Simplified link of abortion with suicide could normalise taking one's own life
Some very clear findings have emerged from the Oireachtas committee hearings on abortion in the wake of the expert group report, which were very well chaired by Jerry Buttimer TD.
First, pregnant women are not dying because of a failure to intervene when a mother’s life is at risk. Second, abortion is not a treatment for suicide. Anti-abortion people have been stating this for some time, along with the logical conclusion that it is therefore both unsafe and unjust to legislate for abortion on the grounds of suicide, not only because it destroys an innocent life, but because, for certain categories of women, abortion itself can increase the risk of taking one’s own life.
However, other conclusions were reached by Prof Veronica O’Keane (a witness at the hearings) on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Thursday. “We all agree that abortion is not a treatment for suicide. Abortion is clearly a treatment for an unwanted pregnancy. That is what abortion is a treatment for.” She claimed there was a group of women who don’t have any pre-existing mental health problems, but who because of an unwanted pregnancy, perhaps because of rape, are actively suicidal.
She said, “And in a case like that, a case like X, the treatment that she wanted was a termination of her pregnancy, and that would put an end to her suicidal ideation.”
If I made a statement like that in this column, I would be in breach of guidelines for best practice when speaking about suicide. Also, abortion did not put an end to the suicidal ideation of Miss C, the first girl to whom the conclusions reached in X were applied. She made repeated suicide attempts after the State took her to England for an abortion.
Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide and Self-Harm, produced by the Irish Association of Suicidology and the Samaritans, states: “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.”
Prof O’Keane alleges that there is one category where this does not apply – women who are suicidal simply and solely because of crisis pregnancy. Terminating the pregnancy “puts an end to the suicidal ideation”. Although the woman might be pregnant because of rape, apparently rape could not be a factor in feeling suicidal? The idea of a single cause and a simple solution flies in the face of all available evidence.