A new person, a girl, has come into the lives of people I know. She has not yet been named but the attachment to her is very real. Her grandfather can hardly wait for a time to play with her and to make her laugh. But there is a problem at present.

She isn’t born yet and the thought of anything happening to her, at this vulnerable stage of her life, is awful to anybody close to the family.

The idea that she might be aborted is unthinkable to them. This beautiful (there is already a photograph of her on display), lovable child having her life deliberately terminated when it has hardly begun seems an abomination.

But. Suppose her mother’s future health – not her life, but her health – was endangered and there was a real prospect her health would be seriously impaired if the pregnancy were to continue. What then? The idea that the life of this child, who has already entered these people’s lives and is already loved, being deliberately terminated is too terrible for them to think much about.

Certainly, if the decision whether to terminate the life of this child, almost for any reason, were her grandfather’s, he would be deeply conflicted. The mother herself would certainly be morally conflicted, as would her husband and everyone else close to them. (Incidentally, there is no problem with the pregnancy to which I am referring.)

Read full piece by Vincent Browne here

The Government will today promise it will publish almost 30 new Bills between now and Easter including major legislation in the employment, enterprise and justice areas.

However, it was confirmed by the chief whip’s office last night that the list will not include a Bill on abortion – while a Heads of Bill (draft legislation) may materialise before the Easter break, the Bill is not now expected to be published until after Easter.

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe will today announce the list of Bills to be published in this Dáil session. Almost one-third of the Bills are carry-overs from the session before Christmas, when 21 of the 31 Bills promised were published.

Some of the major Bills in the enterprise area will give effect to plans to rationalise and reduce the number of State agencies. Others will be included as part of the Government’s commitments under the bailout programme agreed with the troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

Among the major Bills to be published will be legislation to rationalise the existing commissions, authorities and courts that deal with industrial relations and equality at work into one all-encompassing agency.

Read full article by Harry McGee here

NINETY GIRLS AND women became pregnant as a result of rape in 2011, the Rape Crisis Network has revealed.

It has released new findings on survivors who became pregnant as a result of rape. The figures show that 90 girls and women became pregnant as a result of rape, and that 17 of these women terminated the pregnancy.

Two survivors became pregnant more than once as a result of rape and had different outcomes in each pregnancy.

Rape Crisis Centres

Fiona Neary, RCNI Executive Director said:

In the abortion debate there has been some talk about the case of women who have been raped and are pregnant as a result. It is important this discussion is informed by the best available facts and a compassionate understanding of the realities facing these girls and women in Ireland.
The 90 girls and women were supported in Rape Crisis Centres (RCC) across Ireland in 2011. “These numbers represent one part of the picture as not all rape survivors seek or can access RCC support,” said Neary.

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ABORTION REMAINS ONE of the most contentious and divisive issues in Irish society and at the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children this week it was no different.

Though three days of hearings on how the government should go about legislating for the X Case were calm, tolerant, informative, interesting and even revelatory in some parts there was no denying that there was some stark differences of opinion.

The committee, which based itself in the Seanad chamber for the three days, heard from medical and legal experts before advocacy groups and the churches came in to have their say on the government’s decision to legislate for the Supreme Court ruling in the X Case 20 years ago.

Read full list here

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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Today’s forum is the first foray into an argument set to dominate politics

This morning an Oireachtas committee will begin three days of hearings on the Government decision to legalise abortion in limited circumstances at some point next year.

In the course of the sittings, more than 40 witnesses and 20 groups will give evidence. They include medical and legal experts, the churches, civil society bodies, pro-choice and anti-abortion groups and, of course, politicians.

The evidence will range from complex and technical factual material to emotive advocacy from groups representing both sides of the debate. As such, it will be the first substantial foray into a debate that will dominate and divide Irish political discourse throughout 2013; as it did in 2002, in 1992 and in 1982/3.

The hearings are part of three-step process to arrive at a legislative solution to end the uncertainty over what is legally permissible with abortion.

Read full article by Harry McGee here
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday appeared to join in the Republic's controversial abortion debate when he expressed his 'dismay' at the proposed introduction of abortion legislation 'in various countries, even those of Christian tradition'.

The pontiff made his remarks during his annual keynote address to the Vatican's diplomatic corps, in which he touched on many of the world's most intractable problems.

These included the Syrian conflict, the need for Israelis and Palestinians to 'commit themselves to a peaceful co-existence', violence in sub-Saharan Africa and increasing inequality .

However, Irish antennae will pay particular attention to his remarks on abortion: 'I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalises abortion'.

Read full article by Paddy Agnew here

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.

Read full piece by Conor Brady here

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.

Read full article here