We cannot fail to act on this again
Published 28/11/2012 | 17:00
THE Government will decide by the year end which option put forward by the expert group on abortion to implement.
The announcement, including confirmation that there will be a full Dail debate on this intractable issue, could go some way to redeeming the sorry way the State has handled the public controversy surrounding the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar.
Long before the expectant Indian mother's plight shocked the country, the Irish Government was under international pressure to implement the European Court of Human Right's decision, in 2010, that Ireland had failed to properly implement the Supreme Court decision in the 1992 X case.
The X case continues to divide Irish opinion, not least because the threat of suicide has been recognised by the Supreme Court as a risk to a mother's life (as distinct from her health) that could give rise to a lawful termination.
Many citizens hold legitimate fears that the inclusion of suicide as a ground for termination could be the thin end of the wedge that will lead to a liberal abortion regime here.
Others recognise that mental illness can be as equally debilitating and life-threatening as any physical illness.
Although the Supreme Court's ruling and its effects in the X case is disputed, it is beyond dispute that it is this hard case which sets out the criteria for lawful abortions in Ireland. If the Government does not want give legal effect to X, it may ultimately have to go back to the people to amend it.
The expert group, convened to recommend a series of options to deal with the European Court's ruling, has identified four main options.
The options include non-statutory guidelines, statutory regulations, standalone laws by way of primary legislation and new legislation accompanied by regulations with certain matters left to the Health Minister to regulate in secondary legislation.
One option our lawmakers cannot execute is the one relied on by six governments over 30 years – a failure to act and provide certainty.