Confronting realities of abortion debate
Published 10/06/2015 | 02:30
For decades, Ireland has attempted to find a balance between "honesty" and "deceit" on the subject of abortion. We have grappled with the subject legally, yet painful anomalies still stand.
The loaded charge of "deceit" comes from those who feel there has been a failure to recognise the thousands of women who leave here annually for abortions. And then there is also the traumatic problem of fatal foetal abnormality.
Few subjects are as explosive or as charged emotionally.
As a result, all debate has been driven by extremes in a charged and antagonistic context.
Before engaging in another round of recriminations, it is worth reminding ourselves that compassion is the basis of morality. Amnesty International yesterday made a bald accusation that Ireland's abortion regime "violates the human rights of women and girls".
Its report charges that we are not complying with our international human rights obligations. It focuses on "the privileged position that the Irish Constitution's Eighth Amendment accords to the foetus". Amnesty's argument is that it comes at the unacceptable expense of the rights and lives of pregnant woman and girls.
The amendment was inserted in the Constitution in 1983. It serves to guarantee the equal right to life of the unborn and the pregnant woman. Amnesty argues that doctors must wait until an ill woman deteriorates to the point where her life is at risk before intervening to terminate.
Both doctor and patient deserve to know their rights, the State owes them no less. The report calls for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, and the decriminalisation of abortion. Absolutist and entrenched positions have prevented any real clarity from emerging. Evidently the case for reviewing our abortion laws is growing. The passing of the marriage equality referendum has added to the momentum for change.
Nonetheless, a cautious approach is still wisest. All decisions must be informed by humanity and best professional practice. It has been pointed out before that a person may cause harm to others not only by their action but also by inaction, and in either case one ought to be equally accountable.
No charges - but nothing to celebrate, Mr Adams
It was clear ... "that she told him what her father had done to her," says a report by the North's Attorney General. The report reviewed whether Gerry Adams was aware of the nature of the allegations made against his brother Liam by Liam's daughter Aine, and if this merited further investigation. It noted that there was insufficient evidence to meet the test for any prosecution of Mr Adams for allegedly withholding information about his brother's crime. It found that the public interest was better served by using Mr Adams as a witness in the subsequent trial of Liam Adams. So Mr Adams will not face prosecution for allegedly withholding information relating to the rape and sexual abuse of his niece by his brother Liam.
The report has raised a number of issues. For instance, it states that "there was sufficient information regarding Gerry Adams's state of knowledge to at least merit obtaining a further statement from his niece concerning the issue of what she had told her uncle." But the authors were not tasked with determining whether Mr Adams should have been prosecuted for allegedly withholding information. Mr Adams said he welcomed the conclusion of the report, asserting: "I committed no offence." Nor did he, but there was some evidence that a young girl was raped, and her uncle knew about it. No offence, but hardly a report to be welcomed either.