REFERENDUM ON ABORTION

 

  

Sir, - I never thought I would be in a position where the Government, legislature and Catholic Church of this country would violate my rights and dignity. There will have been many women in this position before, but today I must voice my anger and suffering at the inhuman treatment of women in this State.

Recently I was told that the 16-week old foetus I was carrying had a severe chromosomal abnormality, incompatible with life, which would result in death soon after birth. This was a very much wanted baby, but the trauma of this news was vastly exacerbated by the thought of being forced to carry to full term a foetus which would never know extra-uterine life.

The current media focus on the forthcoming abortion referendum has thrown into sharp relief the very real lack of attention to the substantive issue of fatal abnormalities in the unborn, and the mental and physical detrimental impact on the mother.

The coincidence of the carers' dispute was a further reminder of the forgotten in this society, the people who cannot function outside an institution and the parents who cannot cope.

I am a self-employed professional, I have two sons aged 12 and 10, who would welcome a baby brother or sister, but who also need and deserve my full attention. They will never see that baby - but why should they also suffer the excessive trauma visited on their mother by Irish legislation?

All three of us are citizens of a State which is turning its back on the reality of the suffering and family distress caused to the living. I pay for private health care and insurance in this country, yet in order to bring about a dignified and healthy conclusion and safeguard my mental well-being my partner and I are forced to secretly seek contact numbers, book flights and accommodation, take trains and taxis to a strange hospital in a foreign city, to meet strange medical staff who see me as yet another statistic of the Irish problem, to be sent back to this country where there is no compassion - or else to carry on for a further five months, with all the attendant mental and physical strain, knowing that there will be a burial and not a baby to look forward to.

If there is a constitutional requirement to hold a referendum, I appeal, on behalf of the hundreds of women who undergo this untenable trauma every year, for recognition of severe foetal abnormalities as a case for humane intervention. It is a risible irony to allow the obstetric profession to carry out amniocentesis tests which identify these chromosomal abnormalities, and then demand that the harrowing results be ignored.

I do not advocate social abortion on demand. This, in my opinion, is a very separate issue.

I am angry that men I do not know and who don't know me, people like Des Hanafin and William Binchy and others who have been complicit with Fianna Fáil governments and the Catholic Church, have decided that my body is their demesne; that they have the right to decide how my family will cope with this very real tragedy; that, regardless of the emotional and physical distress for us, I must do what they want; that their bigoted will rules my body.

They are all instrumental in perpetuating a very real human misery, with which I have tragically come face to face.

I want to hear the response of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Attorney General, Cardinal Connell, to this specific aspect of the issue of the unborn. On behalf of other women and families who have suffered, I want to know this issue will be prioritised, addressed and resolved between the legislature and the medical profession outside of the current referendum marketing extravaganza.

The only people who will benefit from the obscene proliferation of posters and glossy leaflets are PR companies and printers. Neither a Yes nor a No vote will change the situation about which I write, but Yes will further criminalise anyone who tries to help. How backward can we be? - Yours, etc.,

DEIRDRE DE BARRA,

Clonskeagh,

Dublin 14.

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Sir, - I would like to make two key points about the forthcoming referendum.

All necessary medical treatment -already available to women - is simply guaranteed by this amendment. While such treatment may very occasionally and indirectly result in the loss of unborn life, such treatment is not abortion. This seems to be a point that is confusing many pro-lifers, and is not helped by slogans such as "Protect women's right to life", as if this referendum was going to be directly responsible for women's deaths.

The second point is about the protection afforded to the unborn by this referendum. It does not undo the protection given by the constitution to the fertilised egg - it just provides additional protection from the time of implantation, thus repairing the damage caused by the Supreme Court decision in 1992.

Most important is this: this is the best we're going to get. If pro-life elements hold out for a wording that changes "implantation" to "conception" we will wait in vain, and meanwhile abortion will become more widely and legally available.

As a woman, I have many choices open to me to either avoid, or deal with, an unexpected pregnancy: the child I conceive does not. And we were all mere foetuses once upon a time: I guess we can all be grateful that our mothers didn't choose abortion.

We can do a lot of good by voting Yes on March 6th. This referendum does offer equal billing to both mother and child, despite what some of the more hysterical pro-choice factions are claiming. - Yours, etc.

MAIRE GARVEY,

Rochestown Avenue,

Dun Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

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Sir, - Mr Ahern is, I suggest, wise to decline Mr Noonan's invitation to debate the abortion issue. What the issue needs is discussers (if I may coin that word) rather than debaters. The latter enter exchanges with closed minds and provide us with ugly sounds akin to those of empty sealed iron containers hopping off each other. Discussers enter exchanges with minds open to reason.

As a pro-lifer who is also a Catholic, I would love an opportunity to discuss this proposition: "The status quo is satisfactory and will be worsened by what is proposed." In particular I would like to discuss it with William Binchy, whose close-minded debating has, if I am right, misled our Catholic bishops and Irish Catholic editor to be, at this stage, closed-minded on this issue. Their regret may be great. - Yours, etc.,

JOE FOYLE,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6.

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Sir, - Mary Holland (Opinion, February 21st) referred to a lack of public expression of Protestant opinion on the abortion referendum, while acknowledging those Protestant voices that have been heard. May I add the Church of Ireland Gazette, to which she does not refer? As an independent, weekly Church of Ireland newspaper we carried a considered editorial on the subject on January 11th. It can be found in the archive section of our free-entry website: www.gazette.ireland.anglican.org - Yours, etc.,

Canon IAN ELLIS,

Editor,

Church of Ireland Gazette,

Bachelors Walk,

Lisburn,

Co Antrim.

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Sir, - If the Shinners and Youth Defence are against, I am for it and voting Yes. - Yours, etc.,

JACK MORRISSY,

Acorn Road,

Dublin 16.