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 Journal.ie). 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

#Reilly legislation on abortion: It’s truly idiotic

You didn't expect this.

And the abortion debate rumbles on …. Yesterday Health Minister James Reilly denied that it was ever being proposed that the opinion of six doctors would be stipulated in legislation covering abortion where there was a risk of suicide. This morning, Fionnan Sheahan published details of the draft legislation: • “One obstetrician and two psychiatrists have jointly certified that, in their reasonable opinion, there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the pregnant woman’s life from self-destruction and … Read more

Sinn Féin and abortion – two more motions challenging the party’s current stance

For the second year in a row, motions about abortion have been submitted to the ard fheis. The Ard Chomhairle has its own motion this year around legislating “to give effect to the 1992 judgement of the Supreme Court in the X Case”. But the motion from headquarters is joined by two others that largely reflect last year’s unsuccessful attempts to liberalise the party’s standpoint on abortion. The simplest of the motions is adapted from last year’s unsuccessful “articulate, campaign … Read more

Anti-abortion farce takes over Assembly

How sad and how typical it is that local parties are uniting to impose an unnecessary ban on a non-existent threat. The Marie Stopes clinic has said it will carry out medical, not surgical, procedures only up to nine weeks gestation and only within the existing legal framework of private abortions. They have made it clear they must operate within the NI legal framework and ” want to be regulated.” Fiddling while the place is burning  is becoming the Assembly’s speciality. … Read more

The moment of quickening

Patsy McGarry has an interesting article in the Irish Times today on the surprisingly fluid nature of the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion: … some of the church’s greatest teachers and saints believed no homicide was involved if abortion took place before the foetus was infused with a soul, known as “ensoulment”. This was believed to occur at “quickening”, when the mother detected the child move for the first time in her womb. In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV determined it … Read more

Short roundup on the #Savita case…

With as little comment and ado as possible… – Alex Massie notes the irreducible paradox of how the law as it stands was caught out by circumstance: Clearly, doctors did not think Mrs Halapannavar’s life was in danger. Equally likely: this delay helped kill her. – In the Irish Times, James McDermott notes: It is far better for the Oireachtas to debate legislation in a calm and coherent manner rather than for courts to have to develop the law on … Read more

The pro-choice lobby’s exploitation of the Savita tragedy could backfire badly

The old saying “hard cases make bad law” should be heeded as much by progressive campaigners as by fusty lawmakers. Because it is equally true that tragic cases make bad reforms. The pro-choice activists currently holding up photos of Savita Halappanavar, while calling on the Irish authorities to legislate for some forms of abortion in order to “protect women’s lives”, could unwittingly help to give rise to an Irish abortion law that negates women’s autonomy rather than accentuating it. It … Read more

The principled barbarity that can happen in a “Catholic country”

Excellent reporting by Kitty Holland and Paul Cullen in the Irish Times, that is all the more compelling for being dispassionate. Who will raise as voice against such shame? The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive.” The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the foetal heartbeat being checked several times a day. “Savita was really in … Read more