Monday 10 December 2018

Enda and Micheál collude to ensure we do nothing to change absurd abortion law

Photo: Tony Gavin
Photo: Tony Gavin
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

What does the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael written 'confidence and supply' agreement have in common with last week's UN Human Rights Committee report on Ireland's abortion law that found we are in breach of human rights conventions?

The commonality is "justiciability". It was a new term to me, meaning "unenforceable in court of law". Otherwise each document is mutually repugnant.

Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin colluded to deprive us of democratic opportunity to reconsider the ban on abortion in the likely lifetime of the 32nd Dáil. Neither has the courage to explicitly say so. They're hiding in the first instance behind the derisory delay of a Citizens' Assembly to be established by November. It's portrayed as consultative participatory inclusion of ordinary people. It has zero merit.

It is modelled on the Convention on the Constitution chaired by Tom Arnold, which held dozens of hearings and produced nine reports by March 2014.

Cynics ridiculed outsourcing the duties of legislators - and they were proved correct. Nothing meaningful can be attributed to it.

Now a repeat performance on abortion means the final report, following lengthy written submissions and oral hearings, won't be published until late in 2017.

A new Oireachtas committee will then consider its contents. Like the health committee, before the enactment of the 2013 Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act, it will hear testimony from clinicians, religious and campaign groups.

It will then be a minimum of six months before any legislative proposals can be voted on in the Dáil chamber. So June 2018 is the predicted timeline for TDs to exercise a free vote.

This contrivance serves one primary purpose - to prevent internal divisions in the big Civil War parties. Remember Averil Power and Mattie McGrath? They are former members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, whose respective varied views on the marriage equality referendum is a foretaste of the polarisation of legalising abortion.

And let's not forget that Lucinda Creighton, Billy Timmons and five other Fine Gael parliamentarians left the party over abortion.

Those scars currently motivate the leaders' desperate attempts to maintain party unity; conveniently concealing an obligation to say how they would personally vote in a referendum: Yes or No.

One group denied an opportunity to appear before that health committee in late 2012 was TFMR Ireland (Termination for Medical Reasons). The founders, James and Amanda Mellet, have displayed exemplary courage.

Article 40.3.3 forced them to go to Liverpool in November 2011 for a medical termination of Amanda Mellet's foetus, which had tragic congenital defects. The couple's desire to prevent others facing the same violation of human rights propelled them to Geneva for justice. The case was found by the UN to be indefensible.

Unsurprisingly, church leaders and fundamentalist Pro-Life campaigners responded to the UNCHR by ignoring the specific issues of discrimination and cruelty against expectant women, instead attacking the international body itself as lobbyists for the abortion industry and branding its intervention as outside interference.

Painful memories directly due to lack of limited medical terminations in this State are mere collateral damage in pursuit of a dogmatic philosophy about the unborn: insisting that life begins at conception and that all circumstances of conception are the same, while ignoring crisis or unwanted pregnancies.

The only reason this situation is tolerated is because if you have the money, you can resolve your emergency by travelling to the UK. A dozen women per day do just that, secretly coping abroad with the deepest of personal traumas.

One unintended consequence of Brexit could be restrictions on the common travel area between here and UK. Just imagine if we could no longer export victims of fatal foetal abnormalities, and of the crimes of rape and incest. Already, some English NHS hospitals are restricting terminations for Irish women to one per week; private clinics are unaffordable.

The absence of the Labour Party from Cabinet effectively meant Fine Gael was free to indefinitely long-finger a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Labour voted down Clare Daly's bill, based upon the Attorney General's advice on unconstitutionality. That legal logic compels holding a further referendum as soon as possible.

The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil membership is overly representative of those aged over 65, more so than all the other parties. The tide of history inevitably suggests younger voters see this issue in a context of women's reproductive rights and their entitlement to determine outcomes for their own body.

A lot of those voters weren't around 33 years ago. Polls suggest 80pc of them want the opportunity to revisit the ill-conceived ban.

Within the statutory six months to concoct a reply to the UN, the Government will fabricate delusions of processes that are designed to ensure Enda Kenny's outdated view is Ireland's response.

Evidence of the Taoiseach's real intent is apparent in his 'mis-speaking' - his false account in the Dáil of referendum history in the outcomes of the 1992 and 2002 results.

James Reilly's humiliating demotion was attributed to his outspoken independence on abortion.

I reckon a maximum of 50 TDs would vote against repealing the Eighth Amendment in a free Dáil vote.

A comfortable majority of cross- party deputies could facilitate an immediate plebiscite. We may have to vote on this issue every decade.

The assumed prerequisite of precise legislative limitations on a future Irish abortion regime in advance of a referendum are bogus. Any future Dáil can amend previous legislation.

The continued criminalisation (a 14-year jail sentence) of medical personnel who have to determine how close to death a mother is before carrying out a termination is absurd.

Future generations will recoil in horror at how we insisted a suicidal, raped asylum seeker must carry her baby to full-term.

We ignore the European Courts of Justice and UN verdicts. Yet there's no hurry to act. 'New politics' practised by old-style politicos represents cheap plonk rebranded in expensive bottles.

Irish Independent

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