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.