Alliance For Choice – #dropthecharges

In June 2015 a Belfast woman appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court facing charges of procuring a poison or other noxious substance. The defendant obtained two different medications, Misoprostol and Mifepristone, which are common drugs used to induce abortions. The World Health Organization added these drugs to their “Essential Medicines List” in 2005, a list defined by the WHO as “those drugs that satisfy the health care needs of the majority of the population; they should therefore be available at all times … Read more

Life, death and heartbeats…

The diagnosis of death is mostly straightforward; the medical practitioner looks for somatic, cardio-respiratory and neurological features. Clearly, someone with rigor mortis is dead. Someone with no spontaneous breathing, no heartbeat and no pulse, and whose pupils are fixed and dilated presents the classical features of death. This is usually enough to diagnose most cases of ‘death’, though as the Victorians had a morbid dread of being buried alive, the tradition of requesting a surgeon to open an artery persisted … Read more

Bernadette Smyth: conviction and restraining order quashed

Anti abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth was cleared on appeal yesterday. She had initially been convicted of harassing Dawn Purvis at the end of last year. At the original trail the judge Chris Holmes made a number of interesting comments. He stated: “I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not feel it’s appropriate for anyone to be stopped outside this clinic in any form, shape or fashion and questioned either to their identity, why they are going in … Read more

Another Societal Milestone Passed; What Next for Progressing Ireland?

Last Saturday’s overwhelmingly positive referendum outcome in support of constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage was a great result for progress, equality, liberty, inclusion, rights for everyone and all things good in Ireland. It was a proud and historic moment for Irish society generally and especially for those Irish citizens living in the Republic who had and positively utilised the residential privilege to vote. To think homosexual acts were only decriminalised in the state 22 years ago in 1993… Having found themselves under the repressive moral and … Read more

Propagation of patriarchy and restriction of female bodily autonomy is the unifying bridge between Nationalism and Unionism in Northern Ireland.

In October 2013, Sarah Ewart braved the public gauntlet by speaking on the Stephen Nolan show of her experience as a pregnant woman carrying a foetus with fatal abnormalities. Few could find themselves unmoved by Ewart’s tragic story – made worse by archaic laws in Northern Ireland forcing her to travel to England to pay for abortion services. Speaking to an audience that included an individual who would soon be convicted of harassing Marie Stopes director Dawn Purvis, Ewart argued … Read more

New abortion proposals published…

The Department of Justice in N Ireland issued a call for members of the public to discuss whether abortion should be allowed here in cases of ‘lethal’ foetal abnormality or for pregnancy following rape or incest, as I indicated here. The DoJ indicated that they did not wish to open the debate around abortion beyond these limits. The DoJ has now published the findings, and David Ford, the Minister, stated: My department has just completed a consultation exercise on the … Read more

When Manley met Martin: “Peter Robinson and I have never had a bad personal relationship”

Interesting interview in today’s Irish News with John Manley and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. It appears to be a much more relaxed and happy man than the person who was sitting in front of Manley a year ago. McGuinness spoke of the improvement in the mood between Sinn Fein and the DUP from last year, but he insists his relationship with Peter Robinson has always been solid; People talk about bad personal relationships between Peter Robinson and myself – … Read more

Perhaps I Should Have Been Aborted…

To begin with, I wrote this article some time ago when the abortion debate seemed to be at a peak, when the conversation seemed to be led by men and women seemed to be considered little when discussing legislation. This Thursday I am to attend an Amnesty International briefing on “My Body My Rights: Barriers to abortion in Northern Ireland” and how wonderful it is when I look at the speakers for the event… not a solitary testicle between them. … Read more

Feminism versus Bernadette Smyth?

What does it mean to be a feminist? Not easy to define, by any means. How about a feminist in NI today? Even more complex. The women’s movement in Northern Ireland has hit some pretty difficult stumbling blocks over the last four or five decades. The divergence on the treatment of female republican prisoners and their subsequent protests in Armagh Gaol was one such stumbling block in the 1970s / 1980s. The awarding of a Nobel Prize to two NI women in 1976 was, on the other … Read more

What is a ‘person’ – the thorny question at the heart of the abortion debate

The NI Department of Justice has recently begun a review of the abortion laws in N Ireland; this was limited to the place of abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, or pregnancy as a result of actions, such as rape and incest, which are criminalised. The Human Rights Commission was recently granted leave to pursue a judicial review of the abortion laws in NI. The leader of the SDLP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell has “unequivocally” rejected calls for abortion. According … Read more

Politicians must become Pro-Woman to stop further horrors

I’m not pro-choice. Nor am I pro-life. I reject both of those labels because they’ve been used in such a pejorative way for so long that they have come to denote extreme views on both sides of the debate around the rights of women and the rights of unborn children that to identify as one automatically makes you a target of hatred and abuse from the other. The recent tribulations of Dawn Purvis, Director of the Marie Stopes clinic in … Read more

On abortion: Why it should be a woman’s decision…

‘Throughout the whole Greco-Roman civilisation abortion was permitted by law. It was Christianity which revolutionised moral ideas in this matter by endowing the embryo with a soul; for then abortion became a crime against the foetus itself’. – Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex. There is one reason only a woman should have the legal right to abortion and it is not because of rape, incest, foetal abnormality or threat of suicide; but simply because she chooses to. The above are reasons … Read more

Men Only: Stormont ‘all party’ Pro Life group revealed

Social media was ablaze last night with the news of an ‘all party’ ALL MALE ‘Pro-Life’ group at Stormont. Chaired by the SDLP’s Pat Ramsey, the group also includes Jim Wells (DUP), Jonathan Craig (DUP), Alban Maginness (SDLP), Mervyn Storey (DUP), Jim Allister (TUV), Mark H Durkan (SDLP), David McIlveen (DUP), Kieran McCarthy (Alliance) and Danny Kennedy (UUP). Despite having no female representation the group give their main point of contact as Bernie Smyth, currently involved in a court case … Read more

Abortion turndown is a constitutional issue

The ruling in the English High Court against free abortions for Northern Ireland women in England comes as no surprise. Have campaigners legally examined the situation in Scotland? This now seems like a case for  the Supreme Court where the issue would be: Are devolution powers superior to  UK  equal citizens’  rights? An aspect of the judge’s comments intrigued me: He ruled that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s duty to promote a comprehensive health service in England “is a duty in relation to the physical and mental … Read more

Bishop John McAreavey: “Political representatives must answer for their own position on abortion…”

As the BBC reports, Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey, MP for west Belfast, has apologised to the Catholic Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, for the misrepresentation of his views on abortion in “a letter written by local party members and distributed in west Belfast”.  Here’s the quoted apology in the BBC report – not yet available on the Sinn Féin website. [Mr Maskey said the literature was issued by local representatives in west Belfast on the issue of abortion in response to queries from constituents. … Read more

The Pope is still a Catholic but maybe one like John XX111

There’s no doubt of the instant secular and humanist appeal of Pope Francis’s interview with a Jesuist magazine .  The pope has attempted to change the whole direction of modern Catholicism.. Not since Khruschev denounced Stalin at the 20th Communist party conference has there been such a reforming speech-. That was the speech that tore away the veil of official  adulation from  the monster Stalin in 1956 three years after his death,  followed quickly by the expedient execution of mass murderer … Read more

The fragile balancing act of the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill”

Right now the Dail is sitting on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. To say it has been controversial is an understatement. On Tuesday in a powerful essay (it sounded more like an address to the nation [MP3]), Olivia O’Leary called it “a distorted law” under which men and women would be far from equal. To accomodate the X case (Wikipedia), there is to be no time limit on when an abortion can take place. As Brian noted earlier: … Read more

Is the Catholic Church’s hard line on abortion legislation an acceptance that its influence over the Irish state is over?

There are some interesting twists in the abortion debate in the Republic. As Michael Kelly of the Irish Catholic newspaper noted yesterday Armagh’s new-boy-to-be Eamonn Martin has been clear in ways his soon-to-be predecessor Sean Brady never was. As he also added, Rome will be pleased. And as Kelly rightly observes, polls can be wrong, especially if there is a referendum coming up: Ipsos MRBI told us 4pc would oppose children’s rights referendum. 42pc voted against it. #justsaying — Michael … Read more

How well does the Catholic church understand its own teaching on abortion?

This is well worth noting before it passes over us, on the question of abortion in the south. James P Mackey is visiting professor at the school of religions and theology at Trinity College. And he’s been looking back at some of his old Catholic textbooks from Maynooth: The Roman Catholic hierarchy has formally stated its position on abortion by declaring definitively that the direct and intentional killing of the unborn is immoral. Yet, my dog-eared old Maynooth textbook tells … Read more

Uniting Ireland: no #abortion, no #equalmarriage

Some revealing attitudes in the debates on equal marriage and abortion either side of the border this week. Last night the heads of the proposed Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 were published in Dublin (full details here courtesy of the Initial reaction has been mixed on both the pro-choice and anti-abortion sides, with most emphasis on the decision-making process being resolved to unanimous agreement between three psychiatrists (not the six suggested during last week’s flag-flying exercise) in cases where … Read more