The abortion debate

Wed, May 1, 2013, 05:58

Sir, – Even at this late stage, may I appeal to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to reverse the decision to apply the whip to the upcoming Dáil debate on abortion legislation.

Surely on an important matter of life and death such as this, each TD should be allowed the freedom of voting according to his or her informed conscience?

It appears to me that as we have already seen such diametrically opposed views expressed by both sides, a free vote by secret ballot would achieve a more democratic result.

Such a vote would also avoid the many pitfalls and unforeseen consequences that will surely follow if the debate is held as currently proposed. – Yours, etc,


Knocksinna Crescent, Dublin 18.

Sir, – While appreciating that this is a very sensitive and divisive issue, I fail to see what the fuss is all about.  

The Government is trying to bring the common law decision of the Supreme Court in the X case of some 21 years ago into statute law. The Government will legislate within the parameters of that decision, and I emphasise not beyond it! The whole object is to give clarity to the situation.  Not forgetting that this law (Article 40.3.3) was brought into the Constitution by the 8th amendment in 1983  by the democratic  will of the Irish people and the judges interpreted this law, which is their job.   People talk of opening the “flood gates”. The “flood gates” have been opened for the past 21 years at common law and nothing extraordinary happened until disaster struck with the unfortunate Savita Halappanavar tragedy  last year. 

 If people, or some civil society group, are not happy with the decision in the X case then I suggest that they lobby their representatives for another referendum to overturn the Supreme Court decision. If such a referendum were passed  the proposed legislation would then be unconstitutional and that would be the end of the matter.  Highly unlikely I should think.  – Yours, etc,


Beggars Bush Court,

Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

Sir, – One aspect of the abortion debate which seems to be ignored is the question of conscience. Regardless of the precise wording of whatever legal text is eventually adopted, some doctors and nurses will almost certainly flatly refuse to have anything to do with abortion in any shape or form on grounds of personal conscience which may or may not be derived from religious belief.

Any law which does not provide such people with wide-ranging, appropriate safeguards will face challenges on human rights grounds both in the Irish court system and in Europe.

In this context, it is worth noting that Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act has such a clause and last week a Scottish appeal court ruled that “the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose”.

The two people who won this judgment are labour ward co-ordinators in an NHS hospital in Glasgow whose employer argued that they were contractually obliged to delegate, supervise and support staff engaged in terminations and that the conscience clause applied only to people directly involved in terminations. The judges ruled that this was not the case. – Yours, etc,


Keswick Road,

St Helens, Merseyside,


Sir, – Are we now at a stage where we have elected representatives advocating a denial of our Constitutional rights? – Yours, etc,



Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Women need to be the people to who decide all issues about abortion. There are not enough of them in the Cabinet for a quorum, so a joint meeting of both houses of the Oireachtas (women only), should be called to decide on any change in the law relating to the matter. If a referendum is necessary, this too should be limited to women. If there is something magical about the number 12, it should be 12 women, and I am sure 12 wise midwives would suffice. Under no circumstances should men be listened to or have a say on these matters. (Oops! I’m a man). – Yours, etc,


Balally Grove,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – For many years we have clearly defined what is meant by “death”. Could someone please clarify the definition of “life”. – Yours, etc,



Killiney, Co Dublin.