Monday, December 21, 2009

Spanish Lawmakers Vote To Ease Abortion Law

Spanish lawmakers vote to ease abortion law
Associated Press

Lawmakers voted to ease Spain's abortion law Thursday, approving a bill to allow the procedure without restrictions up to 14 weeks. The change would bring this traditionally Roman Catholic country in line with its more secular neighbors in northern Europe.
The measure now goes to the Senate, where passage is expected some time early next year.

Abortion reform was the last major pending issue in a bold reform agenda undertaken by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a Socialist who took power in 2004.
Under Zapatero, Spain has also legalized gay marriage and made it easier for Spaniards to divorce in a drive that has infuriated conservatives and the Roman Catholic Church.

The vote in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies was 184-158 with one abstention.
Under the current law, which dates back to 1985, Spanish women could in theory go to jail for getting an abortion outside certain strict limits - up to week 12 in case of rape and week 22 if the fetus is malformed.

But abortion is in effect widely available because women can assert mental distress as sole grounds for having an abortion, regardless of how late the pregnancy is. Most of the more than 100,000 abortions carried out each year in Spain were early-term ones that fell under this category.
The bill approved Thursday wipes away the threat of imprisonment and declares abortion to be a woman's right.
"We are legislating women's right to decide whether to be mothers," said Carmen Monton, the Socialists' spokeswoman on gender issues.

Conservative Popular Party spokesman Santiago Cervera insisted there was no clamor in Spanish society for changing the existing law and the government instigated it just to raise a stir and distract people's attention away from the country's economic recession.
Anti-abortion demonstrators wearing sandwich boards rallied outside the legislature during debate on the bill. One of the boards showed a picture of a child with Downs syndrome asking Zapatero "why are you letting them kill me?"

The new bill would also also allow 16- and 17-year-olds to have abortions without parental consent, as is the case in other European countries such as Germany, Britain and France.
This clause proved to be among the bill's most controversial ones.

In the end, the ruling Socialist party agreed to amend it so that such minors must inform their parents or legal guardian if they plan to undergo an abortion - although still with no need for their permission - except if they can show that doing so would expose them to violence within their family, threats or coercion.

The Spanish Bishops' Conference warned last month that legislators who voted in favor of the bill would be sinning and no longer eligible to receive Communion. This was particularly touchy for parliamentary speaker Jose Bono, a Socialist who is a practicing Catholic. Bono responded saying "My conscience is clear".

In October, a rally against the reform bill drew hundreds of thousands of people to Madrid. This showed that for all the changes Zapatero has introduced, abortion remains sensitive in a country where most people call themselves Catholic, even if few churches are full on Sundays.

The new bill, besides allowing unrestricted abortion up to 14 weeks, would permit it up to 22 weeks if two doctors certify there is a serious threat to the health of the mother, or fetal malformation.

Beyond 22 weeks, it would be allowed only doctors certify fetal malformation deemed incompatible with life or the fetus were diagnosed with an extremely serious or incurable disease.

Source: Associated Press, 17 December 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Doctors Fear Abortion Charge If They Direct Patients Abroad

Irish Independent Monday 14th December 2009

Doctors fear abortion charge if they direct patients abroad

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

DOCTORS treating pregnant women whose unborn babies have serious foetal abnormalities are afraid to refer them to expert facilities abroad because of fears of being accused of procuring an abortion.

Professor John Bonnar, the former chairman of the institute of obstetrics and gynaecology, said that Irish-based doctors were afraid that if they referred a patient to a foreign facility, they would be arrested and brought before the courts.
"It (a criminal prosecution) is not going to happen," Professor Bonnar told the Irish Independent.

"But doctors are reluctant, they are wary in case they have gardai arriving at their door. There is a fear that if you refer your patient to an expert foetal clinic or hospital and she ultimately decides to discontinue her pregnancy, you will stand accused of being involved in an unlawful abortion."

The debate around the status of legal abortion in Ireland has been revived in the wake of a landmark legal action earlier this week in the European Court of Human Rights where the Government robustly defended Ireland's restrictive abortion regime.
Three women, known as A, B and C, told a 17 judge Grand Chamber -- which is convened in cases of major importance -- that their health and human rights were violated because they had to travel to Britain to terminate their pregnancies.

The ECHR asked the Irish Government to provide statistics or information as to how many lawful abortions were carried out every year in Ireland.
In response, the State supplied a list of figures for women discharged with a diagnosis of ectopic pregnancies between 2005 and 2008, but could not state how many women had miscarried naturally or required a termination.

No figures were provided for women forced to undergo a radical hysterectomy -- the removal of her uterus and cervix -- to save her life.
During the hearing, lawyers for the State argued that there was a "clear and bright blue line" in Irish law that was known and applied where there was a risk to the life of the mother.

But that view has been rejected by the Irish Family Planning Association which supported the three women in the action.
"While abortion is technically legal in Ireland when a woman's life is at risk, there are no legal or clinical guidelines to assist doctors in assess whether a particular risk qualifies as a risk to life," said an IFPA spokesperson.

"The Government makes no provision to protect a woman's health and well-being.
"Asking a doctor to distinguish between a threat to a woman's life and a threat to her health in medical practice is unworkable.
"Moreover, forcing a woman to endure a progressive and increasingly dangerous condition before she is deemed eligible for a legal abortion is both impractical and inhumane."

Prof Bonnar, who has carried out up to five terminations throughout his medical career to save the life of a pregnant woman, said doctors had nothing to fear if they intervened to save a mother's life.
But he said that advances in medical technology, which have resulted in pregnant women seeking pre-natal tests to ascertain if their unborn child had any abnormalities, had placed doctors in a difficult position as they were ethically obliged to provide vital after-care and support should a woman abort her foetus.
"If a woman has a radical hysterectomy to save her life resulting in the termination of her pregnancy, it is not an abortion as the surgical procedure would be carried out whether she was pregnant or not," said Prof Bonnar who has called on fellow doctors to "speak out" on medical practice surrounding lawful abortions in this country.

Why TDs Harbour Secret Hopes Over Abortion Challenge

Sunday Times 13th December 2009

Why TDs harbour secret hopes over abortion challenge

Liam Fay

Hands Off Ireland! was the slogan on placards waved by anti-abortion activists protesting outside the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg last week. The campaigners were directing the warning at judges hearing the legal challenge taken by three women who claim Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws endangered their health and violated their rights because they had to travel abroad to terminate their pregnancies.

As pro-life sloganeering goes, Hands Off Ireland is relatively mild. Ironically, the phrase can also be read as an uncannily accurate commentary on a political regime that has reneged on its obligation to confront the pressing requirement for abortion legislation. ‘Hands-Off Ireland’ is a place where seeing and hearing no evil is government policy.

It’s now 17 years since the X Case — the shameful saga of a 14-year-old girl who was raped by a friend of her father’s, travelled to the UK for an abortion and was brought back to Ireland by order of the attorney general.

After years of theological hypothesising, the messy complexities of real life had delivered an abrupt wake-up call. In two subsequent referenda, the electorate voted in favour of according women the right to information about overseas abortion clinics, and the right to travel to use such clinics. In a third referendum in 1992, a proposal to permit limited abortion to save a woman’s life was defeated.

In overturning the attorney general’s decision on the X Case, however, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is legal here in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, and this includes the risk of suicide. Legislation was obviously needed to clarify the law around abortion but successive governments have refused to enact it.

This dereliction of duty has created enormous uncertainty, especially for medical practitioners. Nevertheless, the Oireachtas persists in turning a blind eye. Most politicians seem content that thousands of women go abroad for abortions every year as long as the pretence is maintained that Ireland is a uniquely fortunate haven where abortion services are neither needed nor wanted.

Thankfully, reality has again gate- crashed the fool’s paradise. The three women who’ve taken the Strasbourg legal challenge have an undeniably strong case. Clearly conscious of this, the government has fielded a high-powered defence team led by Paul Gallagher, the attorney general. Nevertheless, lawyers for the women seemed to win the early skirmishes simply by highlighting the myriad ways in which Irish abortion law breaches the European convention on human rights, to which Ireland is a signatory.

Two of the women are Irish while the third is a Lithuanian living in Ireland. One was an unemployed, long-term alcoholic who was trying to regain custody of her four children when she became pregnant. Another was at risk of an extra-uterine pregnancy, while the third was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and feared a relapse. All three say they were forced to travel abroad for abortions, making the procedures “unnecessarily expensive, complicated and traumatic”.

Pro-choice campaigners aren’t alone in hoping that a court ruling in the women’s favour would lead to a de facto unravelling of Irish abortion law. Privately, liberal TDs within Fianna Fail and Fine Gael must also share this wish, as an edict from Strasbourg would potentially get them off this most troublesome of hooks.
While they occasionally rail against Eurocrat intrusion, many Irish politicians actually welcome the alibi it provides. It was, after all, a European court ruling that provided Fianna Fail with the cover to decriminalise homosexuality in 1993.

This time there’s a complication. In statements agreed between Irish government officials and their EU counterparts, the Irish people’s stated abhorrence of abortion is embedded in protocols attached to the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. So if the European court rules against Ireland next year, legislators will face unpicking the complicated knot of their own pieties. Having overplayed the hands-off strategy, politicians could soon find themselves with their hands full.

Church And State Not Operating In The Real World

Irish Examiner Monday 14th December 2009

Church and state not operating in the real world

Ann Cahill, Europe Correspondent

IRELAND has an ability to produce parallel universes that are breathtakingly wide of reality, and during the past week there were two such instances.

One was unveiled in the Grand Chamber of the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on Wednesday and the second in St Peter’s Square in Rome on Friday.

The Ireland being described by the state’s legal team in relation to abortion was unrecognisable. The Irish people in the court looked at one another incredulously, wondering if any of the 17 judges had any way to judge the reality for themselves.

Moral ethos was a phrase bandied about, along with reassurances that there were any number of Irish doctors willing to carry out abortions on women whose lives were at risk from their pregnancies.

That the state was unable to give figures to prove this shows doctors are not in fact willing to risk a lifetime in jail for carrying out an abortion in the absence of clear legal guidelines as requested by the courts.

The Attorney General drew gasps when he referred to a "fine bright line" that allows doctors to tell the difference between women whose lives were at risk and those whose health was an issue and, therefore, would not qualify for an abortion in Ireland.

Was he referring to the fine bright blue line on pregnancy testing kits many wondered? He insisted there was help, support and advice for women in Ireland, but made no reference to the fact that each year more Irish women have abortions than those in many other European countries where it is legal.

As a result there is no help, support or advice available for Irish women, other than from voluntary organisations, when they are in crisis or when they return from having an abortion abroad. Rogue groups who try to dissuade people from abortions by frightening them with lies often compound their difficulties.

The Attorney General referred repeatedly to the guarantees in the Nice and Lisbon Treaties on Ireland’s unique position on abortion, which he fought to have included. He made no mention of the fact that our EU colleagues regard this as a neat piece of hypocrisy, since so many Irish women travel abroad to their countries for their abortions.

The second incidence of a parallel universe involved the reaction of the Catholic Church to the Murphy Report on clerical sex abuse.

The senior clergymen appeared to inhabit a different world from the rest of us as they spoke of renewal, culture change and repentance. Their frustration at the repeated questions of when we were going to see bishops dismissed was understandable in their world.

Each diocese is an independent republic we are told and the Pope can only request a bishop to resign. Firing bishops would be beside the point, they suggest, and say what is needed is a reorganisation of the Church in Ireland.

This is sensible, but sometimes people want to see those who have been in positions of power do something painful that shows they understand and are sorry.

For the Pope to say, "I am sorry" in plain English would have been a start.

A little humility does not require one to be humiliated after all. But in the all-male preserve of the Church where bureaucrats rise to power, their main job is to preserve the structures of their power, and the Church in Ireland has not shown itself to be any different.

Until there is an inclusive church with gender equality throughout the ranks, changing culture will be just another academic exercise.

Abortion Is A Reality In Ireland. An Irish Woman Having An Abortion Across A Narrow Strip Of Sea Is Still An Irish Abortion

Una Mulally The Sunday Tribune Sunday December 13th 2009

In Strasbourg's European Court of Human Rights last week, three women who claimed their human rights were infringed upon by being forced to travel to Britain for abortions brought their case to be heard. They are known as A, B, and C. A's children had already been taken into care when she was pregnant. She had suffered from substance abuse and post-natal depression and knew she wouldn't have been able to care for another child. B, who had taken a morning-after pill, had concerns over an ectopic pregnancy. C was in remission from cancer when pregnant, and failed to gain solid medical advice about what the impact of chemotherapy would have on her foetus.

The state feels so strongly about maintaining the ban on abortion that it dispatched an eight-strong legal dream team to Strasbourg, Attorney General Paul Gallagher, Donal O'Donnell SC and Brian Murray SC among them. In his address to 17 judges on Wednesday, Gallagher said that Ireland's ban on abortion was "based on moral values deeply embedded in Irish society". You can insert your own snide joke about 'morals' and 'Irish society' here.

The same court ruled against a state in 2007, when a Polish woman brought a case against her country after being forced to carry a pregnancy to full term in spite of concerns about her eyesight (she was visually impaired, and upon giving birth suffered haemorrhages in her retina and is facing a serious risk of complete blindness). The court ruled that Poland violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life, home and correspondence.

So although Lisbon 2 reaffirmed the protection of the right to life in Article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution, the state could be in trouble here, as it is obliged to listen and act on the court's ruling, something that could provide a gigantic headache for a government in disarray, that is, if it's still in existence in mid-2010 when the ruling will be made.

No one is asking a European court to foist its opinions and rulings on our constitution. But the fact that it has come to this is our fault. The Irish state has for generations ignored this issue.

Abortion is a reality in Ireland. An Irish woman having an abortion across a narrow strip of sea is still an Irish abortion, even if we insist on palming off a very Irish problem onto our British neighbours.

The state's argument that this case should be kicked back to Irish courts is also redundant. It is not up to our courts to create legislation, nor should they have to make judgements on bad law. There needs to be legislation in place to both acknowledge the reality of Irish abortions and clarify the existing murky laws.

Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, wrote last week: "The illegality of abortion at home [Ireland] has consequences even for those women wealthy enough and informed enough to travel. It means they have limited opportunity for counselling before they come here, and little access to aftercare when they return home. They carry the emotional burden of seeing an 'illicit' solution. The truth needs to be heard. Legal abortion is safe and benefits society. And Ireland can only exist as a modern society because of abortion clinics in England."

The Attorney General argues that A, B, and C have "no specifics with regard to the alleged refusal of treatment, the inability to provide treatment, the concerns that treatment would be refused or they would be disapproved if they sought treatment".

But evidence repeatedly shows how women travelling for abortions feel – the shame imposed upon them by the nature of abortion's illegality in Ireland, their reluctance to seek aftercare, the secrecy, the financial strain, the lack of closure because abortion is the unmentionable.

If the state legal team wants 'specifics' on this, then talk to 7,000 women who travel abroad annually for abortions. Don't just assume that these 'specifics' don't exist just because they aren't talked about.

Those specifics were courageously described by Amy Dunne, the young woman known as Miss D, whose case became headline news when the HSE, in whose care she was living, banned her from travelling to Britain for an abortion even though her baby could not be born alive.

She went public on Prime Time last Thursday, describing the ordeal of her court case as she ran the gauntlet of pro-life protestors and told of what it felt like to rely on the comfort of strangers in a hospital where nobody understood her case. Every specific was an ordeal for Amy – right down to not knowing how to arrange to bring home a tiny white coffin.

3 Women Challenge Irish Abortion Ban In European Court

Boston Globe
Friday December 11th 2009

3 women challenge Irish abortion ban in European Court

DUBLIN - Three women filed a lawsuit in a European court against Ireland’s abortion ban yesterday, claiming the government violates the human rights of pregnant women by forcing them to travel abroad for abortions and denying them appropriate medical care at home.

The three women took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. A verdict is expected next year.

If they win, the women could force Ireland - one of only a handful of European countries that still outlaws abortion - to liberalize a system that inspires more than 7,000 women annually to travel to other countries, chiefly England, for abortions.

But the Irish government fielded a high-powered legal team of constitutional lawyers and Attorney General Paul Gallagher to defend its health policies. They rejected the women’s central claim that they couldn’t receive proper medical care in Ireland before or after abortions abroad.

Gallagher told the judges that the women should have sued the government in Ireland first, exhausting legal options here before turning to the Strasbourg court, which casts a legally binding eye on human rights standards in all 47 nations of the Council of Europe.

Gallagher said an Irish court would have established whether the women’s claims were factual. “If these issues are to come before this court, it should be on the basis of established facts,’’ he told the judges.
The attorney general defended Ireland’s abortion ban as reflecting “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society.’’

But the women’s lawyers, who are supported by the Irish Family Planning Association, said taking a court case in Ireland would have been costly and futile, and could have forced them to relinquish their anonymity.
The three women, who were not present at yesterday’s court hearing, were identified in court only by the letters A, B and C.

This is the first Irish case to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights since 1988, when Dublin gay activist David Norris sued the Irish government over its law defining homosexuality as a crime. Ireland decriminalized homosexuality in 1993.
In 1983, Ireland’s voters inserted an abortion ban into its constitution, reflecting the state’s overriding Roman Catholic ethos of the day. Opinion polls over the past two decades have indicated growing support for legalizing abortion here.

Nonetheless, Irish abortion law has fallen into legal limbo since 1992, when a pregnant 14-year-old girl who had been raped by a neighbor successfully sued the government to permit her to travel to England for an abortion. The government tried to stop her, arguing it could not facilitate an illegal act, even though she was threatening to commit suicide.

The Irish Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that traveling to obtain abortions abroad was legal, and Ireland itself should provide abortions in cases where a continued pregnancy would threaten the life of the pregnant woman.

The women’s lawyers argued yesterday that, despite the Supreme Court ruling, Irish doctors continue to fear having anything to do with women who seek an abortion even on live-saving medical grounds. They contended that this makes the Irish medical system unsuitable for women seeking a foreign abortion for personal health reasons.

Women 'Lose Health, Money and Dignity' Because Of Law

Irish Times
Thursday December 10th 2009

Women 'lose health, money and dignity' because of law


THE CHALLENGE: THREE WOMEN were subjected to indignity, stigmatisation and ill-health as a result of being forced to travel abroad for their abortions, the European Court of Human Rights heard yesterday.

Legal representatives for the women – who are supported by the Irish Family Planning Association – said their clients were unable to challenge the laws in Ireland because there were no effective domestic legal remedies available to them.
Addressing the court, counsel for the women Julie Kay said taking a case in the Irish courts would have been “costly, futile and could have forced them to relinquish their anonymity”.

Both the State and legal representative for the women outlined their cases before a panel of 17 judges in the court’s grand chamber. High Court judge Mrs Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan was among the judges on the panel.

Ms Kay contested the Government’s claim that abortion was available in Ireland in the case where a mother’s life was at risk.

While this was provided for following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1992 “X” case, she said the Government had failed to produce any legislation for doctors or medical practitioners on this issue.

As a result, doctors were not willing to intervene for fear of potential imprisonment or losing their medical qualifications if the termination was later found to be unlawful or unnecessary. Ms Kay added: “In fact, there are no relevant statistics to show that any life-saving abortions have been carried out since the X case.” Under the 1861 Offences Against the State Act, it remains a criminal offence to “unlawfully procure a miscarriage”.

On the issue of whether the facts of their case were reliable, Ms Kay said their statements had been accepted by the court and pointed out that the State had not sought any additional information in relation to the three women’s cases.

Taking issue with the Government’s insistence that Ireland’s abortion laws were safeguarded as a result of protocols attached to Maastricht and Lisbon treaties, Ms Kay said this was irrelevant and they could not be used as an excuse to affect women’s rights.

Other grounds on which the women’s human rights were violated included through financial discrimination, the court heard.

Ms Kay said some of the women had to borrow money from friends or money lenders to travel abroad, contravening protections under the European Convention.
The women also faced sexual discrimination through the Government’s failure to provide access to vital healthcare which is only needed by women, Ms Kay said.

The court also heard that Ireland’s laws were out of step with its European neighbours, given that 44 out of 47 European countries now provide for abortion to protect women’s health and wellbeing.

Ms Kay, along with senior counsel Carmel Stewart, represented the women in court yesterday. Speaking after the hearing, Niall Behan, of the Irish Family Planning Association, said that he was confident the court’s judgment would “establish a minimum degree of protection to which a woman seeking an abortion to protect her health and wellbeing would be entitled”.

Also yesterday, a small group of anti-abortion campaigners from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children gathered outside the court, holding a prayer vigil while the case was being heard. They said a positive ruling could have a similar effect to the landmark Roe vs Wade case in the US..

Their Stories: Three Women At The Centre Of The Challenge
Ms A
She was unmarried, unemployed and living in poverty when she became pregnant unintentionally. She had four young children, all in foster care as a result of problems she had faced as an alcoholic.

In the year before her fifth pregnancy, she remained sober and was in constant contact with social workers with a view to regaining custody of her children. She felt a further child would jeopardise the successful reunification of her existing family.

She decided to travel to Britain to have an abortion. The British NHS refused to carry out the operation at public expense, so she borrowed money from a moneylender. Her difficulty in raising the money delayed the abortion by three weeks.
On her return, she experienced pain, nausea and bleeding for up to nine weeks, but was afraid to seek medical advice because of the prohibition on abortion.

Ms B
She was single when she became pregnant unintentionally. She had taken the morning-after pill the day after intercourse, but was advised by two different doctors that it had not only failed, but had given rise to a significant risk that it would be an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the uterus.
She was not prepared to become either a single parent or run the risks associated with an ectopic pregnancy.

She travelled to Britain for an abortion.
On her return, she started passing blood clots and, since she was unsure whether this was normal and could not seek medical advice in Ireland, she returned to the clinic in Britain.

The impossibility for her to have an abortion in Ireland made the procedure unnecessarily expensive, traumatic and complicated.

Ms C
A Lithuanian national living in Ireland, she had been treated with chemotherapy for cancer over the course of three years.

The cancer went into remission and she became unintentionally pregnant. She was unable to find a doctor willing to make a determination as to whether her life would be at risk if she continued to term or to give her clear advice as to how the foetus might have been affected.

Given the uncertainty about the risk involved, she decided to have an abortion in Britain. Although her pregnancy was at an early stage, she could not have a medical abortion (where a miscarriage is induced) because she was a non-resident. Instead, she had to wait eight weeks until a surgical abortion was possible. On returning home, she suffered the complications of an incomplete abortion, including prolonged bleeding and infection.

Irish Abortion Laws Defended

Irish Times
Thursday December 10th 2009

Irish abortion laws defended

CARL O'BRIEN, in Strasbourg

The Government has issued a robust defence of Ireland’s restrictions on abortion at the European Court of Human Rights today.

The case involves three women, known as A, B and C, who say abortion restrictions in this country have jeopardised their health and violated their human rights.
In a hearing which could have implications for Irish abortion law, the Attorney General Paul Gallagher insisted that the country’s abortion laws were based on “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”.

Mr Gallagher said the country’s legal position on abortion had been endorsed in three referendums, as well as being safe-guarded in protocols attached to the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties.

He said that the European Convention on Human Rights has recognised over 60 years the diversity of traditions and values of the member states, as well as extending protection to unborn children.

However, the case being taken by the three women sought to undermine these fundamental principles and align Ireland with other countries with more liberal abortion laws.

The Attorney General was part of an eight-strong legal team, including senior counsel Dónal O’Donnell and Brian Murray, as well as four female legal advisors.
Criticising the nature of the case taken by the three women – who are supported by the Irish Family Planning Association – Mr Gallagher said their case was based on “legal and factual propositions which, when analysed, cannot be supported”.
He said the fact that the cases involving the three women had not been before a domestic court meant the facts of case had not been established.

In addition, he said, many these facts were of an assumed and conditional nature, such as a woman not going to a doctor because she feared treatment would not be available.
“Many of these facts are of an assumed nature… if these issues are to comet before this court, it should be on the basis of established facts.”

The court, which is separate from the EU, adjudicates on human rights issues among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights – now incorporated into Irish law – the Government is obliged to seek to implement whatever decisions are made by the courts.

If successful, the court’s ruling could lead to the liberalisation of the State’s abortion laws. At present, abortion is only permitted in the circumstances of the “X” case, where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.
The three women at the centre of the case include a woman at risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb; a pregnant woman who received chemotherapy for cancer; and a woman whose children were placed in care as she was unable to cope.

The women, who have sought to have their anonymity protection, were not in court. They were represented by counsel Jule Kay and senior counsel Carmel Stewart
Addressing the court, Ms Kay said said the lack of any effective remedy in Ireland meant the women had been forced to have their cases heard before the European Court of Human Rights. She said taking a case domestically would have been costly, futile and could have forced them to relinquish their anonymity.

Ms Kay contested the Government's claim that abortion was legal in Ireland in the case where a mother's life was at risk. While this was provided for following the Supreme Court's ruling in the 1992 "X" case, she said the Government has failed to produce any legislation for doctors or medical practitioners on this issue.
As a result, doctors were not prepared to intervene for fear of losing their medical licences or facing potential life imprisonment is the termination was later found to be unlawful or unnecessary.

She said it was highly significant that the State had no statistics to show how many, if any, of these lawful abortions have taken place in Ireland.

Women Challenge Irish Abortion Ban In European Court

The Guardian

Thursday December 10th 2009

Women challenge Irish abortion ban in European court

Ian Traynor in Brussels

Ireland's ban on abortion faced one of its biggest challenges today when three women forced to travel abroad for terminations turned to the European court of human rights.

In a case being watched closely in other Catholic countries such as Poland, Spain and Malta, the Strasbourg court heard the arguments for the ban from the Irish government and from lawyers for the one Lithuanian and two Irish women.

The three women, known only as A, B and C, travelled to Britain to have abortions and claim their health was imperilled and that they were traumatised and humiliated by the Irish anti-abortion laws. "All three women complain that the impossibility for them to have an abortion in Ireland made the procedure unnecessarily expensive, complicated and traumatic. In particular, that restriction stigmatised and humiliated them and risked damaging their health and, in the third applicant's case, even her life," said a court statement.

One of the women is a former alcoholic and substance abuser whose four children were in care. She feared her pregnancy would prevent her getting her children back, and went to a money lender to finance the abortion in England. Another became pregnant while undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer and feared for her own health and that of her child.

Lawyers and lobby groups for the three argue that the abortion ban breaches several articles of the European convention on human rights, which is policed by the court, notably the rights to life and to privacy and family life, as well as bans on inhuman and degrading treatment and on discrimination.

Today the Irish government fielded a high-profile team led by the attorney general, Paul Gallagher. He argued that the right to life extended to the foetus and said broad Irish support for the abortion ban had been tested in three referendums and was strongly embedded in the moral fabric of Irish society. The complaint was based on "legal and factual propositions which, when analysed, cannot be supported".

Abortion was outlawed in Ireland in 1861 and can bring a sentence of life imprisonment. The "right to life of the unborn" is enshrined in the constitution. According to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) at least 138,000 women have travelled abroad, mainly to England, since 1980 to obtain abortions.

The Irish backed the EU's Lisbon treaty only after the other 26 countries promised its abortion ban would not be affected by the charter. But the Strasbourg court has nothing to do with the EU. It is the supreme human rights authority for the 47 countries in the Council of Europe.

Representing the women, Julie Kay told the 17 judges of the grand chamber that all three women had to borrow money to travel abroad for "clandestine" abortions and dismissed as bogus government claims that abortions were allowed in cases where the women's lives were at risk. She said that pursuing the case in court in Ireland, as demanded by Gallagher, would have been "futile and costly".

The women are being supported by the IFPA and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service on a complaint that took four years to be heard in Strasbourg and on which no ruling is expected until next year.

"Today is a hugely significant day for reproductive rights in Ireland. The fact that Ireland's draconian laws on abortion have been put under the spotlight is a landmark for women living in Ireland," said the IFPA. "Ireland's restrictive laws on abortion are totally out of step with those of its European neighbours … Women and girls do not give up their human rights when they become pregnant."

Patricia Lohr, medical director of the BPAS, said: "There is never any moral justification for the law to place a barrier between women and medical care. The Irish abortion ban risks women's physical health, requires abortions to be performed later than necessary, and creates serious emotional upset."

US anti-abortion lobbyists have been allowed to submit arguments to the court. The US Alliance Defence Fund said "the stakes are high for all of Europe" and that Ireland's defence "of innocent life is under attack".

Rights and risks

Abortion is permitted only in cases of rape, where the foetus suffers severe abnormality, or if the woman's life is at risk. The need must be certified by a doctor other than the one performing the abortion. After 12 weeks, abortions are permitted only if the life or health of the woman is endangered.

Abortions became legal in 1985. Terminations are permitted in cases of rape, up to the 12th week of pregnancy, if the rape has been reported to police. Abortions can be performed up to 22 weeks in cases of foetal impairments. Two specialists must certify that the child would suffer severe defects. There is no time limit if a woman's physical or mental health is at risk.

Abortion has been illegal under all circumstances since 1981. A woman who consents to an abortion can be jailed for up to three years, and doctors, surgeons, obstetricians or pharmacists who perform abortions up to four years.

Fear Dictates Ireland's Abortion Policy
Thursday December 10th 2009

Fear dictates Ireland's abortion policy

Pro-life hatred so dominates the debate it's hard to imagine any real change following this bid to overturn the Irish abortion ban

It has always taken guts to stand up for abortion rights in Ireland, north and south of the border. Straight off, you're likely to be hit by a slew of strident invective from the pro-life lobby, trailing pictures of aborted foetuses in their wake, and nameless bloggers will fall over each other to brand you a baby-murderer. Sure enough, the three women trying to overturn the Irish abortion ban in the European court of human rights were immediately accused on anti-abortion sites of having "travelled abroad to have their children killed". Known as A,B and C, the women have decided to remain anonymous. Smart decision. Why expose yourself directly to such hatred?

Such nasty outbursts could be dismissed as so much ridiculous hysteria, were it not for the fact that the anti-abortion lobby, with its scare tactics, "prayer vigils" and wild accusations, has effectively been allowed to define the situation in Ireland, shifting the entire discourse on to moral grounds. Their own very specific either/or, black or white, baby-killer or baby-lover brand of morality, that is. Discussion of any other kind – such as the moral argument for women's agency over their own fertility – is all too often obliterated by the anti-choice campaign.

In some ways, by making women fearful to open their mouths, the anti-abortionists have won already. Yes, it's got so bad that we can't even talk about abortion. Of course, we do discuss it in private. We all know women who have made that silent, miserable, expensive journey across the Irish sea. But few of us feel comfortable speaking out openly, in public. So there is no debate, no honest exchange of opinions. The result is stasis.

And our political representatives haven't got the gumption to tackle the issue. Their approach is simply to pretend the exodus of women isn't happening, especially in the north. Regardless of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, politicians there are united in their insistence that there is no demand for abortion. And the illogical rejoinder is that if women do want it, well, they can go over the water to access services there. You export it, so we don't have to see it – that's the message.

That see-no-evil piety meets blatant self-interest when the anti-abortionists come to town. Several politicians in the republic had their homes and constituency clinics picketed by activists, and it's been reported that Catholic TDs have been warned they risk excommunication for expressing support for abortion. Dispiriting, but not surprising then, that they find so little to say on the matter.

No ruling is expected on A, B and C's case in Strasbourg until next year. And while pro-choice campaigners are heartened by a ruling handed down by the court that instructed Poland to guarantee access to legal abortions, it's hard to imagine real change in Ireland happening any time soon. Even if the women were successful, I can't see Irish politicians – wary, deeply conservative and haunted by painful memories of the messy Lisbon treaty referendums – tripping over themselves to remedy the law.

And so we wait. Meanwhile, hysteria, hypocrisy and spineless denial remain the watchwords of this (lack of) debate.

Legal Challenge To Abortion Law A 'Momentous Day'

Irish Times Wednesday December 9th 2009

Legal challenge to abortion law a 'momentous day'

CARL O'BRIEN Chief Reporter

THE SPONSORS of a legal challenge to Ireland’s abortion laws, due to be heard at the European Court of Human Rights today, say their case represents a “momentous day” for reproductive rights.

The case, taken by three women who say their health was put at risk by being forced to go abroad for abortions, will be heard before the court’s grand chamber of 17 judges.

If successful, the court’s ruling could lead to the liberalisation of the State’s abortion laws. At present, abortion is only permitted in the circumstances of the 1992 “X” case, where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.
The case will be watched closely by observers, given a ruling by the same court in recent years which resulted in Poland being instructed to guarantee access to legal abortions.

Based in Strasbourg, the court, which is separate from the EU, adjudicates on human rights issues among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe. As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights – now incorporated into Irish law – the Government is obliged to act on whatever decisions are made by the courts or risk flouting international laws.

The identities of the women, known as A, B and C, will remain confidential as the case proceeds.

They include a woman who ran the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb; a woman who received chemotherapy for cancer; and a woman whose children were placed in care as she was unable to cope.

They argue that the restrictions on abortion, as well as a lack of post-abortion care and counselling, amounted to a violation of their human rights.
They also say the lack of any effective legal remedy in Ireland meant taking a case in the State would have been costly and futile, and could have forced them to relinquish their anonymity.

The Government, however, is expected to argue that the case should be heard in the Irish courts.

It says the recent “Ms D” case – which centred on the right of a 17-year-old girl in the care of the HSE to travel for an abortion – shows that the issue of abortion is arguable in the domestic courts.

It also robustly challenges suggestions by the women that there is a lack of post-abortion care or counselling in Ireland.

In addition, the women’s claim that they experienced “inhuman or degrading treatment” is contested on the basis that aftercare and post-abortion counselling services are available in Ireland.

The Government will be represented at the court in Strasbourg by a team led by Attorney General Paul Gallagher, as well as constitutional lawyers Brian Murray SC and Donal O’Donnell SC.

In a statement yesterday, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said today was a “landmark day for reproductive rights in Ireland”. “It is our view that the criminalisation of abortion in Ireland is disproportionate and unnecessary; the law fails to adequately protect a woman’s health and wellbeing and has violated the rights of the applicants,” the association said.

Criticising the motives of the IFPA, the Pro-Life Campaign said the case ignored the fact that Ireland without abortion was “the safest country in the world in which to be pregnant”, and there was growing evidence that abortion had very serious negative consequences for some women.

Dr Berry Kiely of the Pro-Life Campaign said: “It is regrettable that the IFPA creates unnecessary fears about women’s health in an attempt to have abortion foisted on Ireland by a European court.”

Case Seeks To Clarify Deadly Grey Area

Irish Examiner Wednesday December 9th 2009

Case seeks to clarify deadly grey area

The rights of mother and the foetus are competing when the health of one means the death of the other, Writes Europe Correspondent Ann Cahill

THE Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights gathers today to hear the case of three women challenging the ban on abortion in Ireland.
The chamber of 17 judges is only assembled to hear cases that raise serious questions on the European Human Rights Convention - a document Ireland has signed up to together with the 47 members of the Council of Europe. This is a completely separate body to the European union.

The court's decision - which will not be available for months - is binding, but is unlikely to force Ireland to introduce abortion on demand. If it finds in favour of the women, it will insist that Irish abortion law respects their human rights.
Julie Kay is an international expert on reproductive law working now in the US but she is well aware of the Irish "Catch 22" situation in relation to abortion. She has been working for the past few years with the three women who have agreed to take their cases to the court in Strasbourg.

An Irish woman can be jailed for life if she has an abortion in Ireland, but if she can afford to travel she can get one abroad legally. Malta is the only EU country with more stringent law where it is illegal for women to have an abortion outside the country.

The state has no figures for abortions and the only ones available are from the British clinics where about 4,000 Irish women a year say they are from Ireland. Many more go to the Netherlands and Spain where costs are lower, according to the Irish Family Planning Association that is supporting the latest case.
But even these figures, although low by international standards, are higher than those for Belgium and the Netherlands where abortion is legal.

The case revolves around Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution that states: "The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."
But the rights of the mother and the foetus are competing when the health of one means the death of the other.

"The state has a right to protect prenatal life, bit not at such a high cost to the woman - there is no balance in Irish law and the Irish Constitutions requires that there be as fair a balance as is practicable," said Ms Kay.
The three women involved in this latest case represent typical cases where it might be decided that the woman's right to life and health was paramount and so could allow her an abortion in Ireland.

In one case, the foetus had no chance of surviving; in another the mother's life was at risk from cancer and in the third the mother was unable to cope with an addition to her family.

"It's difficult to get any real discussion on this issue, but it's a reality for a lot of women who need a solution - and going abroad is not the answer," she said.
The X case in the early 1990s made it clear that abortion was allowable when a woman's life is at risk, but the courts or the state have not said just when this is the case.

"She has a right, but this right is hollow as there are no services available.
"Physicians face life in jail if they were found to be performing abortions illegally. They need some kind of guidelines to say what they are doing is legal."
This is not the first time the court has dealt with abortion issues from Ireland. Two years ago they refused to give a ruling on the D case where a 45-year-old woman lost one of the twins she was carrying and the second had a fatal syndrome that meant it would die days after birth.

She had an abortion in Britain and had to return home without receiving counselling or support or information on the likelihood of her suffering further similar pregnancies.

But the court said she should have taken her case to the Irish courts.
Lawyers say their action as telling the Irish authorities to clear up the issue and a statement from the court made it quite plain that she had a case that could be dealt with by the Irish courts and they believed it was important to give the courts an opportunity of interpreting the Constitution.

The judges' statement said the X case had recognised an exception to the constitutional ban on abortion when the mother's life was at risk from self harm. This had shown that the Irish constitutional courts could develop the protection of individual rights through interpreting the Constitution.

Their statement said: "It was particularly important in a common law system to allow the courts to develop constitutional protection for fundamental rights by way of interpretation, particularly when the central issue was a novel one, requiring a complex and sensitive balancing of the constitutionally enshrined equal rights to life and demanding a delicate analysis of country-specific values and morals."
At the time they also said that from the evidence they had heard: "Since abortions (in the case of a real and substantial risk to the mother's life) were already available in Ireland and since the evidence was that the masters of the main obstetric hospitals were not against terminations in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality, the court considered that the relevant declaratory and mandatory orders could have been implemented in good time."

Since then there has been no effort made by the courts or the Government to clarify the situation or balance the equal rights to life mentioned in the Constitution.
Many believe that the Grand Chamber might now do so, as it did in the Norris case that successfully challenged Ireland's criminalisation of gay people.

A Thin Blue Line

Irish Examiner Wednesday 9th December 2009

A Thin Blue Line

Women don’t give up their human rights when they get pregnant and the state should not be able to take them away with impunity, writes Niall Behan chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association

A CHALLENGE to Ireland's restrictive laws on abortion at the European Court of Human Rights today major landmark for the furthering of women', reproduc¬tive rights.
Three women known as A, B & C are challenging Ireland's criminalisa¬tion of abortion in the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that the application of the law jeopardised their health and their wellbeing in violation of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

This case, involving three women who travelled abroad for abortion services, concerns some of the most intimate and private decision making that a woman must make - decisions that no woman makes easily.

The experiences of the three appli¬cants are illustrative of the physical, emotional and financial hardship faced by over 138,000 women living in Ireland who are forced to travel abroad to access safe abortion services.

This case highlights in an interna¬tional forum the Irish Government's refusal to address the reality of wom¬en's hues and health in Irish law and policy.
Human Rights is a strategy that has, in the past, been successful in changing Ireland's laws and bringing Ireland in line with internationally' accepted norms of human rights such as in the case of Norris v Ireland and Open Door and Well Woman v Ireland.

The consistent restrictive application of Irish law means that women and girls who need to terminate their pregnancy are unwilling to risk their privacy and health before the Irish courts when there is no chance of an effective remedy.
The dysfunctional way women's need for abortion has been dealt with in Ireland has resulted in a lack of balance and clarity in Irish laws that ignore the reality of women and girls’ lives and disregards their rights.

The three women at the centre of the case being heard today in Strasbourg are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to recognise that in its aim to "protect prenatal life", the state must have due regard for women's health and wellbeing.

This approach is consistent with human rights standards and reflects the overwhelming European consensus on abortion which allows for the balanc¬ing of women's health and wellbeing with that of the foetus by applying a more effective, less punitive approach than in force in Ireland.

Ireland has been repeatedly criticise by international human rights bodies in relation to access to safe and legal abortion services.
In July 2008, the UN Human Rights Committee's concluding observations on Ireland stated: "The state party should bring its abortion laws into line with the Covenant. It should take measures to help women avoid unwanted pregnancies so that they do not have to resort to illegal or unsafe abortions that could put their lives at risk (article 6) or to abortions abroad (articles 26 and 6)."

However, successive governments have unashamedly stated they have no intention of addressing abortion in the legislature or in the provision of guidelines to protect women's health and rights. Political leaders promised to legislate for the X case if the last abortion referendum was defeated.
Nothing has been done.

The fact that the European Court of Human Rights has not only ordered the Government to respond to the complaints of ABC, but has sent the case to its highest chamber of 17 judges speaks to the seriousness of the violations claimed.

This court only sits to hear exceptionally important cases - cases which raise serious questions affecting the interpretation of the European Human Rights Convention.

In 2008 the European Court of Human Rights delivered judgments in 1,881 applications, but only 21 of these were from the Grand Chamber.

The Grand Chamber will decide on the admissibility and the merits of the case; however it is clear that Ireland can no longer justify its denial of women's human rights to privacy, dignity, self determination and health.
The divisive way that the courts, legislators, the medical establishment has created a discourse that says "abortion is somehow different in Ireland: it's too sensitise, too controversial".

The IFPA does not agree. Women and girls need access to safe abortion services in every country around the world and Ireland is no different.

Agreeing on legislation and regula¬tions on abortion is always politically sensitive, controversial and difficult regardless of whether you live in Canada or Sweden or Zambia.

The IFPA hopes this case will help move the dialogue on abortion beyond this stalemate.

Using human rights to bring the focus back to women's and girls' health and wellbeing and calling the indignity of being forced to travel abroad for an abortion what it is - a violation of women and girls' rights that they are entitled to, because they are human.

Women and girls don't give up their human rights when they become pregnant nor can the state take them away with impunity.

Ireland Must Stop Banishing Women, Says National Women's Council of Ireland


Ireland must stop banishing women, says the National Women’s Council of Ireland

Press Statement: The days of banishing women to seek healthcare must end, according to the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Speaking on the eve of a landmark case before the European Court of Human Rights [Wednesday 9 December 09], the director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Susan McKay said: “Irish women have always had to flee this country like criminals to terminate pregnancy. The government seems to believe that now that we have won the right to travel to attend to our reproductive health, that this is the end of the matter. We applaud the courage of the three women who have brought these cases, and the Irish Family Planning Association, which is supporting them, has our full backing.”

The Court, sitting in Strasbourg, will hear that the women, known as A, B, and C, were forced to travel to England to access abortions because their circumstances made it impossible for each of them to continue their pregnancy. The applicants’ legal team will argue that this violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The NWCI is the umbrella group for women’s groups and organizations in Ireland and campaigns for women’s equality. Delegates at its Annual General Meeting this year unanimously passed a motion from the IFPA (a member of the NWCI) calling for safe and legal abortion in Ireland. “Attitudes to women’s right to reproductive health have dramatically changed in recent years,” said McKay. “A majority of Irish people now recognize that many women face harsh dilemmas in pregnancy, and have a right to choose abortion in certain circumstances. It is time for the government to face up to its responsibilities.” If the challenge brought to the European Court of Human Rights succeeds, the outcome will be binding on the Irish government.

Choice Ireland Express Solidarity With Women At The Centre ABC Case

Wednesday December 9th 2009

Choice Ireland express solidarity with women at the centre ABC case

This week, three Irish women will take a case to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws violate their human rights. The women include one woman who was told that she risked an ectopic pregnancy where the foetus develops outside the womb, another who was undergoing chemotherapy and a third who’s children had been taken into care will be known as A, B and C in order to protect their anonymity.
Commenting in advance of the case, spokeswoman Sinead Ahern said “ It is appalling that these women, having already come through difficult circumstances, have been forced to go through the courts to vindicate their rights. This case is yet another in a long line that highlight the flaws in Irish abortion law and the devastating effects it imposes on Irish women. Choice Ireland commends these women for their bravery and calls upon the government to face up the real and often cruel consequences of Ireland’s ban on abortion.

Irish Abortion Laws Challenged In Court

Irish Abortion Laws Challenged in Court
Tuesday December 8th 2009

Geoff Meade Press Association

Ireland's abortion laws are being challenged in a landmark European court hearing which could overturn the Republic's sovereign right to protect unconditionally ``the life of the unborn'.
Three women living in Ireland claim the Republic's abortion ban violates the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Ireland is a signatory.
Backed by the Irish Family Planning Association and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the three anonymous women - identified only as ``A, B and C' in court documents - say that being forced to travel abroad for abortions endangered their ``health and wellbeing'.
The case will be heard on Wednesday in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, with Irish Government lawyers arguing that the safeguards of the Human Rights Convention cannot be interpreted as endorsing the right to abortion.
They will also insist that, despite the abortion ban, Ireland does supply post-abortion care and counselling.
Abortion was outlawed under an 1861 rule which still sets life imprisonment as an option for women convicted of ``unlawfully procuring a miscarriage'.
Ireland's constitution ``acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right'.
The ban was reinforced by public backing in a 1983 referendum.
The three women now challenging that law are claiming that being forced to leave Ireland to terminate their pregnancies caused hardship and unnecessary costs.
One of the three had been diagnosed as at risk of an ectopic pregnancy, with the foetus developing outside the womb. Another had become pregnant while receiving chemotherapy for cancer. The third already had children who had been taken into care because of her inability to cope.
They all complained in 2005 that the pro-life Irish law breached Human Right Convention guarantees of the ``right to respect for private and family life', their ``right to life', the ``prohibition of discrimination' and ``prohibition of torture'.
After this week's one-day hearing, the final ruling is excepted next year. If the women win their case, Irish abortion law may have to be adjusted to take account of the health and well-being of pregnant women.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the charity which provides abortions and contraception in Britain to women travelling from the Republic of Ireland, commented: ``Hundreds of women travel each year to BPAS from the Republic of Ireland in order to access safe, legal abortion care.
``This is provided to women in almost every other country as a matter of necessary and responsible law-making.'
BPAS Medical Director Patricia Lohr said there could never be any ``moral justification' for putting barriers between women and medical care: ``Women from the Republic of Ireland often arrive for treatment alone, because they can't afford to bring their partner or mother to accompany them.
``They are understandably very often apprehensive, having had to travel for hours or days to reach an unfamiliar clinic in England.
``It's disturbing that the law in Ireland forces women to pay privately for care abroad. This creates weeks of delay before seeing a doctor while women try to borrow or save up money to pay for travel, accommodation and for their abortion.'
She went on: ``The ban means that doctors in Ireland are not routinely issued with proper training and guidance to care for patients in the extremely common situation of seeking an abortion.
``Post-abortion aftercare and follow-up is not easily available in Ireland, meaning women may not get help if they need it, or have to pretend they've had a miscarriage to get help.
``As doctors, we're concerned at the needless burden of additional risk caused by treatment delays. You don't have to be medically qualified to understand that the Irish abortion ban risks women's physical health, requires abortions to be performed later than necessary, and creates serious emotional upset for women at an already stressful time.'

Criticism Ahead of Abortion Ban Fight

Irish Examiner Tuesday December 8th 2009

Criticism ahead of abortion ban fight

Catherine Shanahan

AN international pro-choice movement has criticised the Government for failing to protect the reproductive rights of women on the eve of a legal challenge to the Irish ban on abortion.

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), of which the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is a member, said the Government had "consistently put barriers in the way of women" who seek an abortion, forcing them to travel overseas.

The federation’s director general Dr Gill Greer, said: "In this the Irish Government is not only going against the global trend to legalise and liberalise abortion laws, they are going against the majority of their own citizens whom recent opinion polls show to be broadly in favour of liberalising the law."

The hearing begins tomorrow in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg where three women living in Ireland will challenge the Republic of Ireland’s ban on abortion.

The women, known as A, B and C, are challenging the ban on the grounds that the law jeopardises their health and wellbeing in violation of their rights under a number of articles in the European Convention on Human Rights The three women at the centre of the case include:

* A woman who was informed by her doctor that she was at risk of an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life threatening condition.

* A woman who had been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, who became pregnant unintentionally and was unaware of her pregnancy.

* A woman who was living in poverty and whose children had been taken into the care of the state; at the time she became unintentionally pregnant she was in the process of improving her circumstances with a view to regaining custody of her children. She considered a further child would jeopardise the reunification of her family. All three women were forced to travel to England to access legal abortion services.

The women lodged a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in August 2005. If successful, the case would establish a minimum degree of protection to which a woman seeking an abortion to protect her health and well-being would be entitled, under the European Convention of Human Rights.

Yesterday the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said there was "never any moral justification for the law to place a barrier between women and medical care".

The IFPA said that since 1980, at least 138,000 women and girls have travelled aboard to access safe and legal abortion services. The IFPA said it "has extensive knowledge of the extreme physical, financial and emotional hardship experienced by women forced to travel abroad for health care they believe should be available to them at home".

However a statement from the Pro-Life Campaign said the IFPA’s "sponsorship of the A, B and C cases... ignores the fact that Ireland without abortion is the safest country in the world in which to be pregnant and the growing evidence that abortion has very serious negative consequences for some women".

Monday, November 30, 2009

Irish Times: European Court To Be Told Irish Abortion Ban Violates Rights

European court to be told Irish abortion ban violates rights

CARL O'BRIEN, Chief Reporter

THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights will press the Government on whether its ban on abortion violates women’s human rights at a legal challenge to the State’s abortion laws next week.

The case, taken by three women who say their health was put at risk by being forced to go abroad for abortions, is due to be heard before the court’s grand chamber of 17 judges.

Information circulated to legal teams for the Government and the three women show one of the main lines of questioning will focus on whether the State’s abortion law violates a key article of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 8 says a person has the “right to respect for private and family life” and public authorities should not interfere with this right.

The court will also seek information on what exact procedures are in place where a pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the mother, and how a woman pursues a lawful abortion in Ireland. Under the State’s laws, abortion is illegal here but may be performed if there is a substantial risk to the mother’s life, including the threat of suicide.

The court is to have a full hearing of the case before its grand chamber of 17 judges on December 9th.

Based in Strasbourg, the court, which is separate from the EU, adjudicates on human rights issues among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe. As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights – now incorporated into Irish law – the Government is obliged to seek to implement whatever decisions are made by the courts.

The identities of the women, known as A, B and C, will remain confidential as the case proceeds.

They include a woman who ran the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb; a woman who received chemotherapy for cancer; and a woman whose children were placed in care as she was unable to cope.

They argue that the lack of any effective remedy at home means they have satisfied the requirement to exhaust domestic legal remedies. In addition, they say that taking a case would have been costly, futile and could have forced them to relinquish their anonymity.

The Government, however, contends that domestic legal remedies have not been exhausted by the women. It also robustly challenges suggestions by them that there is a lack of post-abortion care or counselling in Ireland. Among the questions the court will ask of the Government, and the the three women, include:

Have the applicants exhausted domestic legal remedies available?

What guarantees of confidentiality could the women have had regarding such domestic proceedings, bearing in mind other cases such as the “D” case (which involved an Irish teenager in the care system who won a legal battle to be allowed have an abortion abroad)?

The case will be watched closely by observers given a ruling by the same court in recent years that resulted in Poland being instructed to guarantee access to legal abortions.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How Long Can We Continue To Dodge The Abortion Issue?

The Sunday Times (Irish Edition)
Sunday October 18th 2009

• How long can we continue to dodge the abortion issue?


A Colorado woman has been receiving death threats since publishing her memoir, Testimony of an Abortion Addict. Well, I don't imagine that Irene Vilar made the decision to reminisce about her 15 abortions in 17 years in the expectation of attracting a Pulitzer rather than a Howitzer.

The abortions, according to the 40-year-old mother of two girls, were motivated by spite against her "controlling" husband. It began when she was 16, and her husband was 50. He didn't want children. It became her routine to "forget" to take her contraceptive pills, become pregnant and get an abortion. How such a cycle of self-abusive behaviour was meant to exact revenge on her husband is a mystery but, then again, any woman who submits herself to 15 abortions needs not only her conscience examined, but her head too.

Irene Vilar is a gift to the anti-choice lobby. Such case histories of cold-blooded self-centredness are ripe for vilification; a favourite tactic of anti-choice campaigners.

I can still hear the hearts of the majority moderates in the pro-choice corner hitting their shoes in 1992 when Albert Reynolds, then the taoiseach, invited Sinéad O'Connor to his office for a chat before announcing a referendum on women's rights to travel for an abortion, and to access information about it. Those were the days when the Irish editions of Cosmopolitan came with blank pages where advertisements for abortion clinics appeared in the British editions, and the printers of the state's telephone directories feared criminal prosecution if they displayed phone numbers sought by desperate women.

By parachuting enfant terrible O'Connor into the debate, Reynolds became vulnerable to accusations of treating a life-and-death issue as a rock-star lifestyle choice. Then, he over-compensated by threatening that, if the electorate rejected his proposed amendments to the constitution, he would legislate to give effect to the landmark Supreme Court judgment in the X Case.

The X Case is the big, bad wolf. Even 17 years later, it can still make Mother Ireland quake in her boots. Under that judgment, abortion is legal in this country. It may be performed where there is a threat to the life of a pregnant female, including the danger of suicide. But just you try asking for an abortion in an Irish hospital.

Official Ireland is shamelessly lily-livered.
We have come through two Lisbon referendum campaigns in which Coir, one of the most vocal anti-treaty groups, propounded that the EU was itching to impose abortion on Holy Catholic Ireland. Most voters have the smarts to recognise scaremongering, but what was most demoralising was the spinelessness of politicians who dared not even challenge the deceit head-on. Don't mention the A-word, was the governing dictum.
It's understandable that politicians want to bury their heads in the sand after several of them had their homes and constituency clinics picketed by anti-choice activists (Fianna Fail withstood the invasion of an ard fheis), and Catholic TDs have been warned they risk excommunication for expressing support for abortion. The silence of the lambs in Dail Eireann would convince a visiting Martian that there's a consensus in Ireland that abortion under any circumstances would never be tolerated by the people.

Not true. Two years ago, after Miss D was sanctioned by the High Court to travel abroad for a termination on learning her baby would not survive outside her womb, a poll showed that two-thirds of people backed abortion when life was unviable after birth.

Yet, in the same year, when Enda Kenny said that, if elected taoiseach, he would not enact abortion law, no dissent was raised. It was a chilling measure of how effectively the moral majority has been gagged.

If Ireland is forced to legalise abortion, the order could come sooner rather than later from the European Court of Human Rights under the auspices of the Council of Europe. Three Irish women, backed by the Irish Family Planning Association, are arguing that their rights were infringed by the state ban. The women-named as A, B and C- wanted to have their pregnancies terminated after, respectively, suffering an ectopic pregnancy, receiving chemotherapy for cancer, and having children taken into foster care because of financial issues. They claim the criminalisation of abortion stigmatises women, increases feelings of guilt, impedes access to follow-up care, contravenes their right to life, and is discriminatory on the basis of gender and financial status.

Reports of the case on anti-abortion websites characterise the three women as having "travelled abroad to have their children killed". No wonder they insist on remaining anonymous.

The fault line in the abortion debate is the fear of being labelled pro-abortion. It strangles candid dialogue. It is a fear that has been exploited by the anti-abortion lobby, which pigeonholes as "pro-abortion" anyone brave enough to assert that it can be a necessary evil in certain circumstances. Even the supposedly radical Greens, when renegotiating the programme for government, did not address the issue, but found time to propose that the nation amend the constitution's enshrinement of a woman's place "in the home".

It is time we grew up. We cannot dodge this issue forever. Even by discussing it, society can benefit. There was a time when women who suffered miscarriages were treated with cruel insensitivity. They were told by well-meaning professionals to get over it. I know of one couple who were handed the remains of their dreamt-for child in a Calvita cheese box.

While the abortion debate polarised society, it also exposed the hypocrisy of a nation that, out of one side of its mouth, cherished the unborn and, out of the other side, treated children born dead as unworthy of normal human courtesies. Nowadays, prayerful respects are the norm in hospitals following miscarriages.

Every year, about 6,000 Irish women travel abroad for abortions. As recession bites, we can expect that number to rise because financial means, like it or not, is a strong motivating factor. More test cases will come before the courts.

We could avoid much of the inevitable hurt by taking our courage in our hands, along with our destiny. Is it so heinous to say that a 13-year-old girl made pregnant by rape is entitled to have abortion available as an option? Were we to try talking about this, our maturity might surprise us.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pro-Choice Lobby Urged To Go Beyond Abortion Issue



THE PRO-CHOICE lobby must progress its argument beyond abortion rights to include the rights of marginalised women to have children and keep them, a leading US campaigner on the issue has said.

Loretta Ross, founding member of the SisterSong organisation based in Atlanta, said there were disabled, poor, homeless and ethnic minority women whom wider society often judged “unfit to have a child and if she has one, to parent that child”.
Addressing a conference on reproductive justice, hosted by the Irish Family Planning Association and the UCD Women’s Studies Centre in Dublin yesterday, she said: “We need a new framework beyond the abortion arguments”.

“The saddest thing I think is when a woman chooses abortion for a child she really wanted to have, but couldn’t have because she doesn’t have healthcare, or she’s in poverty, or homeless, or she’d be kicked out of school, or she’d face violence from her family or the father.

“Women are blamed and while we have to fight for the right to abortion and family planning many women have to fight for the right to parent.”

She said if there was adequate support for mothers contending with disability, poverty, ethnic minority status, “many wouldn’t need to fight for abortions anyway”.
Aoife Dermody, co-founder of feminist group Lash Back, said that for many marginalised women the pro-choice campaign was irrelevant “luxury”. Their concerns were around “fears their kids might be taken into care, around housing, or childcare”.

Rosaleen McDonagh, Traveller and disability rights campaigner, said there was an assumption Traveller women were sexually repressed.
She said disabled women were mothers, carers, lovers and yet were viewed as dependent and were infantilised by wider society, and often judged as asexual. This was wrong.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Guardian: A is for Abortion

•A is for abortion

Branding women with a 'scarlet letter' won't reduce abortions. As a global study shows, contraception and education are key

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is forced to walk amid her small, Puritan community wearing a red "A" on her chest for the social crime of having sex outside of the bounds of marriage. Some things in America haven't changed as much as we'd like to believe.

A new law scheduled to take effect in Oklahoma would establish an online, publicly accessible database of information about every woman in the state who sought or had an abortion. While it would not require doctors to report the names and addresses of patients seeking or obtaining a legal medical procedure many conservative lawmakers think should be outlawed, the 37-question survey would (among other things) establish the women's race, age, education level and county of residence.

Women would be required to disclose if they are state employees and what method of insurance, if any, they are using for the procedure. It would require women to specify the number of pregnancies, children, miscarriages and previous abortions they've had. And it even asks for the length of the pregnancy and whether the women were using birth control when they conceived.

The surveys would all be sent to the Oklahoma health department, where state employees would aggregate the data into a searchable, sortable database and make it available to "researchers" online.

Aside from the fact that a woman working for the state health department could, in fact, have her survey reviewed and posted by her own colleagues (and have her identity compromised to her co-workers), there are other privacy concerns. In Cimarron County, for instance, the US census says that there are 2,500 residents, among them 18 African-Americans, 32 Native Americans, five Asians and 485 Latinos. If there is, say, only one 35-year-old African-American woman in the county with a college education who seeks to have an abortion, the fact that she did so will be immediately apparent to her neighbours – and to the anti-abortion protesters whose tactics include individual threats and harassment.

Legislators who passed the law are open about their motivations. They want to use the questionnaire and the online database to stop women from having abortions. Seemingly, they don't care whether they do so by intimidating women, allowing others to harass them or by making it difficult to obtain medical care. But the absence of any political will to do so through comprehensive sex education, economic support or a dedication of law-enforcement resources to protecting women from rape and sexual abuse seems rather telling about the anti-abortion movement's priorities.

A new study published by the Guttmacher Institute this week shows yet again that anti-abortion advocates' obstructionary tactics do little to reduce the prevalence of abortion. The decline in worldwide abortion rates is almost entirely due to a decline in unintentional pregnancy through access to contraception and education – and there's no correlation to the legality of abortion or not.

Making abortion illegal or difficult to obtain doesn't reduce its prevalence in a country. It simply increases the health risks to the women who seek them anyway. The only proven way to stop women from having abortions is to help them make their own choices about when to become pregnant.

Unfortunately, anti-abortion advocates are no sooner going to turn into pro-contraception advocates than they are to adopt the children that result from forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. As the pro-choice movement has often charged, they don't care about making it easier for women to avoid unwanted pregnancy or carry a child to term despite her economic circumstances. Their focus is on the foetus, and the foetus alone.

Republicans like to tout themselves as the party of limited government, and, this summer, town halls in Oklahoma and elsewhere echoed with the refrain that the government should never, ever come between its citizens and their doctors. But when it comes to reproductive health decisions, it seems, Oklahoma Republicans are proud to stand between their female constituents and their doctors, scarlet letters at the ready, and be the party of a limiting government.

BBC News: Bans 'Do Not Cut Abortion Rate'

Bans 'do not cut abortion rate'
BBC News

Most safe abortions are carried out using vacuum aspiration
Restricting the availability of legal abortion does not appear to reduce the number of women trying to end unwanted pregnancies, a major report suggests.

The Guttmacher Institute's survey found abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is legal and regions where it is highly restricted.

It did note that improved access to contraception had cut the overall abortion rate over the last decade.

But unsafe abortions, primarily illegal, have remained almost static.

The survey of 197 countries carried out by the Guttmacher Institute - a pro-choice reproductive think tank - found there were 41.6m abortions in 2003, compared with 45.5 in 1995 - a drop which occurred despite population increases.

Nineteen countries had liberalised their abortion laws over the 10 years studied, compared with tighter restrictions in just three.

But despite the general trend towards liberalisation, some 40% of the world's women live amid tight restrictions.

On some continents this is particularly pronounced: well over 90% of women in South America and Africa live in areas with strict abortion laws, proportions which have barely shifted in a decade.

Researchers also noted that while liberalisation was a key element in improving women's access to safer terminations, it was far from the only factor.

Even in countries where abortion is legal, lack of availability and cost may prove major obstacles. In India for example, where terminations are legally allowed for a variety of reasons, some 6m take place outside the health service.

The costs of unsafe abortions, which can include inserting pouches containing arsenic to back street surgery, can be high: the healthcare bill to deal with conditions from sepsis to organ failure can be four times what it costs to provide family planning services.

In the developed world, legal restrictions did not stop abortion but just meant it was "exported", with Irish women for instance simply travelling to other parts of Europe, according to Guttmacher's director, Dr Sharon Camp. In the developing world, it meant lives were put at risk.

"Too many women are maimed or killed each year because they lack legal abortion access," she said.

"The gains we've seen are modest in relation to what we can achieve. Investing in family planning is essential - far too many women lack access to contraception, putting them at risk."

Double Dutch

Western Europe is held up as an example of what access to contraceptive services can achieve, and the Netherlands - with just 10 abortions per 1,000 women compared to the world's 29 per 1,000 - is held up as the gold standard.
Here, young people report using two forms of contraception as standard.

Even the UK, which has a relatively high rate, fares well in comparison to the US, where the number of abortions is among the highest in the developed world. The institute says this rate is in part explained by inconsistencies in insurance coverage of contraceptive supplies.

In much of eastern Europe, where abortion was treated as a form of birth control, abortion rates have dropped by 50% in the past decade as contraceptives have become more widely available.

And globally, the number of married women of childbearing age with access to contraception has increased from 54% in 1990 to 63% in 2003, with gains also seen among single, sexually active women.

But there were still significant unmet contraception needs, and a lack of interest among pharmaceutical companies in developing new forms of birth control that provide top protection on demand, the institute said.

Josephine Quintavalle of the anti-abortion Comment on Reproductive Ethics said stopping women falling pregnant in the first place was an area where minds could meet.

"Abortion - back street or front street - is not the answer. Ensuring women have the means to end their pregnancies is not liberating them - they should be able to make real choices before they fall pregnant in the first place," she said.

"But that shouldn't necessarily mean taking pills every day. There will always be problems with access and cost, particularly in countries where people struggle just to buy food.

"What we need is to better understand our fertility - if there are just 24 fertile hours in a month, we need to work out a cheap, effective way for women to know when they can fall pregnant. That would be freedom, and that's what we should aim for."

1997: Poland re-instated law outlawing abortion except when mother's life at risk or she had been raped
1998: El Salvador outlaws all abortions even when mother's life at risk
2006: Nicaragua similarly eliminates all grounds for legal abortion
Every year, an estimated 70,000 women die as a result of unsafe abortions - leaving nearly a quarter of a million children without a mother - and 5m develop complications.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Woman's Plight Exposes Our Hypocrisy on Abortion

September 10th
A woman's plight exposes our hypocrisy on abortion
Martina Devlin The Irish Independent

I was having a tooth drilled when Ray D'Arcy began reading aloud a listener's email. His Today FM show was playing in the background but I paid no attention initially -- preoccupied by the dental treatment.

The story proved impossible to ignore, however: its details demanded a hearing. A 28-year-old single Irishwoman was explaining why she flew to England recently for an abortion, what happened during the course of that harrowing day, and how she felt in the aftermath.

She described fainting in the airport as she waited five hours for her return flight to Ireland, and the guilt, shame, and above all secrecy, which added their weight to this daunting experience.

If the procedure had been available at home, it would have taken two hours. Instead she caught two flights, underwent an 18-hour day and endured the experience on her own because of the stigma attached to abortion, which remains illegal in Ireland.

Her conclusion was that women should not be obliged to travel to another jurisdiction if they decide against continuing with a pregnancy; that the State is shirking its duty towards living citizens -- as opposed to unborn ones -- by denying them the option of a termination on home ground.

There were three women in that dental surgery on Tuesday morning: the dentist, her assistant and myself. All of us were riveted.

For the first time, I sat on in the chair after my molar was filled, reluctant to leave. I wanted to hear the outcome -- we all did. Afterwards we looked at one another, dazed.

The three of us did not share a viewpoint on abortion, but none of us felt anything but compassion for the woman. An appalling experience was intensified by the State's Pontius Pilate approach to abortion: do as you like but not in our back yard.

We venerate motherhood in Ireland, between our Virgin Mary cult, our Mother Ireland iconography and the general Mammy fixation.

Yet even within this context, it seems excessive that our laws make motherhood compulsory. That's what our anti-abortion decree amounts to -- mandatory mothering.

The nature of the human condition is to buck against what is obligatory, so women have always tried to circumvent pregnancy in circumstances where having a baby is unwelcome.

In previous years there were DIY abortions, sometimes with disastrous results. More recently, Irish women from both sides of the Border go to Britain for terminations.

Politicians find this export trade convenient, since it saves them from the inevitable furore that would be stirred up by legislating for abortion.

Tearful, scared and often alone, these women deal with their pregnancies in circumstances made more distressing by our unwillingness to accept that abortions happen, whether we legalise them or not.

No one takes the decision to end a pregnancy lightly, and no doubt many live with guilt. But they do what they need to, for a variety of reasons. Compulsory motherhood is never advisable.

By vetoing abortion, one sector of society is imposing its moral standards on another. It is not just making windows into women's souls, but usurping control of their bodies.

The subject is a guaranteed catalyst for dissent, with middle ground difficult to find. People are either vociferously pro-choice or passionately pro-life. Some pro-lifers denounce abortion as murder, and claim legalising it would lead to abortion being used as a form of contraception.

Few pro-choice advocates would argue that abortion is positive -- most accept it as sad, and best avoided -- but they defend a woman's right to decide for herself.

A woman would have to be

very stupid to see abortion as a birth control option. It comes down to the rights of the mother versus the rights of the unborn child.

For me, the rights of the living always take precedence over those not yet born, but many -- perhaps the majority in the country -- disagree. Their viewpoint is enshrined in the Constitution, which protects the unborn baby.

But this shield does not mean that no Irish child is ever aborted. It means abortions happen outside our territory. In this age of cheap air fares, no line is being held.

The abortion debate is coming to the fore again because it is being mobilised as ammunition in the anti-Lisbon campaign.

Alarmist tactics have already begun. European law cannot impose abortion if the Lisbon Treaty is passed, but protesters suggest that ratifying the treaty will bring about backdoor admission to abortion.

Abortion has only entered the discussion as a means of manipulating people into voting against Lisbon.

This is no climate in which to be eurosceptic -- indeed, we are in danger of self-destructing if we reject Lisbon a second time -- but activists urge anyone opposed to abortion to reject the treaty. It's scaremongering, but some find it persuasive.

European law cannot supersede our constitution and abortion law will remain a matter for each member state. But it is more convenient for anti-Lisbonites to stir up doubt and confusion.

Meanwhile, thousands of Irish women go to Britain to have their abortions, and the Irish State looks the other way. Hypocrisy has always been our drug of choice.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Queensland Abortion Law Change is Women's Best Hope

Queensland abortion law change is woman's best hope
Jamie Walker | August 31, 2009
Article from: The Australian

THE pregnant woman at the centre of Queensland's abortion law standoff is pinning her hopes on legislation being fast-tracked into state parliament to allay doctors' concerns about performing drug-induced terminations.

Shay, whose unborn child is so severely malformed as to have no prospect of survival, has been told the pregnancy must be aborted for the sake of her health.
But with medical abortion services suspended due to the impasse between doctors and the state government over the legality of the procedure, no hospital will admit her.
"This is not a moral issue, it is to save someone's health," her father, Gary, told The Australian.

"Everyone should get off their high horse and get my daughter into theatre. Every day that goes by is a day too long for her."

The predicament of 19 weeks pregnant Shay, 24, has added an intensely personal dimension to the legal and political imbroglio that erupted after police moved to prosecute a couple in Cairns for illegally procuring a medical abortion, prompting obstetricians to demand the scrapping of criminal sanctions on abortion.

The government will amend a section of the criminal code, exempting doctors from prosecution for performing otherwise illegal abortions, to cover recently developed medical techniques involving drugs such as RU486 and misoprostol.

Police allege a consignment of these drugs was illegally imported by Cairns mechanic Sergie Brennan, 21, to terminate the pregnancy of his 19-year-old girlfriend Tegan Simone Leach. The couple are due to face Cairns Magistrates Court on Thursday for committal proceedings.

With state parliament sitting this week, Shay's family is hoping legislation amending section 282 of the criminal code can be rushed through, clearing the way for medical abortion services to be resumed.

Shay has been told a conventional surgical abortion would increase her chances of experiencing future pregnancy and birth complications.

Three Queensland women have been referred interstate for treatment since Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital stopped medical abortions last week and other hospitals followed suit, but Shay wants to be near her family for support. Brisbane obstetrician Adrienne Freeman has offered to perform a medical abortion at Shay's home or in a hotel room but the young woman says she would feel safer having it done in a hospital.

"The best outcome ... would be to let Shay have a termination in Queensland and for the doctors to know they are not going to get into trouble," her father said.

Cairns obstetrician Caroline de Costa, who has also suspended her clinical service using RU486, said yesterday amending section 282 would not remove doctors' concerns.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians president Ted Weaver separately advised members "the threat of prosecution remains".

"It would not be enough for us to resume, no," Professor de Costa said of the proposed amendment to section 282. "We would still be concerned about the possibility of prosecution."

Anti-abortion group Cherish Life Queensland said "pro-abortion doctors" were running a "contrived campaign" to put pressure on the government to decriminalise abortion.
President Teresa Martin said no doctor in Queensland had been charged with an abortion-related offence since the late Peter Bayliss and Dawn Cullen faced court in 1986. The case formed one of the planks of case law that widened access to abortion, even though it remained banned by criminal statute.
"The law as it stands should be enforced," Ms Martin said.

Professor de Costa said the position of colleagues working in the public hospital sector was that they would not perform medical abortions while there was question over their legality.