Sunday 17 December 2017

Legislation is best if Eighth Amendment repealed, says judge

Retired judge Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness
Retired judge Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

An alternative clause to regulate abortion in the Constitution should the Eighth Amendment be repealed is "undesirable" according to a retired Supreme Court judge.

Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, who last night launched Volume II of 'The Abortion Papers' - a collection of academic and personal essays written in the aftermath of the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar - said that legislation is "the available alternative" to the controversial clause. Ms Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying, died in an Irish hospital in October 2012 after being refused a termination.

Judge McGuinness told the Irish Independent that some time is needed to ensure that any statutory alternatives to the Eighth Amendment are both principled and publicly acceptable.

"Perhaps too much scorn has been poured on the Taoiseach's suggestion of a public discussion," said the judge, who described the volume - the first published since 1992 - as "a valuable contribution to the public on a crucial issue".

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that Fine Gael politicians are to be given a free vote on any future changes to the country's restrictive abortion laws and has promised a constitutional convention to consider any alternatives to the Eighth Amendment.

Judge McGuinness described as "apt" a review of the law in respect of migrant women, given the prospect of Ireland's decision to accept refugees from the Syrian conflict.

In the volume, retired Trinity College Dublin academic Ronit Lentin argues that the life of Ms Halappanavar, a legal migrant, was "sacrificed at the altar of Ireland's church-inspired strict abortion regime that privileges the life of the unborn over the life of the mother".

Ms Lentin says that birthing Irish mothers have always been "policed, controlled and abused" and that a "state of exception" exists for minority and migrant populations, the latter of whom are "devoid of State protection".

Contributors to the volume include Labour Senator Ivana Bacik and feminist Ailbhe Smyth, the editor of the first volume of 'The Abortion Papers'.

Irish Independent

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