Only pregnant women should make decision on abortion
How anybody thought an investigation panel into the death of a person in a hospital controlled by the Health Service Executive could include medics from that hospital and a representative of the HSE itself would be beyond belief were it not devised by the hapless James Reilly.
So too is the absence of any clear legal basis for investigation, made worse by the absence of legal expertise on the panel.
A commission of investigation such as that constituted under Judge Yvonne Murphy to inquire into child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese should have been instituted. Such an inquiry, limited to the circumstances surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar, would be brief, inexpensive, conclusive and credible.
If, following yesterday’s removal of the University Hospital Galway consultants from the panel, another cobbled-together panel proceeds, there are likely to be legal challenges, complaints about procedures, refusals to co-operate and, finally, a report (if the process does not collapse) that will have limited, if any, authority.
Whatever the Government does on legislation or otherwise on the X case judgment is also likely to be a fiasco, because the complexity of the issues to be addressed are such, largely because of difficulties with the Supreme Court’s judgment in the X case (if a possible suicide is a justification for abortion, then how is a possible death from other causes not a justification?).
And that complexity arises, in the first instance, from the terms of the 1983 abortion amendment. The case for amending this amendment is now compelling and this will require the Irish people to reconsider their mindset on abortion.
The absolutist position on abortion is founded on the admirable intuition that it is always wrong deliberately to take innocent human life. The defenceless unborn in the womb, unable to assert their rights, have, we feel, a special call on our consciences. Unfortunately, there is a problem with this reasoning. It would be, in my view, unchallengeable if what was being asserted was a simple right of the unborn to protection against harm, against being killed or injured.
But it is not a simple right, for it collides with another right: the right of women to decide whether their bodies should be used for the propagation of unborn, irrespective of the trauma, the physical or emotional pain this imposes on them and, in some instances, irrespective of whether they consented to becoming pregnant.
What is at the heart of the abortion issue is not just the right of the unborn to life but the validation of that right against the mother, irrespective of what it does to the mother, irrespective of her wishes, her circumstances and even of her consent (as in the case of rape).