VINCENT BROWNE

How anybody thought an investigation panel into the death of a person in a hospital controlled by the Health Service Executive could include medics from that hospital and a representative of the HSE itself would be beyond belief were it not devised by the hapless James Reilly.

So too is the absence of any clear legal basis for investigation, made worse by the absence of legal expertise on the panel.

A commission of investigation such as that constituted under Judge Yvonne Murphy to inquire into child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese should have been instituted. Such an inquiry, limited to the circumstances surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar, would be brief, inexpensive, conclusive and credible.

If, following yesterday’s removal of the University Hospital Galway consultants from the panel, another cobbled-together panel proceeds, there are likely to be legal challenges, complaints about procedures, refusals to co-operate and, finally, a report (if the process does not collapse) that will have limited, if any, authority.

Whatever the Government does on legislation or otherwise on the X case judgment is also likely to be a fiasco, because the complexity of the issues to be addressed are such, largely because of difficulties with the Supreme Court’s judgment in the X case (if a possible suicide is a justification for abortion, then how is a possible death from other causes not a justification?).

And that complexity arises, in the first instance, from the terms of the 1983 abortion amendment. The case for amending this amendment is now compelling and this will require the Irish people to reconsider their mindset on abortion.

 
 
But how in any individual case could anyone tell that the reasons for a pregnant woman opting for an abortion were trivial? How could anyone’s moral judgment be substituted for hers? Isn’t it obvious that only the woman herself is the person to make that moral judgment? Isn’t it obvious too that the criminalisation of a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy is but yet another instance of a patriarchal society seeking to control women?

A new amendment is required permitting the termination of pregnancy if a woman so demands and if medical – including psychiatric – reasons support her demand. The unborn do not have an unqualified right to life: that qualification centres crucially on the pregnant woman and only she should decide.

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