies.Getting rid of Roe could be the best thing that has happened to the Democratic party in decades.

  22. ‘there were people like Gov Casey in Pennsylvania who once styled themselves such and yet now it has become an issue on which no card carrying Democrat can have an alternative view.Why are they then surprised when large numbers of voters feel they cannot in conscience vote Democrat despite their sympathy with many Democrat policies.Getting rid of Roe could be the best thing that has happened to the Democratic party in decades.’

    First, great blog Rethinking Unionism.
    I think you have hit the nail on the head about the voters and why they feel they can’t vote dems.
    The bigger point is, that this is because of brilliant political and discursive manipulation by the republican party. The FACT of the matter is, that they are neither interested nor convinced that the overturning of Roe v Wade is going to happen anytime soon- however they have convinced red state constituents that they have it within their power to do so. In addition, even if it is overturned there will be states which will provide abortion and those that will not.
    As for the Democrats, as I said you hit the nail on the head- which is exactly why they appear to be changing their discourse on these matters. Howard Dean( not sure what his title is other than Governor- perhaps Chairman of the party) has made this the priority of the party. Changing the discourse and the image of the party- from an elitist prochoice ‘liberal’ ( which has becoe a dirty word in US politics) party to a party in touch with the common man- a party with varying views on the issue- and that is to appeal to the swing states which have put the Republicans in the White house.
    If you search for recent statements of Hillary Clinton’s on abortion you will see that this new policy has in fact been put into effect.
    As to overall US policies- the tide is turning- see Ohio election result of recent weeks. War is largely unpopular, economy is so- so despite the figures that Wall street pumps out, the Dow has stayed ( with ups and downs) for the past year at the 10,500 mark-confidence in the war and economy will be the big issues in the next mid-terms. I predict big republican loses, but that could be wishful thinking!!
    Cheers.

  23. ‘there were people like Gov Casey in Pennsylvania who once styled themselves such and yet now it has become an issue on which no card carrying Democrat can have an alternative view.Why are they then surprised when large numbers of voters feel they cannot in conscience vote Democrat despite their sympathy with many Democrat policies.Getting rid of Roe could be the best thing that has happened to the Democratic party in decades.’

    First, great blog Rethinking Unionism.
    I think you have hit the nail on the head about the voters and why they feel they can’t vote dems.
    The bigger point is, that this is because of brilliant political and discursive manipulation by the republican party. The FACT of the matter is, that they are neither interested nor convinced that the overturning of Roe v Wade is going to happen anytime soon- however they have convinced red state constituents that they have it within their power to do so. In addition, even if it is overturned there will be states which will provide abortion and those that will not.
    As for the Democrats, as I said you hit the nail on the head- which is exactly why they appear to be changing their discourse on these matters. Howard Dean( not sure what his title is other than Governor- perhaps Chairman of the party) has made this the priority of the party. Changing the discourse and the image of the party- from an elitist prochoice ‘liberal’ ( which has becoe a dirty word in US politics) party to a party in touch with the common man- a party with varying views on the issue- and that is to appeal to the swing states which have put the Republicans in the White house.
    If you search for recent statements of Hillary Clinton’s on abortion you will see that this new policy has in fact been put into effect.
    As to overall US policies- the tide is turning- see Ohio election result of recent weeks. War is largely unpopular, economy is so- so despite the figures that Wall street pumps out, the Dow has stayed ( with ups and downs) for the past year at the 10,500 mark-confidence in the war and economy will be the big issues in the next mid-terms. I predict big republican loses, but that could be wishful thinking!!
    Cheers.

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