Had the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar not been brought to light by The Irish Times it is unlikely that we would have had such a swift government response to the report of the expert group on abortion.
More than 20 years on, there is to be legislation to address the ambiguities inherited from the X case judgment of 1992.
It is perhaps worth recalling the background to that case and indeed the role of The Irish Times in bringing it to public knowledge against the wishes of the government and legal authorities of the day.
In the early 1980s Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil vied with each other to assert their abhorrence of abortion. There was, of course, no public demand for its introduction. This was posturing to gain electoral advantage. The result was the passing of the September 1983 referendum, purporting to accord equal rights for the mother and the unborn child. It is doubtful if anybody expected it to have any implications in practice.
England provided the answer to the abortion question in Ireland.
But some constitutional experts had warned that the ambiguities of the 1983 amendment would prove to be a legal time bomb. In early 1992 they were proven right. An outraged suburban family reported to gardaí that their 14-year-old daughter had been violated by a neighbour and was pregnant. They intended to bring her to the UK for an abortion and wanted to know if DNA taken from the foetus could be used here as evidence.
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Doctors must not allow their personal moral standards to influence their treatment of pregnant women, Irish Medical Council president Prof Kieran Murphy has said.
Prof Murphy told the opening session of Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children hearing into abortion this morning that those with a conscientious objection to a course of action must explain this to patents and make the names of other doctors available to them.
"The right of conscientious objection must be balanced against the right of the patient, particularly in the case of a medical emergency," he added.
The committee has begun three days of hearings on the Government decision to legalise abortion in limited circumstances at some point next year. More than 40 witnesses and 20 groups will give evidence, among them medical and legal experts, the churches, civil society bodies, pro-choice and anti-abortion groups and politicians.
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The wording of the 1983 “pro-life” amendment to the Constitution was hastily approved despite one attorney general labelling it a legal “time bomb” and another expressing doubts about its merits, newly released State papers show.
On November 2nd, 1982, two days before a vote of no confidence in the Dáil, which led to a general election the following month, the then Fianna Fáil government announced the wording of the anti-abortion amendment, which went on to be approved by the electorate.
This was despite the government being warned by attorney general Patrick Connolly SC that a “pro-life” amendment “might well have the effect of threatening the right of the mother” to have a life-saving operation.
Foreseeing some of the problems thrown up by the 1992 X case, Mr Connolly noted that, “whatever my personal views be”, a rape victim could not be exempted from any constitutional prohibition.
Nor, “in the current climate of what it is sought to achieve”, could the amendment exempt abortion where the mental health of a woman was at serious risk.
Read full article by JOE HUMPHREYS here
The Government announced today that a combination of legislation and regulations will be introduced to comply with the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the A, B and C case.
Minister for Health James Reilly presented a memorandum to this morning’s Cabinet meeting. The decision was taken to follow this route – the fourth option from the expert group on abortion - rather than proposing guidelines, an option favoured by anti-abortion campaign groups.
A statement released by the Department of Health said: "Having considered the report of the of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland the Government has decided that the implementation of this judgement by way of legislation with regulations offers the most appropriate method for dealing with the issue."
In a statement, the Government said the drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case. "It was also agreed to make appropriate amendments to the criminal law in this area," it said.
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THE Cabinet has decided to bring in legislation and regulations on abortion.
A statement clearly indicates the regulation and legislation will include the threat of suicide being grounds for abortion.
“Having considered the report of the of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland the Government has decided that the implementation of this judgement by way of legislation with regulations offers the most appropriate method for dealing with the issue.
“The drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case. It was also agreed to make appropriate amendments to the criminal law in this area.”
Full article by Fionnan Sheahan here
The Government is to introduce legislation and regulation to allow for abortion in certain cases when a woman's life is at risk, including the threat of suicide.
Legislation in line with the Supreme Court X case will be drafted over the coming months by Health Minister James Reilly.
But, controversially, the legislation will be in line with the Supreme Court interpretation in the X case, meaning the threat of suicide will be legislated for as a risk to the life of a woman.
In a statement the Government said they will provide clarity for the medical profession about what is permissable. Doctors will still have to take full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child.
The option was favored in the report of the expert group on abortion law which was considered at Cabinet today.
The Government said in a statement on the form of action to be taken in the light of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in 'A,B and C v Ireland' that "legislation with regulations offers the most appropriate method for dealing with the issue".
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A Government backbencher has appealed to fellow male TDs to listen very carefully to their female relatives in the debate on abortion.
Labour Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys made the call as he said “we’re here talking today about a women’s issue with very few women in this House. And I think it’s time we allowed women to make decisions about their own health.”
Mr Humphreys said his views on the issue were influenced during the 1983 referendum when he was asked to give a number of women in his housing estate a lift to the polling station. Their husbands wouldn’t drive them to the polling station “because they weren’t happy with the way their wives were voting. That has always had a big effect on me since then”.
Appealing to his male colleagues, he called on them to “look and listen very carefully to your wives, your daughters, your sisters, because the legislation and regulation we put through here will deeply affect them and the next generation”.
Mr Humphreys was speaking during the ongoing Dáil debate on the report of the expert group on the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the A, B and C versus Ireland case. He said it was a case again of “men articulating a position on women and their health I find it very difficult to stomach”.
Full article by MARIE O'HALLORAN 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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I write to you as a middle-aged Irishwoman who marched the streets of Dublin back in 1983 to protest the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, and marched again and again throughout the eighties and nineties as that amendment's sorry consequences unfolded.
I write as a freethinker, who can say with Voltaire, that even if I disapprove of what you say, I will defend your right to say it. I write as a mother of two, now grown, who has penned articles about this question from many perspectives and written a novel about Irish freedom, which centres on an 18-year-old who terminated, as so many have, an Irish pregnancy in Engand.
And I write as one of the offshore Irish, who spoke outside the Irish embassy in London last week to honour the memory of Savita Halappanavar and urge your government to respond appropriately to her death.
Constitutional lawyers William Binchy (Pro-Life Amendment Campaign) and Mary Robinson (Anti-Amendment Campaign) debate the legal implications of the result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution on a Today Tonight Referendum Results special, 8 September 1983.