Sunday 26 January 2020

We need stronger women in government to end the oppression of the vulnerable

Hollie Leddy Flood from Drimnagh &Fiona O Neill from Dundrum during a Choice Ireland demonstration in protest at treatment of a suicidal pregnant woman who was refused an abortion on O' Connell Street, Dublin.
Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Hollie Leddy Flood from Drimnagh &Fiona O Neill from Dundrum during a Choice Ireland demonstration in protest at treatment of a suicidal pregnant woman who was refused an abortion on O' Connell Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

The fate of the 25-week old foetus delivered by caesarean section to an eighteen-year-old asylum seeker is a troubling one.

The State's treatment of babies and children in care is, to say the very least, tarnished and wanting. The right of the unborn is fiercely defended in Ireland until it is born. Whether it ends up in a dangerous environment of drug addiction, abuse or crime, in an institution or on the streets does not seem to matter to the State; getting born is the main thing.

I am glad to say that becoming pregnant, giving birth and rearing a healthy baby is a truly wonderful experience for the majority.

However, the 18-year-old migrant - the same age as your daughter when she sits her Leaving Cert or starts college - happened to be ovulating when her rapist attacked her.

When she fled to Ireland for asylum from a war zone, she discovered she was pregnant and did not want the legacy of her torture.

Her request to seek a termination because of the mental distress of the crime and the pregnancy is not something for which I have any right to judge her.

But somebody did judge her, even though she conformed to the strict requirements of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (PLDP) 2013 and two psychiatrists agreed that she was suicidal.

It could have been more beneficial for her to have an Irish-born baby to help claim citizenship.

Nothing can prepare you for the moment a doctor turns their face away and says they cannot help you. I will never forget the shock of being told at 18 weeks that my pregnancy was incompatible with life. I could not watch my other children see me suffer. I thought this caring country would have special procedures for unviable pregnancies.

Twelve years later we have legislated for termination in very specific circumstances, but not fatal foetal abnormality, not the crimes of rape and incest.

If this migrant girl had the means to leave the country, we would not even know about the subversion of the legislation that has occurred.

Ironically, her personal tragedy has proven what we already knew, the PLDP Act is hugely flawed and designed to ignore and manipulate the most vulnerable women - those who are raped, impoverished and alone. In Ireland, the maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment.

The perpetrator is rarely sentenced to more than 10 years; the average is five to seven. He gets his life back. The victim of rape, however, has a life sentence.

The Supreme Court judgment in X in 1992, the ECHR decision in ABC v Ireland in 2010 and the PLDP Act all endorse the permissibility of termination under her circumstances.

Who will explain to this child that his father violently raped his mother and that she sought an abortion?

Where is the utopian pro-life baby home where he will be cherished and loved, nourished, sent to school, nurtured through his homework and exams and find a place in college? After all, that is every child's right.

If you were born in 1966, or after, you will never have had the opportunity to vote on Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, the wording of which overrides the mother's capacity to choose.

Two generations of Irish women have grown up without a choice because of that 1983 referendum.

The Irish Sea is a great ally to the fundamentalist lobby.

Women like this young girl are trapped on the island, held against their will and, while others cannot be called fortunate, they can travel to end their misery.

Even then it is not easy, think of D v HSE in 2007, the 17-year old whose baby had anencephaly; she was spat at by protesters as she went to court to seek permission to travel.

What is the point of a gender quota when our female ministers glibly toe the party line with 
'no referendum on repealing the 
8th in the lifetime of this Government'?

The Tanaiste and other female ministers in power must stop cowering under the weight of patriarchy and the church that legally tortures Irish women.

We need stronger women in government to represent the female population and put an end to this ritual oppression - or our current representatives must show some real political initiative.

Irish Independent

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