Saturday 18 January 2020

Protection of Life Bill

Saul Bellow's 'Irish Huguenot' Dean Albert Corde in 'The Dean's December' muses: "We couldn't ourselves observe the dulling of consciousness, since we were all its victims. The genius of these evils was their ability to create zones of incomprehension." I'd suggest one of these zones of incomprehension in The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill is its reference to the European Court of Human Rights' Tysiac v Poland decision.

Commenting on Tysiac v Poland, Professor William Binchy noted on March 24, 2007, that the court's "one-sided concern for protection of rights will surely have a chilling effect on doctors who might be disposed to decline to authorise an abortion".

Another Dean, Jonathan Swift, has a well-known critique of lethal euphemisms. Did the drafters of the current modest proposal for the protection of life intend to dull our consciousness when they wrote, "the judgment in Tysiac v Poland is of particular relevance in setting out the detailed requirements envisaged by the court"?

Tysiac v Poland's particular relevance for reducing protection of the unborn lies in its noting that "the legal prohibition on abortion, taken together with the risk of their incurring criminal responsibility under . . . the Criminal Code, can well have a chilling effect on doctors when deciding whether the requirements of legal abortion are met in an individual case.

"The provisions regulating the availability of lawful abortion should be formulated in such a way as to alleviate this effect. Once the legislature decides to allow abortion, it must not structure its legal framework in a way which would limit real possibilities to obtain it."

Are those who drafted their modest proposal anticipating further appeals to the ECHR based on the logic of its Tysiac v Poland decision?

Dr Brendan Purcell

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

• The Catholic bishops have stated that the proposed legislation on abortion is morally unacceptable.

Would the bishops find it morally acceptable if the current Coalition simply sat on its hands and did nothing, as was the case with previous governments? That arrangement seemed to sit comfortably with churchmen and politicians alike.

It meant that officialdom could close its eyes to the reality on the ground, just as it did when young children cried for help in Catholic-run institutions – say nothing and hope it goes unnoticed. Politicians left it to the bishops to put their house in order and all would be well. But they didn't – and it wasn't!

Decent people are no longer prepared to look the other way, or sheepishly place their faith in the rhetoric of authority figures. Crisis pregnancies must be tackled head on, at home – not exported to England or anywhere else.

The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 is restrictive in the extreme, but it does help address an ongoing ethical dilemma where it should be addressed – in parliament.

Niall Ginty

Killester, Dublin 5

• Despite all of the division amongst pro-life and pro-choice people, surely it can be agreed that many of those alive today would not be had the current bill been enacted as legislation prior to their birth.

Or as Ronald Reagan once said: ". . . I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born."

Dr Damian O'Maonaigh

An Ghallbhuaile, An Clochan, Tir Chonaill


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