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Strong and clear leadership needed on abortion debate

Hook in the west

Strong and clear leadership needed on abortion debate


The apathetic and the agreeable tend to carry themselves in silence. Unfortunately for the common sense argument, positive, forward thinkers are often the least pro-active when it comes to airing personal views. If intelligent, thought-out opinion goes a long way towards framing rational debate, Ireland continues to languish in the murky pit of an incestuous past.
We are all suffering for our subservience. Why does an issue as important as abortion, which goes to the heart of fundamental human rights, continue to be fudged and shirked by successive Irish governments? How are the screaming mob of the minority allowed to continuously disrupt the course of reasonable debate? In this country, it appears free speech is only tolerable if the hardline traditional conservatives have the final say.
Ireland has once again been shamed and humiliated by the actions of a narrow-minded or fundamentalist minority. If this latest abortion abhorrence was reported in a third world or fundamentalist regime, we would all revolt in horror. That it has happened on our own door step is sickening beyond words and a damning indictment of Ireland’s failure as a state.
Ireland’s history in dealing with abortion legislation mirrors our tattered pedigree for forward thinking. I would struggle to name a single first world, progressive country where the safety and rights of women are so callously and deliberately discarded under a cloak of religious integrity.
 The current legislation on the provision for abortion in Ireland is far too narrow in its remit and it cannot fulfil the duties for which it was intended. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act caters only for suicidal women that want to have a termination. Under the Act, clinical psychiatrists are obliged to evaluate whether or not there is a real and substantive threat to the mother’s life.
 Typically, but perhaps surprisingly, many women may suffer suicidal thoughts during an unplanned pregnancy. Of those, a small percentage may have continuous suicidal thoughts; and furthermore within that group, some may actively consider ending their own lives.
 Only a small percentage of those women might proactively take steps to kill themselves. It is this latter group, where suicide is a definite or fantasised course of action, that qualify for a termination in Ireland under the current act. And ‘termination’ may mean either early delivery or abortion, depending on the circumstances.
 The horrific circumstances of the woman at the centre of the latest abortion case are starting to uncover. A rape carried out on a young teenager in her own country resulted in pregnancy and when she arrived in Ireland, her human and medical rights were as good as ignored.
The HSE claim they were not directly informed of the woman’s case and despite her wish to terminate the pregnancy and her subsequent expression of suicidal tendencies, she was forced to carry the child through term and deliver the baby prematurely by Caesarian section.
 The State is wholly culpable for the pain and suffering that this woman has been forced to endure. In 1992, Ireland hid behind an absence of legislation when dealing with the X Case. Now, with legislation in place, the State has utterly failed to protect the rights and needs of a vulnerable young woman in a similar situation. Is this progress?
It is not acceptable that the current Government buries its head in the sand for fear of tackling what is still a deeply divisive and emotive issue. The cost of inaction materialises itself in deep pain and suffering for many women, the extent of which may be too great for any third party to comprehend.
As Europe continues its steady progression towards central governance, how long will it be before Ireland is forced to adhere to a European directive on abortion? There is already a strong argument to suggest that we are in breach of human rights with our outdated and dysfunctional legislation. Would the Government be confident in taking on a test case at the European Court of Human Rights?
 Enda Kenny needs to take a good, long look at himself. It would be easy to let this case wash away with the tide of time. In today’s terms, with media turnover operating on an hourly basis to satisfy the needs of an always-connected population, that may take less than a week.
 But I would hope that a man who prides himself on political progression and claims to place the needs of the people before the will of the Church would find it in himself to deliver where so many before him have failed.
The abortion debate will probably never settle in compromise, such is the ferocity of views on both sides. But in order to protect the vulnerable, where pregnancy is as a result of rape or where the life of the mother is under serious threat, there must be strong and clear legislative guidance. As it stands, Ireland continues to hide under a thin veil of obscurity.