SIXTY-FOUR PER cent of people in Ireland support legislating for the X Case on abortion at the very least, according to a poll conducted by Red C for Paddy Power bookmakers.
The poll, released this afternoon, has found that over a third of the electorate or 35 per cent support the government’s decision to legislate for the X Case allowing for abortion where the mother’s life is at risk, including by suicide.
A further 29 per cent support legalising abortion in Ireland to allow for abortion in any case where a woman requests it, a move that would require a constitutional amendment and therefore a referendum.
However the poll finds that one-in-four or 26 per cent want a constitutional amendment put in place to limit the X Case legislation by excluding the threat of suicide to the mother’s life as a reason for abortion.
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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 first step in the Government’s plans to draft abortion legislation will be taken next week when an Oireachtas committee hears evidence from interested legal and medical personnel, as well as religious representatives and groups advocating anti-abortion and pro-choice positions.
The health committee will sit over three days and hear from more than 40 witnesses in meetings in the chamber of Seanad Éireann which is currently in Christmas recess.
It will hear the views of experts and campaign groups on the decision taken by the Government before Christmas to legislate for the restricted introduction of abortion in Ireland, based on the finding of the Supreme Court in the X case in 1992.
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A LABOUR TD has said that Cardinal Seán Brady’s Christmas message ‘misrepresented’ the legal position within which the Oireachtas is required to legislate for abortion.
Clare Labour TD Michael McNamara expressed his “disappointment that Cardinal Brady took the opportunity of his Christmas message to again misrepresent the legal position within which the Oireachtas is required to legislate, as well as the proposed content of that legislation” this morning.
In his Christmas message yesterday, Cardinal Brady urged Irish people to protest against plans to legislate for abortion.
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Some of the language used in the ongoing debate on abortion in the State is “disconcerting”, Minster of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch has said.
Ms Lynch said she found it “very worrying” to hear phrases such as “culture of death” being used by some of those who were opposing the Government’s plans to introduce legislation and regulations to allow limited abortion.
The Labour Party TD said there was a need to ensure there was a tolerance and acceptance of other views in the State.
Leo O’Reilly, the Bishop of Kilmore, said earlier this week that the Government proposals represented “the first step on the road to a culture of death”. He added that “once you say one human life can be directly destroyed, no human life is safe”.
His comments came after the Cabinet this week announced how it intended to respond to a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the abortion situation in Ireland. The Cabinet decided its preferred option was a combination of legislation and regulation that would give effect to the 1992 X case judgment. That judgment held that abortion was permissible where there was a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, as distinct to her health. Such a risk included the threat of suicide.
Ms Lynch said the church had a right and a duty to express its opinions on the subject but that some of the language that had been used was “unfortunate”.
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The husband of the late Savita Halappanavar is “not at all happy” at the failure to deliver a preliminary report into his wife’s death before Christmas.
Praveen Halappanavar and his solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell, met Minister for Health James Reilly in Athlone on Wednesday night, at the request of the Minister.
They had been assured last month that they would receive a preliminary report “before Christmas” from the Health Service Executive inquiry into the death on October 28th of Ms Halappanavar (31) at Galway University Hospital. Mr O’Donnell says they expected to receive this at the Athlone meeting.
Ms Halappanavar died at the Galway hospital seven days after she had presented with back pain at its maternity unit. She had been 17 weeks pregnant and was found to be miscarrying. Her husband says she asked repeatedly over a three-day period for a termination but was refused as there was a foetal heartbeat present and they were told “this is a Catholic country”.
An autopsy carried out by Dr Grace Callagy two days later found she died of septicaemia “documented ante-mortem” and E.coli ESBL.
The HSE inquiry into her death was established on November 20th under the chairman ship of Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George’s Hospital, University of London.
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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.”
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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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