Dear friends,

As you may know, the Oireachtas Health Committee has today started three days of public hearings on the Implementation of the Government Decision following the publication of the Expert Group Report into matters relating to A, B, C, vs Ireland. On December 18th 2012, the government announced that it will introduce legislation and regulations to allow for abortion where a woman’s life is at risk, including the threat of suicide.

While the Committee will not hear oral presentations from all interested parties, individuals and groups can still make written submissions to the Committee. These must be submitted tohealthandchildren@oireachtas.ie before 10.00am on Friday, January 11th. Copies of written submissions and transcripts of the hearings will be included in the Committee’s report to Government, once it has completed its deliberations, and the report will be published on the Oireachtas website.

It is extremely important that the views of the majority on this issue are heard so we would encourage you to make a written submission to the Committee. We have attached some guidelines and draft submissions from Action on X, the Irish Choice Network and AIMS Ireland to assist you in this.

Please feel free to circulate this information to other interested groups and individuals.

Solidarity,

Irish Choice Network

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Originally posted on Consider the Tea Cosy by Aoife FitzGibbon O'Riordan

Anti-abortion is not pro-life.

Have we learned this yet? Let me say it again. Anti-abortion is not pro-life. I am sick of anti-abortionists hijacking the language of life. As if pro-choice people were somehow pro-death.

We know better now. Don’t we? Shouldn’t we already? For years, clinics providing abortions in the US, Canada, Australia, and probably more have been victims of attacks by murderous anti-abortionists. ‘Pro-lifers’ willing to bomb, shoot and kill to further their goals. Do you remember George Tiller?

‘Pro-lifers’ will deny any connection to people who kill to further the very viewpoints they espouse. They’re not like that, they’ll say. They value life, they’ll say. And yet this is a group that thinks nothing of standing outside clinics shouting vile accusations at vulnerable women who they know nothing about, on what may be one of the most difficult days of their lives. Have you ever heard of pro-choicers bombing anti-abortion organisations? Shooting anti-abortion campaigners in front of their family and friends? Destroying the lives of people who are anti-abortion?


Read full article here
 
 
Posted originally on 'Choice Mid-West Ireland' by Peter O'Hara

Claims that Abortion causes Mental Illness or Addiction are IncorrectWhether you are in Ireland or elsewhere, if you are considering if abortion should be made available in Ireland –you may have heard somewhere that abortion causes mental trouble to women, and so hesitate to say it should be legalised here.

I aim to help by clearing away these mistaken views that abortion causes women to have more mental troubles. Mental troubles, as I write for short, include mental illness, psychological problems, and trouble with addictive substances. Addictive substances include alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, morphine and heroin, and other substances.

Women who have had abortions include more women who have mental troubles than the women who continued pregnancy and had their baby; but the group of women who had abortions already included more women with mental troubles before they had the abortions. Some people have claimed that the abortions cause more of the women to have mental illness or trouble with addictive substances, but the reverse is true – the mental troubles, that these women have, contribute to these women deciding to have an abortion.

Read full article here

 
 
Originally posted on Redwineandbrie by Jennifer Dalton

So tomorrow I (and a hoopload of others) will be Marching for Choice! I'm also Marching for Democracy. It's been twenty years since the X-case, Twenty years and three referendums that supported a woman's right to a termination in the case of her life being at risk or in the case that the baby was incompatible with life, twenty years, three referendum and twelve women a day who must go abroad to seek an abortion. Three referendum that successive governments in their cowardice refused to legislate for. It is an infringement on the rights of the woman and an infringement on democracy. Three times this issue has gone to the polls and three times the government in power has refused to listen to the voice of the people.
Twenty years and more of woman shaming-  I want to state here and now that I have NO problem with people who are against abortion. Zero! Zilch! That is your opinion and your choice to make. However I have a HUGE problem with the amount of misinformation that floods out from the 'pro-life side'. I state 'pro-life' in commas because it infers that anyone on the pro-choice side is pro-death or anti-life. That's not true. Some of the main proponents of the 'pro-life' side seem to think that every pro-choice person wants every pregnant woman to have an abortion. There have even been encounters which go to the tune of:

Pro-life: What if your mother had been pro-choice?
Pro-choice: She is, she chose to have me.

read more from Jennifer here 

*Trigger Warning* - please be aware than in her post Jennifer has included a picture of an abortion. 
 
 
Originally posted on Consider the Tea Cosy. By Aoife FitzGibbon O'Riordan.

A public meeting on “It’s My Choice” was held on Monday night in Cork. Still buzzing from the planning meeting in Dublin last Saturday and visiting Cork for a few days (Hello Cork!), I said I’d head along to it and see what the pro-choice dialogue is like in this part of the country.

There were three speakers at the meeting: Clare Daly TD from the United Left Alliance, Dr Mary Favier from Doctors for Choice, and UCC Lecturer in Law Claire Murray. They were followed by extensive- and heated- discussion. Because the meeting was a few hours long and I don’t want to leave anything out, I’m going to split this into two parts.

If you’re well up on the legal, political and medical situations on abortion in Ireland and just want to see the (rather heated) discussion, have no fear! I’ll have that up tomorrow. There will be kittens.

Claire Murray and the law“The right to life of the unborn is protected in Irish law, but must be balanced against the equal right to life of the mother”

Claire Murray was the first to speak, about the realities of the legal situation in Ireland relating to abortion: what the right to abortion is in Ireland, the difficulties pregnant people face accessing that right, and Ireland’s responsibilities regarding it. She started with Ireland’s abortion legislation: the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act. Although there has never in living memory been a prosecution under this outdated Act, it continues, according to the European Court of Human Rights, to have a ‘chilling’ effect on doctors here. The other legal framework affecting abortion here is the Constitution. Constitutionally, the right to life of the unborn is protected in Irish law, but this must be balanced with the equal right to life of the mother. Therefore, there is a right to abortion in Ireland only where there is a “real and substantial” risk to the life of the mother. Confusion and grey areas arise because there is no clear definition of either “unborn” or “real and substantial risk” in Irish law. This means that there is no clear procedure for doctors to follow in cases where a pregnant person may be facing a risk to their life.

“For rights to be meaningful, they must be accessible”

Dr Murray continued her talk referencing a 2010 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on abortion in Ireland. According to the ECHR, it is within the rights of Ireland to decide when abortion is and is not allowed in our state. Nevertheless, where constitutional rights exist, the state has a positive obligation to make them accessible, clarify precisely what they are and to provide for them. Ireland’s current situation has led to a discord between theoretical and practical rights. For rights to be meaningful, they must be accessible. The rulings of the ECHR are binding. Ireland must put measures in place to prevent further breaches of its obligations. If the state ignores its requirements, it cannot be forced to comply- but it can face sanctions up to suspension or expulsion from the Council of Europe.

In response to the ECHR, the government set up an Expert Group to look into the issue of legislating for the X Case and consitutional provisions on abortion. They produced a list of options for action: guidelines, legislation, or a combination of the two. While they cannot be seen to be in favour of one option or the other, it’s clear that a combination allows for both clarity and flexibility. Guidelines alone would not be legally binding, whereas legislation alone would be inflexible.

In closing, Claire stressed one thing. Even the most comprehensive legislation for X will only provide for thelife of the woman. It will not protect a woman whose health is endangered. It will not provide for women whose fetuses are suffering from fatal abnormalities incompatible with life. It will not provide for adults and children pregnant as a result of rape or incest. We need more.

Clare Daly TD and Campaigning“We’ve been dealing with this for decades: how many more will we have to put up with?”

Next up was Clare Daly TD on political campaigning around abortion. Clare began by pointing out that she has been involved with abortion campaigning for a quarter-century, ever since her student days. But today’s Ireland is dramatically different to the country where she started campaigning for the right to information, and most people here now understand that abortion is an issue that should be solely between a woman and her doctor.

“The Children’s Referendum is the first time, after decades of arguing abortion, that we’ve ever discusses the lives of born children”

Because of our Constitution, we- not doctors, not people needing abortions- have to endlessly discuss when and whether a woman’s life is really at risk. Evidence has tragically shown that, contrary to anti-abortion claims, there are instances where women need abortions to save their lives. But how can you prove that a risk to someone’s life was real and substantial unless she dies? In Ireland, a pregnant person’s life is considered equal to that of their fetus. If we are to truly value and protect women’s lives, this provision has got to go.

“Forcing women with fatal fetal abnormalities to travel alone to terminate in the UK is an indefensible cruelty”

The Irish Constitution says that children, victims of rape or incest, women with serious health issues and those carrying fetuses with no hope of survival have no rights to abortion. Women with wanted babies who know they will definitely die on birth are given the choice of carrying them to term for months on end, or travelling, often alone, overseas. Abortion is not a trivial procedure. Pregnancy is not a trivial state. To dismiss either of them in that way is to insult women and our lives.

Clare went on to point out that forty-four out of forty-seven European countries have abortion legislation, while our government drags its feet for twenty years. With the examples of almost all of our European neighbours, though, legislating for abortion cannot be that complicated. The Government don’t want to legislate. So it’s up to us to keep the pressure on until they have no choice. And legislating for X- which they don’t even want to do- will not be enough. But it’s a start.

“The only reason that more women haven’t died is the proximity of Britain”

Abortion, Clare continued, is a class issue. Women travel to the UK for abortions every day. Affluent women with support can afford this, but a UK abortion costs a minimum of €1000, and costs rise sharply after 14 weeks. This can be prohibitive for poorer women, and more of us live with less money now than we used to. €1000 or €2000 for a UK abortion may no longer be possible for many people, endangering women’s lives, health, and well-being.

Without constitutional change, we can’t progress towards respecting women’s health, dignity and choice. But politicians will not deliver this change. They want to drag this out for three more years until the next election when they can wash their hands of it. Only people power will force them to catch up with the rest of us. In the past month, people have mobilised in this issue like never in our history. Let’s get somewhere, and hope that in another 25 years we’re not still doing this.

Mary Favier: Doctors for ChoiceMary Favier is a GP and media spokesperson for Doctors for Choice. She began by stating that while she is hesitant to speak about an individual’s medical details, in Savita Halappanavar’s case her family have made it clear that they support sharing hers. In jurisdictions other than Ireland, Savita would have been offered a termination as soon as it was clear that she was having a miscarriage. In her situation, there is a known small but substantial risk to life from infections such as that which claimed hers. If, outside Ireland, Savita had refused a termination she would have had to sign a waiver stating that she understood this risk. Dr Favier compared abortions in this case to appendectomies. Appendectomies are almost always performed when a person presents with appendicitis, because in a small number of cases this can lead to death. The risk of death may be small, but it is real, substantial and known. In the early stages of Savita’s miscarriage, the greatest risk was not considered to be to her life, but her health. While calls for legislation on X are necessary, this may not have sufficed to save Dr Halappanavar.

“Irish women are more likely to have had abortions than appendectomies or tonsillectomies. We all know people who have had abortions”

Mary Favier continued on to speak about the abortions that Irish women do have. 4000 Irish residents are known to have abortions overseas every year. This does not include those using medical abortion pills obtained illegally online or women who do not give Irish addresses. Abortion is an incredibly common procedure- more Irish women have had abortions than appendectomies or tonsillectomies. We all know people who have had either of those. We all know people who have had abortions. They are our sisters, friends, daughters, mothers, and colleagues. And yet, their stories are shrouded in silence. The only women who have ever publically spoken about travelling to the UK for abortions have done so for reasons of serious illness or fatal fetal abnormalities. Only ‘special cases’ like these can be open and heard- and only a tiny number of those. The majority of women, who have abortions for other reasons, are silent.

Like Clare Daly, Mary Favier then went to point out that abortion is, in Ireland, a deeply economic issue. Affluent women in Ireland can access information, money and support to have early abortions when they need to. But for poor and working-class women as well as those in unsupportive families and communities- especially teenagers- it can take time to find that money. Because of this, Irish women have later abortions than their UK counterparts. In addition, although most UK abortions are medical abortions, because these take several days to complete most Irish women have to have surgical abortions. Those who can’t afford the time and money? Are forced to either continue with their pregnancies or to illegally buy medical abortion pills online. They do this without medical advice or knowledge of what complications to look out for- but at cost of about €70 instead of over €1000.

“Irish women are no different to women anywhere else. We are not unique, and have the same need for comprehensive reproductive services. Our country has just exported our problems”

Dr Favier continued her talk onto the safety of abortions. Over 99% of women who have abortions do so without major side-effects, and serious side effects and deaths are extremely rare- approximately one a decade in the UK. This contrasts to childbirth- about one woman per year dies giving birth in Ireland, with our far smaller population. Although anti-abortion advocates claim that abortion causes mental illnesses, this is not backed up by research. Dr Favier cited recent studies showing that it is unwanted pregnancies, not what a person does about them, that cause stress, anxiety and mental health problems. Coerced abortions, the necessity of secrecy, negative contexts and stigma make abortion more difficult, and mental health problems more likely.

“Doctors for Choice came about because we were tired of male, conservative, religious people being the only voice of medical professionals”

Finally Mary Favier made an important point about Irish hospitals. The majority of hospitals in the country are Catholic owned and controlled. They would not provide abortions. If abortion legislation changed in the morning, who would provide it? Doctors for Choice advocate provision by GPs. There is no stigma around attending a GP’s office, nothing unusual about attending one. This would keep abortion provision in a safe, familiar context where it could not be prevented by Catholic hospital authorities.

Finally, Dr Favier, like the other two speakers, stressed that legislating for X is not enough. If X legislation goes through, then teenagers, disabled people, poor people and asylum seekers- who cannot legally leave the country- will continue to be disadvantaged. Repealing the 8th Amendment and decriminalising abortion are not and cannot be our final goal. They must be necessary first steps toward providing free, safe and legal abortions for all who need them.

Following Dr Favier’s talk, the floor was open to comments and discussion.

Read part two here



 
 
 
 
Originally posted on Consider the Tea Cosy. By Aoife FitzGibbon O'Riordan.
This Saturday I joined over 200 pro-choice activists from around the country for the first (of many) planning meeting of the Irish Choice Network. The ICN is a newly-formed campaign giving Ireland’s pro-choice activists and groups a space to work together to bring about safe and legal abortion in Ireland. Over the course of the meeting, we discussed how we got to where we are today, where we want to be, and how we’re going to get there.

The meeting began with opening remarks from Ailbhe Smyth. Smyth spoke of the generations of women left waiting for legislation- her generation, their daughters and now granddaughters- and how pro-choice activists have been pushed aside and shamed time and again. But we are in a space now where things can change. We have the benefit of seasoned activists with experience of many abortion campaigns as well as a new generation of women for whom the word ‘abortion’ is not scary and who understand the normality of women who terminate their pregnancies. We have the opportunity right now, she continued, to create a national, broad based and serious campaign to achieve abortion legislation in Ireland. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon. And we start here.

“In the supposed safest country in the world to give birth, how did Savita lose her life?”

Next to speak was Sinead Kennedy with a history of anti-abortion laws in Ireland. Did you know that the Offences Against The Persons Act banning abortion in Ireland dates from 1861? Or that it was the same act that was used to prosecute Oscar Wilde for homosexuality in 1895? This is the law that governs women’s bodies in 2012. But it gets worse. In 1983, despite the absence of any pro-choice campaign at the time, the 8th Amendment was added to the Irish Constitution. This amendment gives equal weight under Irish law to a pregnant person and their fetus/embryo. From the moment of conception, an Irish woman’s life is legally considered no more valuable than the fetus inside her.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before the consequences of this became apparent. In 1992, a 14 year old child- known only as X- was raped and became pregnant. She and her parents planned to travel to the UK for an abortion. Her parents asked if and how DNA from the fetus could be used as evidence in prosecuting her rapist. Instead of allowing this, an injunction was taken out preventing X from leaving the country to procure an abortion overseas. The prospect of being forced to bear her rapist’s child led to X becoming suicidal. With massive support from the Irish people and a Supreme Court ruling that suicide was a genuine threat to her life, the injunction was lifted. The Supreme Court ruling, however, also noted for the first time the distinction between a threat to a woman’s life and her health. There is no protection for a pregnant person’s health in Ireland if this conflicts with the supposed interests of their fetus. And without legislation, history was bound to repeat itself. In 1997 it did, with the almost-identical case of 13-year-old Miss C. Despite two referenda in 1992 and 2002 and High Court and Supreme Court judgments, governments have done nothing. In the meantime, Savita Halappanavar died.

Continuing, Kennedy stressed that legislation for X, although overdue, is not enough. We need to protect more than women’s lives. We need acknowledgment of our right to health, and of our right to control our own lives without being considered criminals for doing so.

“Today’s meeting is the first step in a national campaign to achieve legislation for abortion in Ireland”

The final speaker, Aoife Dermody, went through the aims of Saturday’s meeting and the pro-choice campaign. We need immediate action on the X and C judgments. We need to educate the wider public on the need for action, and to mobilise support from diverse groups in Ireland. Finally, we need to promote up-to-date, relevant, evidence based information to create policy & challenge anti-choice rhetoric. With those aims in mind, the floor was opened for discussion.

Summarising the discussion in all its detail would be impossible. However, major themes were strategy. Do we campaign initially for legislation on X, and when that is achieved work towards repeal of the 8th Amendment? Or do we look for repeal from the beginning? How do we work with groups who may agree with us partially but have different ideas on the extent of legislation? Some quotes from the discussion:

“If womens lives are equal to those of their fetuses, why are we not investigating 4000+ murders a year? If antichoicers believe that, why are they not acting?”

“Choice matters. It’s not abortion on demand or abortion on request. It’s a woman’s right to choose.”

“I’d be a little afraid to go into hospital in Ireland given current legislation. Why should Irish women be scared of going to hospitals, of all places?”

[If and when X is legislated for,] “What mechanisms will women be given to access lifesaving abortions? Will we still be at mercy of antichoice doctors’ decisions?”

“Working class women left out of campaigns. Working class women are affected by budget, child benefit, carers’ cuts. Why are our voices not being heard?”

“Massive antichoice fetus posters are everywhere making us look like murderers, while real abortion stories go unheard.”

“We need to be careful of using words like “Irish”. We need to include immigrant women who may not even have right to travel”

“Our campaign needs to include trans men: they get pregnant and need abortions too”

After this, everyone split into smaller groups where we facilitated discussions on what is to be done- and how we can do it- in five areas: lobbying and politics, partnership and outreach, funding admin and training, media, and direct action. As I was facilitating this myself, all I can tell you about this is that there were no shortage of creative ideas and energy from any group. Results from the groups is being collated, and we should have a clearer framework of where we want to go and how we’ll get there soon.

I left the meeting inspired, energised and optimistic. Like Ailbhe Smyth said: we know where we want to go. We won’t get there today and we won’t get there tomorrow, but we won’t stop until we have what we want. Free, safe, legal abortions in Ireland.

 
 
Picture
THIS IS AMAZING. From the creators:

"Women of Ireland,

First, let's look at some numbers:
In 2011, 4149 women stated Irish addresses when obtaining an abortion in England and Wales.
Between 1980 and 2011, at least 150,000 Irish women travelled from the Republic of Ireland to get an abortion abroad.
The 8th Amendment was passed 29 long years ago.
It has been 4 years since the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights told the Irish government to clarify its laws.
A Sunday Business Post/Red C poll this year found that 85% of people support legislation for X.
It has been 20 years since the Supreme Court passed X.

It is time to come out as pro-choice.

The time for waiting is over. Tell your sister. Tell your brother. Tell your mum. Tell your priest. Tell your co-workers. Tell your friends. Tell your husband. Tell your girlfriend.

But most of all, tell your TDs.
Tell them what this means to you. Tell them how scared you are that you could be the next woman to die in our hospitals. Tell them you are not a criminal for wanting control over your body.

Tell them they don't own you.

The time for waiting is over, Ministers. The people have spoken.
We demand the right to choose.
We demand the right to have children, if and when we want to.
We demand to live in a country that does not let women die in hospitals because they needed an abortion to save their life.

We are not asking for your permission - we are telling you. You don't own us

Thank you to Lena Dunham and the whole gang for the premise!"


 
 
Fine Gael TD Michael Creed has criticised US secretary of state Hillary Clinton for what he claimed was an “offensive reference” to Ireland’s abortion debate.

He described the matter as a complex issue and “one for the Irish people and their representatives to decide”. He said “for that reason, I was irked by the offensive reference to the issue by the visiting United States secretary of state Mrs Hillary Clinton”.  (Full article here)

Is Mr Creed as offended by the news that Anti-abortion groups in Ireland look set to receive a major financial boost from pro-life campaigners in the US? (Full article here)

The principles are similar - Outside US interference on a complex issue that is (in his own words) "one for the Irish people and their representatives to decide"?

We would like to know what his opinion is on this news. 
Please feel free to email him and ask
michael.creed@oir.ie

Below is a template email you can use should you wish.


Deputy Creed,

I read on the Irish Times website (Saturday Dec 8th) that you found it 'offensive' that Hilary Clinton should try and bring up the issue of abortion during her speech on humans right while visiting in Ireland.

I want to know if you are equally offended by the fact that right now, there are organisations across the US raising funds with the intention of funding Youth Defence's campaigns. (See link from Sunday's Irish Examiner Here)

And, if you are equally offended, I want to know what you intend to do to prevent this 'outside interference' in the Irish political sphere. As you yourself put it, this issue is "one for the Irish people and their representatives to decide".

You criticised Hilary Clinton for speaking on the issue, and it received national media attention. Will you at the very least, publicly condemn these organisations, who are doing far more to interfere with the issue. 

Is this a matter for the Irish people to decide? 
Do you stand by what you said?
Are you a man of your word?

Regards,

 
 
My name is Aislinn and I am from Cavan and studying Speech Sciences in UCL and on Friday 23rd November, with the UCLU Womens' Network, I organised a photo-petition in solidarity with the vigils and protests being organised in Ireland. 

As an Irish citizen, and as a woman, I wanted to do whatever I could to support. I decided I could start by spreading the word where I was, to let people know what was happening and give them the chance to support those outside the Dáil when we couldn't be there ourselves. 

I wanted to put faces to the signatures on a petition. I wanted to play whatever small part I could in the hope that this tragedy would not be in vain.

It was inspirational to see the number and range of people who supported - boys, girls, people who identified as transgender, people from countries including Italy, France and The Netherlands, and the teachers on a school trip who not only supported the petition, but encouraged us to talk to the class of girls with them. 

In addition, people sent photos and messages of support from Dublin, Maynooth and Edinburgh to name but a few. 

Mná na hEireann, we are with you.