Welcome to another Weekly Roundup, where each week our MediaWatch team highlights how abortion is discussed in the media at home and abroad. This week’s coverage was all about the proposed Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill: who’s voting against it, the harassment of politicians involved, and several issues that have been raised regarding the legislation itself.
Protests and Pickets
Politicians’ houses have been picketed by anti-abortion protesters this week, with both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Health Minister James Reilly‘s homes targeted for protests. While Kenny wasn’t at home when masked protesters picketed his house and rang his doorbell, his wife and son were. The Taoiseach was also heckled by a group of around 200 anti-abortion protesters while unveiling a statue in Longford last Sunday. Minister Reilly has also received a written threat to burn down his home.
Leaflets and Resignation
Chairman of a south Dublin primary school board Eddie Shaw has resigned this week following widespread outrage over an incident earlier this month where leaflets advertising an anti-abortion demonstration were given to primary school children to take home in their schoolbags. Shaw initially apologised for his actions, stating that the leaflets should have been in envelopes. However, after a petition calling for his resignation, he left his position on Tuesday night.
The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill
The Dail debate on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill began yesterday. Minister Reilly believes the bill will provide clarity and safeguard the lives of women as well as fetuses, but added that he wouldn’t hesitate to suspend abortion services if he believes the legislation is being abused. He did not comment on what would happen to women whose lives were in danger while services were suspended.
While Fine Gael plans to impose the party whip on the vote- which could happen as early as next week- a poll conducted by the Life Institute and Family and Life Organisation indicates an overwhelming majority in favour of a free vote.
Voting Against the Bill
TDs from several parties have announced that they will not be voting for the bill. Sinn Fein’s Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín declared that supporting the bill would be an “impossible ask”. Gerry Adams responded to this, stating that voting against the party’s position would be a “serious breach of party rules”. Fine Gael’s TD Brian Walsh has also announced that he will not support the bill, citing objections to its provision for abortion when a woman’s life is threatened by suicide.
Health, Fatal Fetal Abnormalities, Criminalisation and.. Health.
The question of the line between the health and life of a pregnant person in Ireland wasn’t far from the news this week, with Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran pointing out the risk of escalation of health-threatening conditions. Professor Arulkumaran, Chairperson of the clinical review board into the death of Savita Halappanavar last year, also noted that conditions which do not immediately threaten life can have severe and permanent health implications. Fiachra Ó Cionnaith responded to Professor Arulkumaran’s statement by pointing out that risks to life are exacerbated both by lack of legislation and the failure of hospitals to provide adequate care. Dr Mary Favier and Dr Ciara Quinn of Doctors for Choice agree, pointing out that the proposed legislation would not necessarily have been adequate to save Savita Halappanavar’s life.
Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) handed in an amendment to the bill to government earlier this week which would allow for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities. They are seeking support from all parties for this amendment.
Doctors for Choice’s Peader O’Grady has called for another amendment to the bill- this one concerning the criminalisation of people who have, carry out or assist with abortions. He argues that this should be removed, as it would not reduce abortions and further shames women.
Continuing on the theme of health, Health Minister James Reilly has expressed concern that allowing for termination of pregnancies could lead to babies suffering health consequences due to premature birth. He did, however, acknowledge that this was preferable to also risking the life of the pregnant woman.
With few parties happy with the proposed legislation, Shaun Connolly argues that the only solution is to call for a referendum.
And finally, writing in the Irish Catholic, John Waters has said.. something. Unfortunately my lady brain was too overwhelmed by emotions to process it, but I’m sure it was a well thought out and reasonable article.
See you next week!