Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Political Failure Leaves Epic Storm Brewing

The Irish Independent Tuesday May 22nd 2007

The aim was to make it easier to warn the public and reduce confusion about the type of storm that lay ahead.

Every year, a potential list of names is prepared for the forthcoming hurricane season.
And the names, which follow an alphabetic sequence, are recycled every six years unless they cause considerable death and destruction, in which case they are never used again.

Ireland's failure to deal with abortion is a hurricane waiting to happen.

Every year, we avoid the onslaught of a domestic storm by directing ill winds and tides (almost 7,000 women a year) onto British shores.

Then we bury our heads in the sand and hope the storm clouds stay away.

But every few years, Ireland finds itself at the eye of an epic abortion storm; sucked into an intractable political, legal and moral vortex with international condemnation swirling around.

We also give our hurricanes names. X, A, B, C, and recently, the two D's.

The alphabetic roll call of women who have fought the State at home and abroad are an indictment on the Government's inexcusable failure to legislate in the wake of the 1992 X case which legalised abortion in this country.

In 1983, the electorate voted to copperfasten the rights of the unborn by making them equal to that of its mother.

It was intended to introduce an absolute ban on abortion into the Constitution with the aim of preventing politicians or the courts from ever liberalising abortion. It backfired spectacularly.
The pro-life lobby's worst fears came to pass when a 14-year-old rape victim was granted permission to travel to England for an abortion.

In X, the Supreme Court ruled that where there was a risk to the life (including suicide), as distinct from the health of the mother, abortion was legal in this country.

It left for another day the plight of mothers whose unborn babies had abnormalities that rendered them unviable or condemned to death upon birth.

X was granted permission to travel amid a public outcry about the inhumanity of Ireland's restrictive abortion regime.

What should have happened after the X ruling - and later the C case - was the implementation of a legal framework to specify under what conditions abortions could be carried out in this country.

But in the 15 years post-X political leaders have failed to legislate for that ruling or resolve the conflicts between ardent pro-choice and pro-life forces.

And despite today's poll supporting abortion in Irish hospitals for women whose foetus has no chance of survival outside the womb, they have no intention of addressing the issue anytime soon.

Ireland is by no means unique in its struggle to deal with crisis pregnancies. Worldwide, an estimated 46 million abortions are carried out each year. Some 20 million of these are illegal resulting in the deaths of around 70,000 women.

The gap between Irish abortion theory and practice has the country on permanent storm-alert.
The Irish sea and cheap flights may act as a levee to withstand a few more storms, but levees break and someday we will have to face up to the aftermath of atrocious political failure to get our own house in order.

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