The Health Information and Quality Authority may have to establish a further investigation into how pregnant women who are getting increasingly ill are cared for in Irish hospitals, following its inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar.
The authority, which this afternoon published the terms of reference for its investigation into the death of the 31 year-old pregnant woman at Galway University Hospital last month, said if it emerged that there may be “serious risks” to any other woman in a similar situation in the future, it may recommend “further investigation or ..a new [one] “.
Full article by Kitty Holland here
You might be aware that Labour TDs including myself, did not support Clare Daly’s billon the X case last night. As your TD, I want to explain why I voted No.
In order to succeed in getting legislation for the X case, I, as a legislator, have to work with the reality of the political games that are being played in order to get X case legislation passed into law.
Fine Gael, Labour’s coalition partners would not support Clare Daly’s bill. I believe that Labour Ministers suggested to them that they should support it. But they did not wish to do so – they want to wait to debate the Expert Group Report which has been published recently. This is because Fine Gael and Labour agreed on the Expert Group process a year ago.
Fine Gael now want to see that through. It is clear on reading the Expert Group
report that the Expert Group believes legislation for the X case and regulations for doctors, is the way forward on this matter.
Fine Gael are a very conservative political party. They do not really want legislation. Labour will have to force them to support legislation.
Full letter here
Doctors for Choice: A founder member of the Doctors for Choice group has said she believes another referendum is inevitable to allow even a limited form of abortion in Ireland.
Dr Mary Favier told a public meeting in Cobh, Co Cork, that the expert group’s report on abortion was to be welcomed.
However, Dr Favier pointed out that the expert group looked at only a very narrow section of the current law and she believed a referendum to change the Constitution was necessary.
“I think inevitably we are going to have to look at repealing the 1983 amendment, which was always a very faulty insertion into the Irish Constitution,” said Dr Favier.
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Putting herself on a likely collision course with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Ms Creighton said she was not convinced legislation was necessary.
The outspoken junior minister also warned that any proposed law change would need to be narrower in scope than the 20-year-old X case ruling, as issues such as time limits for terminations were not covered by it.
"We have to be clear that, in fact, the Supreme Court decision at the moment is extremely open and extremely vague. It doesn’t provide any guidance on those issues. What the Oireachtas would have to introduce is something much, much narrower, and that would at some point be tested in the Supreme Court and that is inevitable," Ms Creighton told RTÉ.
Full article by Shaun Connolly here
A LABOUR TD has said that the party “has not voted against the idea of legislating for abortion”.
Ann Phelan TD was speaking following the defeat of Deputy Clare Daly’s abortion bill during Private Members’ Business in the Dáil last night.
Deputy Phelan said that the party “is determined to act on the Expert Group report on abortion and I call on all concerned citizens to help us to deliver the necessary legislation and regulation”.
Full article here
When I argued a case challenging Ireland's ban on abortion before the European Court of Human Rights in 2009, I told the story of my client, "Ms. C," who had been battling cancer when she became pregnant. Ms. C's doctors in Ireland, where abortion is illegal and lifesaving abortion is largely unavailable, refused to provide her with even basic information about the risk that continuation of pregnancy posed to her life, and so she had no option but to travel to England to obtain an abortion.
The human rights court found this to be a clear violation of my client's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and in 2010 demanded that Ireland reform its abortion laws. The case was considered a major victory for women.
But the victory exists only on paper, as is clear from the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar. Last month Halappanavar, 31, died from a pregnancy-related blood infection after doctors in Ireland refused to perform an abortion. According to her husband, as Halappanavar's health deteriorated, she had begged doctors for medically necessary treatment. Even after her doctors acknowledged that there was no chance her fetus would survive, they refused to terminate the pregnancy as long as they could detect even the faintest fetal heartbeat. Halappanavar slipped into a coma from which she never recovered.
Full article by Julie F. Kay here
"International human rights groups" have contacted the husband of the late Savita Halappanavar and have pledged to help him in his European court battle.
Praveen Halappanavar’s solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell, revealed the situation to the Irish Examiner after the deadline the widower gave for an independent State inquiry to be set up passed yesterday without progress.
Mr O’Donnell said that three days after he wrote to Health Minister James Reilly on the matter, the only response had been a note on Wednesday evening confirming the correspondence had been received.
Mr O’Donnell said he and his client are now committing to taking a European Court of Human Rights case against the State — with the move receiving "international" support.
"Given the huge amount of international attention this has received we do have offers of help from people in human rights groups [in relation to the case].
"There are a wealth of people, from Britain and elsewhere, who said they want to offer their services to Praveen. Some of these organisations are known internationally, although I don’t wish to name them yet," the solicitor said.
Full article by Fiachra Ó Cionnaith here
Praveen Halapanavar is to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights - saying his right to a full public inquiry is being ignored.
The family of Savita Halappanavar’s had earlier warned the Governement they would make such an application if they didn't agree to a full public inquiry into the circumstances of her death by today.
Separate inquiries by the HSE and the Health Information and Quality Authority are to proceed.
Gerard O'Donnell is the solicitor for Mr Halappanavar:
THE expert group has confirmed the obvious. Legislation with regulations represents the best way to implement the European Court of Human Rights ABC judgment. It is "constitutionally, legally and procedurally sound". Primary legislation would provide for the drafting of regulations to deal with detailed matters such as changing medical practices. The legislation would also repeal or amend the 1861 Act which criminalises abortion in this country.
The report helpfully sets out a blueprint for Government as to the content of legislation to clarify the X case test. It addresses key issues, including the specific risk of suicide, by saying a psychiatrist could be required to assess this. As Minister for Justice Alan Shatter confirmed yesterday, it would be legally impossible to legislate without including suicide risk. The X case test was confirmed by the people in two referendums in 1992 and 2002. You can't legislate for a bit of that test – it would be like being 'a bit' pregnant.
Despite this, anti-abortion activists have argued against legislating for suicide risk. They say it will lead to 'abortion on demand'. This is legally wrong. The Supreme Court test for 'real and substantial risk to life' arising from risk of suicide is far stricter than the 'mental health' ground for abortion under the British 1967 Act, to which anti-abortion activists refer.
In making this argument, activists display a dismissive attitude to mental health, downplaying the horrific incidence of suicide in Ireland and suggesting suicide risk is not a 'real risk' to life. The argument is profoundly demeaning to women – implying we will be queuing up for abortions by pretending to be suicidal. It also demeans psychiatrists, by suggesting they could be so easily fooled.
In fact, as the report says: "The diagnosis of expressed suicide intent is a routine process for psychiatrists."
Another issue addressed by the report is that of time limits. Anti-abortion activists have engaged in unsavoury scaremongering, suggesting that legislating for the X case would mean carrying out abortions 'up to term'. The report clearly states that where a woman has a pregnancy that places her life at risk, and her foetus is viable, the pregnancy can be ended without ending the life of the foetus; early delivery of the baby may be possible with subsequent neonatal care.
These and other issues addressed in the report will be debated by the Oireachtas over the next three weeks, and the Government will then announce its decision before the Christmas recess. This clear timeline for action is very welcome.
Over many years, Labour has consistently called for legislation on the X case. The decision to legislate is the only one that Government can now make, in light of the expert group's findings. Public opinion is with us.
The tragic death of Savita Halappanavar has generated national outrage, with thousands of people calling for legislative action on protests around the country. Twenty years after the X case, the Government must legislate to clarify the 'grey area' of abortion law that continues to risk the lives of women. It is just a pity it has taken so long.
It is also a pity that fatal foetal abnormality is not covered in the report. Earlier this year, we heard the testimonies of four women who had to travel to England for terminations after being told their babies would not survive. It is inhumane to require women to travel abroad in such traumatic circumstances. It should be possible within the terms of the Constitution to legislate for abortion where there is no viable foetal life.
Ultimately, it is not possible under the Constitution to legislate properly for the real health needs of Irish women. Women are voting with their feet. Over 4,000 women travelled from here to England last year for abortions, most on grounds other than risk to life.
The flawed wording of the 1983 amendment, which equates the right to life of the 'unborn' with that of the pregnant woman, has created the legal quagmire we are in; and has prevented the introduction of legislation to meet the needs of these women.
That amendment should be deleted ultimately. For now, we must act swiftly and pass the X case legislation necessary to fulfil our international responsibilities, provide legal clarity and prevent further uncertainty for doctors and women. No more inaction. We know that it costs lives.
We ask that everyone who can, who wants to show their sympathy with Savita's husband, family and friends, to show solidarity with them in their time of grief and loss, light a candle placed in a specially designed candlebag in her name in a window on the 31-day anniversary of her death, Wednesday 28th November.
You can download the candlebag template from http://i.imgur.com/v0r50.jpg - Follow the instructions to print and make the candle bag. Place it in your window on Wednesday 28th November 2012 to commemorate the one month anniversary of Savita Halappanavar’s passing, and send a photo of your window with the general location to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post it online to show nationwide support.
This commemorative candle bag is a symbol of sympathy and solidarity; sympathy for the unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar and solidarity with her family’s struggle for justice. It marks the one month anniversary of Savita's tragic and unnecessary death; a tradition that is observed in both Ireland and India. This small gesture in memory of Savita might also be a big comfort for women and men in your community who have suffered due to the unwillingness of successive Irish governments to legislate for their care. In times of tragedy, the saddest experience is the feeling of not being able to do anything. Sadly, we cannot do anything for Savita now but together we can make sure it never happens again to anyone else in Ireland.