Abortion and the law

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 01:14

Sir, – In 1992, the excuse was the absence of legislation. Yet with legislation now in place, we have learned of the forced premature delivery by Caesarean section of a baby to a vulnerable woman who sought an abortion. Nobody, surely, can claim this dreadful situation is progress. – Yours, etc,

CATHERINE DUNLEAVY,

Grey’s Lane ,

Howth,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I fully agree with the following assertion by Prof William Binchy: “Inequalities based on race, age, gender, physical or mental capacity, economic or intellectual power violate the basic requirement of human rights” (“UN committee’s view on abortion contradicts core ethical value of human rights”, Opinion & Analysis, August 18th).

However, this is written in the context of a defence of one of the most draconian abortion laws in the world. Every single inequality Prof Binchy lists is in fact compounded by the anti-abortion amendment that he campaigned for in 1983.

To understand the discrimination at the heart of the Eighth Amendment, it must be considered alongside the Thirteenth, which allows for travel outside Ireland for abortion services, a provision acknowledged as necessary by most anti-abortion campaigners. For the more well-to-do in Ireland, such “abortion tourism” is an inconvenience; for the working poor and the unemployed, this avenue can be effectively barred. (This inconvenient truth was put to and acknowledged by the Government delegation at the UN hearings.) Many people with physical disabilities also face difficulties or are unable to travel. Minors, too, may well not be able to: they may not have a passport or money, or they may not be in a position to tell their parents. As asylum seekers are hemmed in by our borders unless they receive permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality to leave, and as the pocket money they receive would not go anywhere near covering the price of a “weekend break”, this option is all but eliminated in their case too.

The Eighth Amendment also impacts those with mental capacity issues: the spectre of the Eighth Amendment looms large in the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Bill 2013, which outlines a situation wherein a woman’s stated end-of-life care wishes can be overturned by the High Court if she is pregnant. Finally, the gender discrimination in the 1983 Amendment is clear: women cannot avail of the full range of services to safeguard their health (merely their lives), a restriction not placed on men.

Naturally, the pregnant woman is largely absent from the rights discourse Prof Binchy outlines. This omission is a requisite for anti-choice doublethink that attempts to reconcile support for both abortion bans and human rights. – Yours, etc,

WILSON JOYCE,

Main Street,

Chapelizod,

Dublin 20.

Sir, – Listening to the debate about the rights of a woman to have an abortion, it is easy to forget that there is a tiny human being who is currently fighting for life at the centre of this situation. Very few commentators in the media have spoken about the impact for this child of being delivered so early. One study found that up to half the children born between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation have a disability. Other risks include hypothermia, hypoglycaemia and respiratory distress, to mention just a few. So, if this child survives, it is a distinct possibility that he or she will experience the consequences of somebody else’s “choice” long into the future. Where are this child’s rights in this debate? – Yours, etc,

Dr RUTH CULLEN,

Rutledge Terrace,

South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.