Directly linking suicide and unwanted pregnancy is flawed base for legislation
The Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and Self-Harm, produced by the Irish Association of Suicidology and the Samaritans, state: “Avoid simplistic explanations for suicide. Although a catalyst may appear to be obvious, suicide is never the result of a single factor or event, and is likely to have several inter-related causes . . .
“People don’t decide to take their own life in response to a single event, however painful that event may be, and social conditions alone cannot explain suicide either. The reasons an individual takes their own life are manifold, and suicide should not be portrayed as the inevitable outcome of serious personal problems.”
How sad it is that our Taoiseach and his Government seem determined to push ahead with legislation based on a flawed Supreme Court judgment that ignores the important distinctions made by the association and the Samaritans. Suicidal ideation is never due to a single factor, nor solved by a single act.
As perinatal psychiatrist Anthony McCarthy, one of only three such specialists in the country, has said, he might see a mother who feels profoundly depressed and who does “not want a baby, or wants to kill the baby, wants to have an abortion, but actually when I get to know her, it may be because she’s so depressed and has such low self-esteem that she feels that ‘no child should be born to me’.”
For such women, he said, abortion would not solve anything, and might actually make her feel worse, because what she needs is treatment for depression and low self-esteem.
To say that pregnant women never feel suicidal, or that the tragedy of suicide, rare as it is, never happens in pregnancy, would be nonsensical. To say that an unwanted pregnancy is the sole reason someone might feel suicidal is nonsensical, too.
In the case of someone who has been raped, how much is due to the rape itself, and how much to the compounding trauma of becoming pregnant? Nor can anyone honestly say that abortion will “solve” suicidal ideation, or deny that there is a risk that abortion will exacerbate the problem.
We have documented proof of that in the C case. In 1997, a 13-year-old girl who had been brutally raped was taken to England by social workers for an abortion, after a psychiatrist found she was suicidal.
On Today with Pat Kenny in 2009, ( irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009 /0718/1224250904341.html) C describes waking up after the operation expecting to have a baby whom she could have had adopted.
She describes the many suicide attempts that she made afterwards, and how her life was shattered not only by the rape, but by the abortion. She got a death certificate for the baby and named her Shannon in an effort to cope. C was the first case to which the precedent set in X was applied, and we can see the disastrous consequences.