Sunday 19 November 2017

Eilis O'Hanlon: This Government must be the one to face facts

Eilis O'Hanlon

Our leaders for the last 20 years have refused to deal with the abortion issue, but the time for clarification is now, writes

The submission by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to the Oireachtas All-Party Commission on the Constitution is clear: "There is a fundamental difference between abortion carried out with the intention of taking the life of the baby ... and the unavoidable death of the baby resulting from essential treatment to protect the life of the mother." That's why, in the institute's Clinical Practice Guide on the management of early pregnancy miscarriage, it warns: "Women are sensitive about references to pregnancy loss. As their loss is not out of choice, use of words like 'abortion' can be sometimes offensive at a vulnerable time. Hence, discussion or documentation of management of early pregnancy loss should be worded appropriately."

There was no such sensitivity shown at the Irish Times last week in its reporting on the death of 31- year-old Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital after contracting septicemia following a miscarriage. Instead the paper opted to present what had happened as a simple morality tale of what can happen when a woman is denied an "abortion". Beyond the headlines there was more nuance about the range of treatments which, in practice, are offered to women in Ireland in similar circumstances, but there was no doubt that the pitch being presented by the Irish Times was one of the dangers of failing over a 20-year period to legislate for abortion in light of the X Case.

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