Last week, the Irish Dail voted to pass the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 after two marathon late night debate sessions, a party Whip was used, and a general cry for a referendum was ignored to ensure that it passed. The bill has moved to the Seanad (the Irish Senate) and is expected to be signed by the president by the end of the week.
This bill clarifies that a doctor can prescribe abortion to a woman if her life is at risk, including cases when a woman is ….suicidal?
Abortion has been ‘legal’ in Ireland since the 1992 X. v. Ireland case, in which a suicidal pregnant 14 year old won her case, thereby creating a ‘right to abortion’ when not having an abortion creates a substantive threat to the woman’s life. However, not many doctors were willing to risk their practices to ‘prescribe’ it to save a woman’s life.
In the last 5 years, international pressure on Ireland to clarify this decision and create an access to abortion increased due to two events. The first was the ABC vs. Ireland case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in which three women sued Ireland for not providing them with abortions and forcing them to travel to the UK, where abortion laws are more liberal, for the procedure. The second was the infamous case of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant woman who died after ‘not being granted an abortion.’
Ironically, while the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill focuses on a woman’s right to life , it condemns the child that a woman is carrying to death at any point in the pregnancy if the woman is contemplating suicide, thereby pitting the woman’s human rights against the rights of the child.
Abortion is not the answer for suicidal pregnant mothers. It violates both the dignity of the woman and her child. The dignity of the child is violated in a final and unchangeable way through death. The dignity of the mother is violated through the experience of this loss of her child. It ends the life of the child and violates the dignity of the woman since it requires that she withhold and remove any recognition of the dignity of the child in order to go through with this act.
Since abortion is a violation of the dignity of the person, it can never be a component of ensuring any rights. Human rights arise from the dignity of the person; nothing that attacks the dignity of the person can be considered a right.
It will be a sad day for Ireland when Ireland adopts this bill and accepts this ‘right’.
By: Agnes King, Regional Director of Operations for WYA Europe.