Welcome to another ARC Weekly Roundup, where each week our MediaWatch team highlights how abortion is discussed in the media at home and abroad. This week, the Abortion Rights Campaign’s ‘Tell a Fine Gael TD’ campaign took off in earnest as a Government committee prepares to hear submissions from the medical and legal professions on the proposed legislation.
Putting ’em under pressure
The first TD targeted by the ‘Tell a Fine Gael TD’ campaign was Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, who received a particularly impassioned open letter from Angela Coraccio, which was shared on Broadsheet.ie and across social media.
The same day as the campaign began, Minister Creighton shared her thoughts on the proposed legislation with The Irish Times, saying that amendments would need to be made to earn her full support.
The pressure from the pro-life side to keep abortion as restrictive as possible is being heaped upon the Government – and not just from those in Ireland. US cardinal Sean O’Malley refused to attend the graduation ceremony of Boston College this week on account of the presence our Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was invited to celebrate the institute’s Irish connections. According to TheJournal.ie, the cardinal explained that his boycott was due to the Taoiseach “aggressively promoting abortion legislation.”
While the Taoiseach isn’t seen as such an active agent of abortion legislation by those of us in Ireland, there are TDs out there who support appropriate legislation for X and Carol Hunt from the Irish Independent profiled one of them on Sunday. Independent Waterford TD John Halligan explained his simple argument, “The foetus has a right to life – that’s a fair and a reasoned argument. But the woman has a right not to be raped or violated. What we are saying to a woman who is raped and impregnated against her will is that she must continue the pregnancy. [Or] what we are saying is that she must present herself as suicidal. That is warped justice.”
Also over the weekend, women who have had abortions shared their views on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill with The Irish Times.
Restrictions result in tragedy
As a new week began, Reuters reported on Dr Kermit Gosnell’s conviction of murdering three babies during abortions at a Philadelphia clinic providing this procedure to low-income women. While both pro-life and pro-choice groups backed Dr Gosnell’s conviction, each had their own reasons for doing so.
Representatives from Priests for Life, The Catholic Association and Life Legal Defense Foundation used the case as an argument against practices undertaken in all abortion clinics in the US, while representatives from NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Physicians for Reproductive Health and Forbes contributor Amesh Adalja pointed out that access to free, safe and legal abortion nationwide would prevent women from seeking these services from unsafe sources.
Back in Ireland, a report in the Irish Examiner highlighted how unsafe midwife staffing levels in maternity units across the country could lead to a repeat of Savita Halappanavar’s tragic case, while RTÉ reported that the Irish College of General Practitioners had voted to bring more clarity to the legislation in cases where there is a clear risk to the mother’s life at its AGM in Galway.
On Tuesday, a letter from Human Rights Watch was sent to El Salvador’s president Mauricio Funes on behalf of a woman suffering from serious health problems and over 22 weeks’ pregnant with an unviable foetus. Human Rights Watch informed the president that forcing this woman to continue this pregnancy is a violation of her fundamental human rights, as she could face up to 50 years in prison (and 12 years for the doctor that performs the procedure) should she have an abortion.
By Wednesday the ‘Tell a Fine Gael TD’ campaign had come to a close, rounding out the week-long drive with messages to the Taoiseach himself. We also read in The Irish Times that a final report on Savita Halappanavar’s death from the HSE would be published in weeks, as her husband Praveen considers whether to pursue the case further in the Irish courts or take it to the European Court of Human Rights.
As the week draws to a close, we see the archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin chiming in on the abortion debate for the first time via a letter to The Irish Times, in which he suggests that termination of pregnancy when the mother’s life is in danger could be undertaken in such a way that the foetus can still be delivered alive. Alongside this is a letter from Celbridge-dweller Hugh Pierce that challenges the Roman Catholic Church’s dictum of ‘Thou shalt not kill’ as an anti-abortion argument considering their bloody history.
The Irish Times also published an opinion piece from ARC member Dr Clara Fischer, who appeals to the Government, ahead of the Oireachtas health committee’s hearings on the proposed bill, to heed the demands of the electorate.
The committee, chaired by Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, commenced hearing submissions from medical and legal experts today, continuing on Monday and Tuesday next week. The ARC has prepared its own submission for the committee and we hope you will join us tomorrow at Central Bank for the Action on X Rally to add your voice to the many calling out for appropriate legislation for accessible abortion.