Monday 24 October 2016

We need a calm, truthful debate about abortion

Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30

A pro-choice protest march on Dublin's O'Connell Street last year
A pro-choice protest march on Dublin's O'Connell Street last year

Many activists are putting pressure on the Government to reform the anti-abortion laws.

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However, there can be no meaningful public debate about reform when a recent poll carried out by Red C for Amnesty International revealed that 64pc of people are unaware that abortion in Ireland is a crime when a woman's life is not at risk, and when less than 10pc are aware that the penalty for such a crime is up to 14 years in prison.

There is a clear and urgent need to raise awareness, and address misinformation and misconceptions through the provision of accurate, unbiased, factual information about the legal and practical application of the law in Ireland.

There is also a need for clarity about the extent of reform being called for and by whom.

While some activists seek complete liberalisation of abortion law without restriction as to reason, others, like Amnesty International, focus on decriminalising abortion, making the Act human rights compliant, and ensuring safe and legal access to abortion, at a minimum, in cases of rape, incest, risk to health or severe and fatal foetal impairment.

The fact that 67pc of people polled support decriminalisation suggests that the Irish people are, at the very least, ready for a conversation about reform. When presented with facts and personal stories during the marriage equality campaign, the Irish public demonstrated a huge capacity for compassion and may well be ready to support reform to replace the Eighth Amendment with more compassionate laws.

In the months leading up to the marriage equality referendum, many people shared their personal stories and thousands of conversations were had about equality.

Can similar conversations be had about abortion? While homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland in 1993, abortion remains a criminal offence in 2015. The power of personal stories cannot be underestimated, but is it possible or prudent to get personal about abortion given the intense stigma, criminal status and the circumstances that can give rise to it? We need calm, respectful, truthful, inclusive debate.

Sabina Brennan, School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College, the University of Dublin

Press field day on Endless Enda

News is compiled of all kinds of happenings and actions by various peoples in countless places.

It is the most prolifically produced product on earth, in perpetual supply around the globe. While a war or major disaster can warrant acres of newsprint, a few column inches may suffice in a minor incident or domestic squabble.

One still wonders then, how Chief Whip Paul Keogh garnered unlimited columns of news coverage and publicity for doing nothing.

Maybe his action was a shrewdly discerned one, or was he simply passing on a momentary thought on Taoiseach Enda Kenny, that he could continue ruling the roost right through until not only the next election but also the one after that - if he won it - even beating records of Eamon de Valera and Bertie Ahern.

Whatever his intention, Mr Keogh merely speculated and, as often as not, speculation never happens. But, being vague worked for him, while giving the media a field day, at a time there was nothing more exciting on the political horizon.

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

The Irish wrecked Dublin

The article by Deirdre Conroy was very informative about our "eyesores" in the Dublin city centre area (Irish Independent, August 18).

But she failed to mention the very important fact that it was us Irish that built Hawkins House and Liberty Hall and dug up the beautiful tram network we had from Howth to Lucan. Paddy has given us nothing since the English left.

What we will be celebrating in 2016 is beyond me.

We must be the only capital city in the whole world that doesn't have a metro system.

I could fill pages on how patronage and laziness have ruled this nation for the last 100 years, from our health service, where consultants can keep asking for an up-front €250 fee, to the bringing of foreign investments into the country to the detriment of our small and medium-sized businesses.

Bobby Lang, Killiney, Dublin

Tipping point

Page 2 of your sports section (Irish Independent, August 17) gave the result of the All-Ireland hurling semi-final: Galway 26 points, Tipperary 3 goals and 16 points.

On page 3, Cyril Farrell reminded us that goals win matches.

Ah, if only.

Tom Brazil, Edgware, UK

Gender quotas defy logic

Once again the Frankenstein of logic that is gender quotas has been raised, this time by Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh (Letters, Irish Independent, August 11). "Men bring passion. Women bring reason", Mr Mac Cárthaigh wrote.

This statement is not only a false dichotomy, it also manages the dubiously impressive feat of being insulting to both men and women at the same time.

Gender quotas are a crude form of electoral engineering that defy any notion of logical or philosophical consistency: the introduction of formal gender quotas to counteract an alleged system of informal gender quotas?

Sorry, am I missing something or are you saying that you support the institutionalisation of sexual discrimination because of the problem of sexual discrimination?

This sort of reasoning is worthy of Monty Python.

One cannot ride roughshod over what should be an open, meritocratic competition in the name of what is in reality one form of discrimination to counteract another.

Candidates should be chosen on the basis of ability and merit, irrespective of gender.

Gender quotas, by their very nature, facilitate and encourage sexual discrimination.

They are a short-sighted and misguided solution to discrimination faced by women in running for the Dáil.

Rob Sadlier, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Irish Independent

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