Weekly Roundup: Leaks, Local Law, and Irish Abortion in International Courts

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? As data leaks in Holles Street have called patient confidentiality into question, Praveen Halappanavar prepared to take legal proceedings against the HSE. Meanwhile, Termination for Medical Reasons are taking a case to the UN to argue for the right to terminate unviable pregnancies in Ireland. And overseas, people continue to threaten- and fight for- the rights of pregnant people to safe, legal health care.

Breaches of Trust

Last week, details of a woman who received a life-saving termination under the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act were leaked to the Irish Times. Holles St Directer Peter Boylan expressed his outrage at what he described as an ‘outrageous’ breach of patient confidentiality. The Data Protection Commissioner has been in touch with Holles St, who will be investigating how this happened. In the future, Boylan said, anonymous annual figures on the number of abortions carried out in Irish hospitals will be released by the Department of Health- not identifiable details on individual woman.

Last Friday, the Department of Health joined in the conversation on this, advising that the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill has not yet, in fact, commenced. Operational issues- such as the establishment of a panel of medical practitioners, and administrative facilities for the review commission- still have to be addressed. We at ARC HQ haven’t been able to locate any definite timeline for when these issues will be addressed and the Bill will come into force.

Seeking Justice for Savita

Savita Halappanavar’s widower Praveen will be initiating a case against the HSE and University Hospital Galway within the next two weeks. He and his solicitor will be issuing proceedings alleging negligence on the part of UHG, as well as a breach of Savita’s human rights. In addition to this, Mr Halappanavar has revealed that he has still been unable to arrange a meeting with Health Minister James Reilly after the HSE report into his wife’s death was published in June. We’ll be paying close attention in the coming weeks to any developments.

Fatal Fetal Abnormalities: A little less sympathy, a little more action.

Termination for Medical Reasons are preparing to take a case to the UN on the grounds that the lack of access to abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities violates pregnant people’s basic human rights. Their claim is that being forced to carry unviable pregnancies to term is ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading’, and could be considered torture. After meetings with ministers ended with goodwill and sympathy but also statements that legislation isn’t constitutionally possible, they are now working with the international Center for Reproductive Rights to argue their case before the United Nations.

Around the World

In the US, states are continuing to pass new laws restricting the ability of abortion clinics to continue operating. Abortion clinics- particularly those without the backing of large organisations like Planned Parenthood- are being forced to close. Virginia’s busiest abortion clinic, Nova Women’s Healthcare, was first sued by their landlord for drawing antichoice protesters, was then refused permission to operate in a new premises due to parking regulations, and finally, the city reclassified their zoning ordnances to make operation all but impossible. Nova was forced to close. In Indiana, Planned Parenthood have challenged a law that would require all abortion clinics to have full surgical facilities- even if they don’t perform surgical abortions. These laws, interestingly, do not apply to clinics that don’t provide abortions- even if they perform other surgical procedures.

Planned Parenthood aren’t the only ones challenging attempts to take away abortion rights in the US. While fundraising groups such as the Lilith Fund help women pay for abortions and get past new barriers, such as 24 hour waiting periods and mandatory ultrasounds, two game developers in Texas are taking a different approach: creating a video game. The objective? Players choose a character from one of several different backgrounds, and attempt to access an abortion in Texas. The idea is that this will help people to understand the barriers women in Texas face. They’re looking for help fundraising the game now, and hope to have it out by early next year. (Speaking of fundraising- there’s never a bad time to support our very own Abortion Support Network).

In Pakistan, the issue of unsafe abortions has been raised with the publication of a report calling for safer post-abortion care. In Pakistan, as in Ireland, abortion is only legal to save a woman’s life, but with less access to effective birth control and without the safety-valve the UK provides for Irish women, unsafe abortions are terrifyingly common. The study found that last year, 700,000 women in Pakistan needed treatment after unsafe abortions.

A report has been published in Ecuador calling on the country to legalise abortion for rape victims. With up to five years in prison as a penalty for obtaining an abortion, and more for performing one, women and girls are being driven to unsafe, illegal abortions- which led to the deaths of at least ten people last year, although these numbers could be far higher as they may be recorded as deaths from the specific medical conditions brought on by unsafe abortions.

Take a Stand in Ireland

Less than a month to go! The 2013 March for Choice will take place on September 28th, the Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion. People will be coming from all over Ireland to join together and make some pro-choice noise. It’s time to get making those posters and make your voice heard- oh, and do remember to bring your friends!