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.

Read full article by Kitty Holland 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.

Read full article here

 
 
Fine Gael:  More than a dozen Fine Gael TDs have indicated publicly ahead of today’s Cabinet decision on abortion that they have reservations about legislation that would include the risk of suicide among the grounds for abortion.

While most of the TDs have said inside and outside the Dáil that they will study the proposals and partake fully in the extended debates, a number have publicly stated they oppose the proposition that the threat of suicide constitutes a risk to the life of the mother.

They include the Mayo TD John O’Mahony and James Bannon, who represents Longford and Westmeath.

Speaking ahead of today’s announcement by Cabinet, Mr O’Mahony said: “There is a lot of concern about the suicide. I will support any measures that supports the life of the unborn and that of the mother.

“I have to be convinced about any inclusion of suicide. I feel very strongly about this. People know my views. I will be voting according to my views on it,” he said.

When asked about suicide being included in the legislation, he said: “I hope that good judgment will prevail and I hope that [suicide] will be outside the legislation.”

Full article by Harry McGee here

 
 
The Cabinet will announce today that a combination of legislation and regulations will be required to comply with the Supreme Court decision on abortion in the X case.

The decision to follow this route – the fourth option from the expert group on abortion – will result in a legislative framework that will adhere to the key 1992 ruling, a senior source confirmed yesterday.

This is expected to allow the fear of suicide as a ground for abortion but may not provide for rape or sexual abuse, neither of which formed part of the X-case ruling. On foot of the decision, the Government is also expected to repeal provisions in the Offences against the State Act 1861, which criminalises abortion.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a Minister of State yesterday all but confirmed the Government would follow the legislative route, rather than proposing guidelines, an option favoured by anti-abortion campaign groups. Minister for Health James Reilly will present a memorandum to this morning’s Cabinet meeting, with a decision expected in the afternoon.

More here

 
 
An article in last Saturday’s edition by Breda O’Brien referred to a list of 37 journalists and producers in connection with a pro-choice march saying that it included “some names associated with RTÉ”.

The piece continued: “if you work for a public service broadcaster, how does calling for support for a pro-choice march ‘ensure that in their use of social media they avoid damaging perceptions of their own or RTÉ’s impartiality’?”

RTÉ has pointed out that only one staff producer from RTÉ is on the list and one freelance who contributes to RTÉ, and that the RTÉ staff producer on the list did not tweet support for the march.

Where errors occur, it is the policy of The Irish Times to correct or clarify as soon as practicable. Readers may contact the Readers’ Representative at readersrep@irishtimes.com

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SECOND OPINION: At last women who give birth in Irish hospitals may have at least one of their human rights respected and vindicated. The Report of the Expert group on the Judgment in A, B and C v Ireland says that legislation to regulate access to lawful termination of pregnancy in Ireland is “constitutionally, legally and procedurally sound”.

The State must “provide effective and accessible procedures to establish a woman’s right to an abortion as well as access to such treatment”.

Maternal mortality rates are often quoted by anti-abortion campaigners to show that new legislation is not needed because Ireland’s maternity services are among the best in the world. These rates are meaningless when used to support an anti-abortion stance.

A 2012 analysis of maternal mortality in European perinatal health surveillance systems, including Ireland, shows that current data are insufficient for comparison between countries, because the tiny numbers and statistical variability from year to year are difficult to interpret.

Read full article by JACKY JONES here
 
 
The head of a European Parliament committee on women’s rights has said Ireland must clarify its abortion laws.

Abortion was a human rights issue, said Mikael Gustafsson, chairman of the committee, which raised its concerns during a meeting with Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch in Dublin this week.

“Ireland really has to have a law which says what is happening on this,” said Mr Gustafsson, a Swedish MEP.

“For me personally abortion is all about women’s choice ... it’s really a matter of human rights,” he said.

Abortion took up half of a three-hour meeting with Ms Lynch on Thursday, Mr Gustafsson said.

Childcare and the lack of women’s representation in the Dáil were other areas of concern to the committee, which was visiting Ireland ahead of the start to its EU presidency in January.

Mr Gustafsson said the 15 per cent representation of women in the Dáil was “really low” and without a proper childcare system women could not become “economically independent and can’t take part in decision-making”.

“Not having paid leave for fathers in Ireland is a political signal ... that this is something that is only a woman’s concern,” he told a meeting with the National Women’s Council, the Rape Crisis Centre, the Migrant Council of Ireland and Safe Ireland, which represents domestic abuse groups.

Full article by Judith Crosbie here

 
 
The expert group report on abortion arose from a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in 2005 by three women, alleging that restrictions on abortion in Ireland were in breach of their human rights.

One of the women was in acute distress. She lived in poverty and had four children already, all of whom were in care. She was attempting to reunite her family when she became pregnant accidentally. She felt she could not possibly cope with a fifth child, nor with the pregnancy. She could not get an abortion in Ireland, where, irrespective of her circumstances, she risked penal servitude for life. She went to Britain, where she had an abortion.

Another of the three women had been in treatment for cancer for three years and she too became pregnant unintentionally. Medical tests were contraindicated during the early stage of her pregnancy. She was unable to get clear medical advice and feared that her pregnancy would lead to a recurrence of her cancer. She, too, felt obliged to go to Britain for an abortion. The third case was less clear-cut.

The third and first cases were dismissed on technical grounds but on the case concerning the woman with cancer, it was found that the absence of clear guidelines in Ireland for when abortion was permissible was a breach of human rights. It was this ruling which led to the expert group report published yesterday.

Full article by Vincent Browne here

 
 
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has moved to defuse public controversy and tensions between the Coalition parties over abortion by promising swift action and calling for a “calm, rational and sensitive discussion”.

However, there was adverse reaction within his own party, with a number of Fine Gael backbenchers complaining that they were being “press-ganged” into moving too rapidly to deal with the matter.

The report of the expert group set up after the 2010 European Court of Human Rights judgment against Ireland on abortion was discussed at Cabinet yesterday morning and subsequently published online.

The report contained four options for the Government, but leaned heavily in favour of a flexible combination of legislation and regulations.

A Dáil debate on the report starts on Tuesday, and Mr Kenny said he would “provide as much time as people desire”.

The Taoiseach said that prior to the Dáil going into recess for Christmas “the Government will make its view known, arising from those discussions and our own views, regarding which option it decides to pursue”.

From January 8th-10th and before the Dáil resumes the Joint Committee on Health and Children will hold public hearings on whatever option is chosen.

Full article by Deaglán de Bréadún and Mary Minihan here

 
 
The Master of the National Maternity Hospital is a woman under pressure. When I arrive at the agreed time for an interview, I am told at the front desk of the antiquated building on Holles Street that there are others waiting ahead of me. The “others” sitting in the small entrance hall waiting for Dr Rhona Mahony include a significant one – the Minister for State at the Department of Health, Alex White.

When Dr Mahony arrives about 10 minutes later to greet White, an apologetic secretary says that she is not sure how long I’ll have to wait as the master also has to go down to theatre.

Being the head obstetrician at a hospital with 700 staff and where about 27 babies are born each day is an onerous responsibility. She wears the stress lightly, although with the country convulsed over the death of Savita Halappanavar and the issues arising from that, everybody working at the coalface of the maternity services must be particularly deeply affected.

Full article by Sheila Wayman here