Weekly Round Up: a new law, a continuing campaign

Welcome to another Weekly Roundup, where each week our MediaWatch team highlights how abortion is discussed in the media at home and abroad. We now have a new law governing abortions in Ireland and, naturally, this has prompted responses from all sides of the debate and spurred on calls for further action.

After the bill passed

In our last round-up, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill had been signed into law by President Michael D Higgins. However, this historic moment has been marred by the flawed legislation that has come from 21 years of campaigning and the Irish Independent’s legal editor Dearbhail McDonald foresees the challenges to come for this law in future.

Caroline Simons, legal advisor for the Pro Life Campaign, claimed the new law now allows for the deliberate targeting of the life of an innocent human being and campaign spokesperson Cora Sherlock is certain it can be overturned.

Meanwhile, Action on X’s Sinéad Kennedy acknowledged that this is a significant but small step on the road to abortion rights in Ireland, adding that the new law seems “more focused on restricting access to abortion than on addressing the real circumstances of women’s lives.”

Harsh realities

In a heartbreaking column on TheJournal.ie, Gerry Edwards, wrote an open letter to members of the Oireachtas, telling his tragic story as father to a son that developed a fatal foetal abnormality and calling for a referendum.

On Wednesday, an article in The Irish Times quoted Fr Kevin Doran, a member of the board of governors for the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, saying that performing abortions permissible under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill would be “against the hospital’s ethos.”

Dr Peter Boylan, consultant obstetrician and former master of the National Maternity Hospital responded on Newstalk Breakfast and his words are kindly reproduced by Broadsheet.ie. Dr Boylan, apparently fed up with the interference of the Catholic Church into what is a medical matter, said, “It’s absolutely intolerable that a hospital would deny somebody life-saving treatment in the 21st century in a Western country. It just beggars belief to be honest with you.”

Meanwhile, Ruth Fletcher, a senior lecturer at Keele University, explored how abortion statistics from the UK government’s annual report on abortion statistics in England and Wales (and, thus, figures relevant to Ireland’s exported abortions) should be interpreted, concluding that “the number of a particular kind of abortion is just that, a number. We need to know a lot more about the reasons, circumstances and effects of each abortion experience before we can conclusively argue a cause for concern.”

More choice events, less silence

Last week saw the Galway Races take place and the famous Ladies Day came on Thursday, with Ladies for Choice wearing their custom-made headpieces and sashes with pride – even if they got a bit sodden in the rain!

In Ireland and around the world

Let us not forget that the Irish abortion debate takes place as Gaeilge, too, and, this week, Irish language activist and academic Donncha Ó hEallaithe called for a repeal of the 8th amendment in Beo!, a monthly magazine for Irish language-speakers.

Looking at abortion rights struggles in other parts of the world, a post on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog revealed that, although abortions are permissible in cases of rape in Central African Republic, these services are denied in hospitals funded by US humanitarian aid.

A blog post from Sian Cowman, an Irish woman living for the past few months in Cochabamba, Bolivia, drew comparisons between the two countries’ abortion laws and pro-choice campaigns. Cowman explains how the new law in Ireland is similar to legislation already in place in Bolivia, which allows for abortion in certain a cases but makes it difficult to access, with clearance needed from doctors and judges beforehand. This leads to the deaths of many women in Bolivia, who don’t have a sympathetic neighbouring country with a healthier attitude to abortion to which they can make a great (and pricey) escape.

Meanwhile, Prof Mary Racelis provides a view from the Philippines, where Catholic bishops are fighting a reproductive health law all the way to the Supreme Court.

There are many ways you can support the Abortion Rights Campaign, and some of them involve dodgy singing. If you’re in Dublin on August 17th, why not come along to Karaoke for Choice, organised by Dublin Nights for Choice in Toners Pub, and do your best Beyoncé to help raise funds for ARC and the Abortion Support Network.