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Andrew Lynch: Politicians still too cowardly to solve abortion dilemma


Savita Hallapanavar.

Savita Hallapanavar.

Savita Hallapanavar.

It was only a matter of time.

Once again, a human tragedy has exposed the total inadequacy of Ireland's abortion law and sent most of our politicians running for cover.

We are now left in a bizarre Orwellian situation where everyone agrees that doing nothing is not an option - and yet nothing is exactly what will happen this side of a general election.

When Health Minister Leo Varadkar made his dramatic Dail speech on Tuesday night about the current legal position having "a chilling effect" on Irish doctors, it left many TDs deeply confused.

Was the ambitious minister positioning himself as a social liberal for the next Fine Gael leadership contest?

Enda Kenny certainly seemed less than impressed, stressing the next day that Varadkar had been speaking "in a personal capacity".

Twenty-four hours after Varadkar's remarks news broke of a situation at one of the country's hospitals, where a pregnant young woman lies brain-dead with no hope of recovery.


Her parents want to turn off her life-support machine, but doctors feel unable to do so because the Constitution guarantees equal rights to the life of the unborn.

As usual in the abortion debate, the situation has now led to arguments forwarded by two diametrically opposed points of view.

Pro-life groups say that the baby has to be given every possible chance of survival. Pro-choice activists argue that the family's wishes should be respected and it is barbaric to treat women as mere foetus-carrying vessels.

High Court proceedings on the case began this week and have been adjourned until next Tuesday. The woman's medical condition means that at least judges have the luxury of a little time.

However, this does not change the basic problem - families and doctors must be able to make split-second decisions about life and death instead of hiring lawyers to do the job for them.

It is now just over two years since Savita Halappanavar (left)died in a Galway hospital, allegedly because medics refused to give the Indian woman the termination she wanted.

In the emotional aftermath of this scandal, Enda Kenny's Government finally legislated for the notorious 'X case' by passing the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill.

Unfortunately, there is already evidence that the new law may be far too vague to resolve some crisis pregnancy issues.


In August we learned about the heartbreaking story of 'Miss Y', a teenage immigrant who was raped before coming here and deemed suicidal by professionals, but then forced to give birth by Caesarean section.

How long more can Irish politicians avoid grasping the abortion nettle?

This is exactly the sort of cowardly waffle that gives politics a bad name.

Addressing social problems should have nothing to do with the electoral cycle, but yet again we are being promised "reflection" and "debate" instead of proper action.

One day, perhaps, a brave Taoiseach will give Ireland an abortion law fit for the 21st century - but Enda Kenny has made it depressingly clear that it will not be him.