Tuesday, October 21, 2008
You may be aware that abortion on the island of Ireland, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is governed by the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. We believe that it is now time to end an 1861 Victorian response to the 21st century issue of abortion, and ensure that wider international developments in medicine, science and ethics are reflected in amendments to the 1967 Abortion Act.
We support a guarantee for the full enjoyment of the human rights of women in Northern Ireland in this area of sexual health and reproductive rights. We fully support the policy of the British Medical Association, which in its Annual Representative Meeting in 2003 supports the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.
As NGOs and individuals working in Ireland, we have witnessed the financial, emotional and health consequences for women caused by laws that deny access to abortion services on the island of Ireland. Significantly international evidence shows that countries which criminalise abortion, as Ireland does, only pushes women into accessing unsafe and life threatening illegal abortions.
The law in Ireland (both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic) allows for abortion when the life of the woman is in danger. In practice, however, abortion is unavailable in Ireland in almost all circumstances due to ambiguity about when a physician may legally perform a life-saving operation. The law also fails to make any provision for a woman who is pregnant as a result of rape or incest, experiencing severe fetal abnormality, or at risk of permanent bodily harm such as blindness, diabetes, kidney or heart disease.
Official figures show that over 7,000 women per year travel to England for abortions from the island of Ireland. This figure is based upon the number of women providing Irish addresses (from the Republic and Northern Ireland) and vastly undercounts the actual number of women travelling, some of whom may give false addresses in England or travel to other countries like Belgium and the Netherlands.
On a daily basis our we witness how a woman's age, her emotional state, and her other life circumstances affect her decision whether to carry a pregnancy to term and her ability to do so. Yet the laws restricting abortion disregard all such factors.
Pregnant women with a fetal abnormality face an added burden. These women often have wanted pregnancies and are extremely distressed. A woman, who is treated in an abortion clinic abroad or by an illegal provider, is unable to access vital genetic analysis of fetal remains to determine implications for future pregnancies. We are aware that some women attempt to bring fetal remains back to Ireland for genetic testing or to bury the foetus in a family gravesite in Ireland. Due to a combination of stigma and a lack of information, these women sometimes smuggle the remains home after an abortion abroad.
A challenge to Ireland's ban on abortion brought by three women who had been forced to travel to England to obtain abortion services necessary to protect their health and well-being is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights and known as ABC v Ireland. Likewise, the ban on abortion in Northern Ireland has been the subject of judicial inquiry. See Family Planning Association in Northern Ireland v. Minister for Health 2004.
We believe that abortion is an intimate aspect of private life, intricately linked with a woman's sexual rights, the right to control her own body, and the liberty and security of her person. These values are unacceptably infringed upon by the forced continuation of pregnancy.
The full body of international law and the authoritative interpretations of this law as provided by international and regional bodies compel the conclusion that, in order for women and girls to exercise and enjoy their human rights fully, a number of conditions related to reproductive and sexual health policy and law must be present.
We would urge you to support Amendment 30 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.
Dr Mary Muldowney
Alliance for Choice, Republic of Ireland
Helen Keys, Spokesperson
Dr Sandra McAvoy
Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group
Dr Mary Favier
Doctors for Choice in Ireland
Alison Begas, Chief Executive,
Dublin Well Woman Centre
Niall Behan, Chief Executive,
Irish Family Planning Association
Proinsias De Rossa MEP, Labour,
Member of European Parliament for Dublin
Senator Ivana Bacik, Independent,
Member of Seanad Eireann,
Reid Professor of Law, Trinity College Dublin
Karen Kiernan, Director,
Catherine Forde BL, Spokesperson,
Safe and Legal in Ireland Abortion Rights Campaign
Rhonda Donaghy, Trade Union Organiser,
Mags O'Brien, Trade Union Tutor,
Keith O'Brien, Welfare Officer,
University College Cork
Linda Kelly, Equality Officer
Union of Students in Ireland
Anthony Muldoon, Welfare Officer,
Union of Students in Ireland
Dr Geraldine Moane
Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology,
University College Dublin
Margaret Martin, Director
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
CARL O'BRIEN, Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday, July 29 2008
THE IRISH judge appointed to the European Court of Human Rights is to withdraw from hearing a forthcoming case involving three women living in Ireland who are challenging the State’s ban on abortion.
Dr Ann Power SC, who was appointed to the court earlier this year, will be replaced by the Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns. The court did not say why Dr Power had withdrawn except that she had done so in accordance with rule 28 of the court. This states, among other things, that judges may not take part in the consideration of any case where they have a personal interest or where they have previously acted as an adviser, advocate of a party which has an interest in the case.
Dr Power has previously represented the Irish Bishops’ Conference at an Oireachtas hearing on abortion. The group strongly supports a constitutional ban on abortion which would guarantee the right to life of the unborn child.
No date has been set for the case to be heard involving the three women, although it is likely to be within the next year.
As many as 17 judges may sit on an individual case if it is heard in public before the court’s grand chamber.
The case involving the three women is being contested on the basis that their human rights were infringed by being forced to terminate their pregnancies outside the State. The identity of the three women – known as A, B and C – will remain confidential as it proceeds through the court.
They include a woman who ran the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb; a woman who received chemotherapy for cancer; and a woman with addiction problems whose children were placed in care. Their complaint centres around four articles in the European Convention on Human Rights, including protection from “inhuman or degrading treatment” and freedom from discrimination.
The Irish Family Planning Association, which is supporting the case as part of its campaign to introduce legal abortion services in Ireland , said the grounds on which the case is being taken are “very strong”. The association said it was pleased the case was now progressing and it understood that the Government has been invited to respond to the complaints lodged by each of the three women before the end of September.
Once the Government has submitted its response, the association – together with the three women and their legal team – will be invited to consider and comment on what has been presented.
A spokesperson for the association said: “We are hopeful that the court will issue a positive recommendation in favour of the three women. This will bring pressure to bear on the Government to reform Irish abortion laws.”
The campaign to liberalise abortion law is opposed by anti-abortion groups which argue that a new constitutional amendment is needed to prohibit abortion. They say there is a need to restore legal protection for unborn children after the 1992 Supreme Court decision in the X case, which legalised abortion in certain circumstances.
Monday, July 28, 2008
CARL O'BRIEN, Social Affairs Correspondent
Mon, Jul 28, 2008
THE has agreed to hear a challenge by three Irish women to the Government's ban on abortion on the basis that their rights were denied by being forced to terminate their pregnancies outside the State.
The women claim the restrictive nature of Irish law on abortion jeopardised their health and their wellbeing. Their complaint centres around four articles in the European Convention on Human Rights, including protection from "inhuman or degrading treatment" and
freedom from discrimination.
The identity of the three women – known as A, B and C – will remain confidential as it proceeds through the court.
They include a woman who ran the risk of an , where the foetus develops outside the womb; a woman who received chemotherapy for cancer; and a woman whose children were placed in care as she was unable to cope.
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), which is supporting the case as part of its campaign to introduce legal abortion services in Ireland, said the grounds on which the case is being taken are "very strong".
"We hope the case will advance quickly through the court, ultimately making a strong recommendation to the Government to reform Irish laws and the current status quo on abortion," a spokesperson said.
The Government has been asked by the court to indicate who they wish to sit as a judge in the case and to submit its observations to the Strasbourg-based court.
The case was originally lodged with the court three years ago. However, the court has in recent weeks requested written observations from the Government and the women involved.
Any decision of the court is binding on the member states and must be complied with, except in very limited circumstances.
The court can decide to hold a public hearing, which would be likely to be held in the middle of next year. Alternatively, the court may review the case in paper format, followed by a public ruling, which could occur more quickly.
The IFPA says the case has the potential to contribute to a change in the law, just as the 1988 Norris case resulted in the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
It points to a ruling by the court two years ago which resulted in Poland being instructed to guarantee access to .
It awarded damages to Alicia Tysiac, a 36-year-old woman who had sought an abortion when her doctor warned that giving birth again would seriously damage her already failing eyesight.
She was unable to terminate the pregnancy. After giving birth, she suffered a retinal haemorrhage, and her sight deteriorated drastically.
Anti-abortion groups here, meanwhile, argue that a new constitutional amendment is needed to prohibit abortion.
They say there is a need to restore legal protection for unborn children as a result of the 1992 in the X case, which legalised abortion in certain circumstances.
© 2008 The Irish Times
Monday, July 21, 2008
Date: Thursday, July 17, 2008
Source: Irish News
Author: Seanin Graham
A landmark legal battle launched seven years ago about abortion services in Northern Ireland has led to the first ever public consultation on the issue. The Department of Health yesterday published a 20-page 'guidance' document on the laws and clinical practices relating to the procedure, which remains strictly limited to women whose physical or mental health may be seriously damaged by the pregnancy. It insists existing laws on abortion in the north will not be changed with the report's publication.
The development stems from legal action by the Family Planning Association (FPA)in 2001, which claimed that not all women were being made aware of their rights by healthcare professionals. After the FPA won the right to a judicial review in 2004, the courts ordered the department to review the "adequacy" of services for women seeking terminations and to issue "appropriate guidance". A 10-week consultation period will now begin, allowing the public to have their say on the matter.
Abortion laws in the north differ radically from those in England, Scotland and Wales. The guidance document repeatedly states that abortion is only legal in the north if there is a "serious threat to the life of the woman" or it "would adversely affect her physical or mental health". Women seeking abortion must show that continuing their pregnancy would lead to "real and serious" risks to their health, which are "permanent or long term". Foetal abnormality is not recognised as grounds for termination, unlike in Britain.
Authors accept that the onus will be on the patient's GP to determine whether an abortion is warranted and that this will be a "difficult decision". "Each case requires careful and sensitive assessment within the law as outlined in this guidance," the paper states. "It is important for practitioners to appreciate that anyone who unlawfully performs a termination of pregnancy is liable to criminal prosecution with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment."
The guidance highlights that two doctors - if it is practical - who are familiar with the patient's medical history should make a clinical judgment on whether an abortion is legally warranted. However, it states that in an emergency "it may be sufficient" for a single doctor to assess whether a termination is appropriate.
One of the most difficult issues for medics lies in determining if the pregnancy is likely to cause long-term difficulties for the patient's physical or mental health. The paper points to specific problems in assessing women who have a history of psychiatric problems or severe learning disabilities. It recommends that a psychiatrist should be involved in the care of patients with mental health problems.
Similarly, child and adolescent psychiatrists should be involved in any assessment of under-18s suffering from mental illness. There are long waiting lists in the mental health sector in Northern Ireland, especially in child and adolescent services.
The guidance, meanwhile, states that staff who have "conscientious objections" to abortion on moral or religious grounds should have their rights "recognised and respected" - except in circumstances where the woman's life is in "immediate danger". There are no measures in place across the north's health trusts to deal with such objections and the document recommends that "appropriate arrangements" should be introduced to deal with such requests. If a doctor, nurse or midwife has an objection, they should refer the patient to another health professional. The guidance adds: "Staff with a conscientious objection cannot opt out of providing general care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy. The personal beliefs of staff should not prejudice general patient care."
Gaining patient consent and providing adequate information and services to women both before and after abortion is also dealt with in the document. Women must have "sufficient competence" to understand the procedure, and their consent must be voluntary. Counselling and support should be provided to the woman, both before and after the procedure. The guidance document notes that counselling is not a regulated activity in the north. Access to services should also be ensured for non-English-speaking women and those with speech problems, hearing impairments and physical or learning disabilities.
The Department of Health last night said the guidance "simply restates the legal position" and cannot make any changes to the law. "Health professionals involved in this area of work have told us they are uncertain about the law in relation to abortion and this guidance offers clinical advice and good practice advice to help them make informed decisions and take appropriate action," a spokesman said. "It is intended that, following consultation, the finalised guidance will be published in early October 2008."
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: Is abortion legal in Northern Ireland?
A: Abortions are strictly limited and can only be performed if it can be proved that the pregnancy would damage the physical or mental health of the woman. Fetal abnormality is not recognised as grounds for termination in the north, unlike in Britain.
Q: What is the law in England, Wales and Scotland?
A: The 1967 Abortion Act legalised terminations up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Women from Northern Ireland are not entitled to an NHS abortion in England.
Q. Do the 2008 guidelines on abortion for Northern Ireland change existing laws?
A: The Department of Health has said it simply restates the current legal position.
Q: How many legal abortions are carried out in Northern Ireland each year?
A: Official government figures suggest there are 70 to 80 abortions carried out annually.
Q: How many women travel to Britain for abortions?
A: An average of 1,300 women travel from Northern Ireland to England for abortions each year. The average cost is £1,000 for medical fees and travel.
Friday, June 20, 2008
released yesterday (19th June 2008) by the National Statistics Office/UK Department of Health.
Abortion figures as they relate to the island of Ireland are as follows:
The figure for women from the Republic of Ireland having an abortion in England and Wales in 2006 was 5,062.
Previous years statistics are available at the link below for women from the Republic of Ireland:
By Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent (Independent)
Friday June 20 2008
Hundreds of Irish women are opting to travel to the Netherlands for abortions -- although the numbers going to Britain to end their pregnancies in 2007 fell for the sixth year in a row.
Until now, the only abortion statistics for Irish women were from UK clinics and newly released figures yesterday showed 4,686 had terminations there last year. This compared with 5,042 UK abortions for Irish women in 2006 and indicates a fall for the sixth year in a row.
However, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency revealed 445 women with Irish addresses had abortions in the Netherlands last year.
"Anecdotally, the clinics have reported they have only seen a significant number of Irish women attending for abortions procedures in the Netherlands since 2006," a spokesperson said.
In 2006, there were 461 abortions carried out on Irish women in the Netherlands and 42 in the previous years. It found the numbers going to other countries such as Spain and Belgium were extremely low -- less than 10 women travelled there between 2005 and 2007.
Pregnancy clinics say cost is a factor and while an abortion in the UK can cost over €700, it can be €300 cheaper in the Netherlands.
Allowing for the trend of women going to countries other than the UK, the overall abortion trend among Irish women appears to be falling.
However, last year there was an increase in the number of Irish girls 16 years or younger having abortions in the UK -- 47 compared with 39 in 2006.
The number of women aged 40 or over who had terminations went up from 200 in 2006 to 209. There was a fall in all other age groups.
One in seven of the women who had UK abortions were more than three months pregnant at the time. As many as 2pc were five of more months into pregnancy.
Eight in 10 women had abortions at under 13 weeks gestation.
The reasons women opted for abortion rather than motherhood are not clear.
In the mid-1990s, it became legal here to give women the names and addresses of abortion clinics. Considerable investment has also be made in counselling services.
Katherine Bulbulia, chair of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency -- the state body which funds pregnancy counselling clinics -- said it was important the numbers of women travelling to abortion clinics in countries other than the UK were monitored.
Agency director Caroline Spillane said crisis pregnancy counselling services here have been expanded by 50pc since 2001.
"The agency has seen a marked increase in the number of women who attend crisis pregnancy counselling throughout the country."
She suggested the increased take up and fall in UK abortions suggested the wider availability of services was having an impact.
Commenting on the UK figures, the Pro Life Campaign said it welcomed the Irish downward trend, pointing out the rate in England and Wales was upward.
"Despite the reduction, we must continue to do more to further reduce our abortion rate," a spokesperson
Fewer women travelling abroad for abortions
KITTY HOLLAND (Irish Times)
Friday June 20 2008
THE NUMBER of Irish women seeking abortions overseas has fallen for the sixth successive year, figures released by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency show.
The number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in Britain has fallen by almost 2,000 since 2001, to 4,686 last year. The number travelling to the Netherlands, however, has increased significantly, though the overall number has declined.
According to the agency, which began gathering data on numbers travelling to Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium since 2005, an insignificant number (fewer than 10 between 2005 and 2007) were travelling to Spain and Belgium.
However, the number of women giving Irish addresses at abortion clinics in the Netherlands increased from 42 in 2005, to 462 in 2006 and to 445 last year.
The decrease - 1,987 - in numbers travelling to Britain, from 6,673 in 2001 to 4,686 last year, means there has been an overall annual decline in women going overseas for abortions of 1,542 since 2001.
The yearly figures for those travelling to Britain are 6,673 in 2001; 6,522 in 2002; 6,320 in 2003; 6,217 in 2004; 5,585 in 2005; 5,042 in 2006.
The numbers per 1,000 women aged 15-44 travelling to Britain fell from 7.5 in 2001 to 7.2 in 2002; 6.9 in 2003; 6.7 in 2004; 5.9 in 2005; 5.2 in 2006 and 4.7 last year.
Enda Saul, spokeswoman for the agency, said there were a number of factors in the decline.
"There is the wider availability of crisis pregnancy counselling which gives women a free, safe,
non-judgmental and confidential space in which to look at all the options open to her. Also we believe more people are using contraception. It's more widely available and there are good behaviours developing."
Relationship and sexuality education in schools had improved and parents were more likely to take a role in educating their young adult children about contraception.
Referring to numbers travelling to jurisdictions other than Britain, agency chairwoman Katherine Bulbulia said it was important that a formal monitoring system be put in place to provide clarity on how many were travelling, particularly to the Netherlands.
Director Caroline Spillane said there had been a "marked increase" in the number of women availing of crisis pregnancy counselling throughout the State.
"When the take-up of the counselling is combined with the reduction in the number of women giving Irish addresses in UK abortion clinics, we can suggest that the increased awareness of crisis pregnancy and the services provided has had an impact," she said.
Ms Saul also suggested changes in attitudes to family and what constitutes a family may have contributed to women's decisions not to seek abortions.
She said there was far less stigma about being an unmarried or single mother than there had been in past decades.
The agency funds 14 crisis pregnancy counselling providers, in more than 50 centres throughout the State.
Details about crisis pregnancy counselling can be obtained by freetexting list to 50444 or visiting positiveoptions.ie
Women going to UK for abortions down to 13 a day
By Evelyn Ring (The Examiner)
Friday June 20 2008
EVERY day last year at least 13 women travelled to Britain for an abortion, new figures show.
While the number of women giving Irish addresses at British abortion clinics has been dropping since 2001, a significant number are travelling to the Netherlands for terminations.
The statistics, compiled by the Department of Health in Britain, show that 4,686 women who had an abortion last year gave an Irish address, compared with 6,673 in 2001.
The latest statistics show a decrease in the number of Irish women aged between 20 and 24 who have given Irish addresses at British abortion clinic.
A total of 1,387 women aged between 20 and 24 gave Irish addresses at abortion clinics in Britain last year, compared with 1,505 in 2006.
There were 47 girls under the age of 16 who gave Irish addresses at abortion clinics in Britain last year, compared with 39 in 2006.
Irish teen abortions, however, remain steady and are much lower than in other countries.
When the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) was established in 2001, at least 18 women were travelling every day to Britain for an abortion. At 6,673, the number was also up from 6,391 in 2000.
Other jurisdictions have noticed that Irish women have been travelling to clinics since 2006, but the CPA found that the Netherlands was the only jurisdiction that had significant numbers of women from Ireland travelling for abortion procedures.
The CPA also pointed out that the number of Irish women going to Spain and Belgium was extremely low — less than 10 women were reported to have travelled to these jurisdictions for abortion procedures between 2005 and 2007.
CPA director Caroline Spillane said the provision of free crisis pregnancy counselling had increased by 50% since the CPA was established in 2001.
She said the agency had seen a “marked increase” in the number of women attending crisis pregnancy throughout the country.
“When the take-up of counselling is combined with the reduction in the number of women giving Irish addresses, we can suggest that the increased awareness of crisis pregnancy and the services provided has had an impact,” she said.
The lobby group Pro-Life Campaign welcomed the downward trend in the number of Irish women travelling to Britain for an abortion.
“At a time when abortions in England and Wales have increased significantly, the drop in the Irish rate proves that upward trends are not inevitable,” said Pro Life spokeswoman Dr Ruth Cullen.
The statistics also show that 67% of women who gave Irish addresses had an abortion when they were between three and nine weeks pregnant, 20% were between 10 and 12 weeks, while 2% were 20 weeks or more into their pregnancy.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
by DEREK SCALLY in Berlin
Wed, Jun 18, 2008
A 14-YEAR-OLD pregnant girl, who says she was raped by a friend, is caught in the middle of a struggle between Poland's anti-abortion and pro-choice camps.
The schoolgirl, known only by the pseudonym Agata, is 11 weeks pregnant. Her mother says that several attempts to terminate the pregnancy - permitted under Poland's abortion laws because Agata is under-age - have failed because of interference by anti-abortion campaigners.
They say the girl is being pressured into terminating the pregnancy by her mother and pro-choice campaigners.
Agata says she was raped in April by a fellow student and the assault left her "covered in bruises" and pregnant. She went to a gynaecologist, who informed the police and Agata's mother. After discussing the matter, mother and daughter applied for permission to have an abortion. But when they went to the local hospital in Lublin, southeast of Warsaw, Agata was shown, alone, into a room where a priest was waiting.
The priest, Fr Krzysztof Podstawka, heads a local diocese organisation for single mothers called "Protection of Life".
Agata said that the gynaecologist returned later and said she would not perform the abortion.
The girl said that the doctor and priest dictated a letter to her in which she agreed to keep the baby. "I just said yes to everyone to have some peace," she told Gazeta Wyborczanewspaper. When her mother heard what happened, she contacted the Women's Federation in Warsaw and, with their help, found a clinic willing to perform the abortion.
Waiting for them was Fr Podstawka and anti-abortion campaigners. Inside, doctors refused to perform the abortion, claiming they had been threatened.
Meanwhile, authorities in Lublin received complaints about the mother's role in the case and, on their return, put Agata into emergency child care.
"I want to be a mother when I grow up, not now," she told Gazeta Wyborcza. "Now all I want is my own mother." Already in her 11th week, Polish law only allows legal terminations until the 12th week.
The Virgin de Panecillo revealed a banner with the text ?Safe abortion, 099004545. The number is from a hotline that will provide women with information about how they can do a safe abortion with pills themselves at home and other information related to sexual health.
The banner action was done by Women on Waves and Coordinadora Juvenil.
For pictures of the virgin with the banner and more information about the campaign see http://www.womenonwaves.org
Press information: +593 8 6966608 or +31 6 52052561
or email to email@example.com
Sunday, June 8, 2008
By Jennifer O'Connell
It's time Ireland accepted that its young women are not fools and made the morning-after pill available over the counter in pharmacies
I'm not pregnant. That's not a claim I've been able to make too often over the past two and a bit years.
And as long as I'm still buying nappies in two different sizes, the prospect is enough to induce in me the kind of trepidation normally only seen in the waiting room of the Well Woman Clinic the day after the Leaving Cert results come out.
Which is perhaps why I found myself feeling a stab of indignation at the realisation that the waiting room of the Well Woman Clinic remains the refuge of choice for those who find themselves in need of some with their croissant on a .
The Department of Health and the Health Service Executive are considering the question of whether it's time we caught up with muchof the rest of the world and made the morning-after pill available over the counter in pharmacies.
The department seems to have been considering this measure on and off since Sex was the name of a book by that upstart Madonna.
The latest recommendation is one of several contained in a report by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland. It's under review by Mary Harney's department, but there are, she says, ''major issues'' that will have to be considered first. And I think we all know what that
The second-to-last time this proposal was raised - in 2006 - it was promptly shot down by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO). The chairman of its GP committee said his members needed to be available to lecture women in need of emergency contraception on ''the
implications of being sexually active and how to protect against sexually transmitted diseases''. Oh, and to take their €50 consultation fee for the pleasure.
In 2008, it seems nonsensical that we still insist on making young women (and according to the IMO, the vast majority are in their teens or early 20s), anxious to take responsible action to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, wait until their GP can squeeze them in at 11. That's if they're brave enough to see their family GP, and can afford the consultation fee.
And that's presuming they have a GP in the first place - what student living away from home does?
There is, of course, a need to ensure that anyone getting emergency contraception understands it is just that. But surely you don't need a medical degree in order to impart to teenagers the real risks of having sex without protection? I'd have thought a pharmacist was every bit as qualified to do this.
Just think about the mixed messages we are giving here to our teenagers and twentysomethings. We feed them an endless diet of sexually provocative imagery on TV and in magazines. We buy them clothes emblazoned with the Playboy logo. We manufacture alcoholic
drinks in friendly little fruit flavours.
We force them through one of the most high-pressure education systems in Europe and, when they finally come out the other end, we drop them off at discos to celebrate, wearing low-cut tops and with something akin to Paris Hilton's hairband around their waists.
Then, in case all this hothousing and pressure and alcohol conspire to have the expected effect, we make it extremely difficult for them to get the morning-after pill, because we really don't want them waiting until they've finished their education and made a decent start in life before getting on with making babies.
At least, I think that's the idea. There are two things that matter about emergency contraception. The first is that it is available in emergencies, when other methods have failed, or haven't been given the chance to work.
Such emergencies, I would venture, usually don't arise on a weekday between the hours of 9am and . The second thing is that it works for up to 72 hours after intercourse, but it is more effective the earlier it is taken. A 1998 WHO study found that it worked best in the first 12 hours after sex. After that, its effectiveness declines by the hour.
It seems like a particularly Irish solution to license the morning-after pill, but only to make it available through GPs' surgeries, and by extension to diminish its ability to prevent pregnancy.
Let's not get into Irish solutions to family planning problems: the does not need to get mixed up with the abortion debate. But, since we're on the subject, let me just set the record straight.
The morning-after pill works in three different ways, depending on the time of the cycle and when it is taken: it delays ovulation, alters the transport of sperm along the womb and, in case all else fails, alters the lining of the womb so as to prevent implantation of a fertilised egg – a bit like a combination of the normal pill and the.
Medically and legally, it is not an abortifacient because it acts before implantation. In fact, several studies have shown that the morning-after pill works to reduce abortion rates - including one that attributed half the 11 per cent decline in the abortion rate in the US to the availability of the morning-after pill.
Aside from the ethical issues it has become tangled up with, those opposed to making it available over the counter (coincidentally, in a recent survey, they were the demographic least likely to ever find themselves frantically searching for it: namely the over-50s) appear to feel that if they made it too easy, we silly girls would just keep popping morning-after pills instead of abstaining or organising proper.
Because, of course, who'd want to go to all that trouble when they have available to them a more expensive, less reliable hormone solution that offers the giddying prospect of making them vomit their guts up instead?
The morning-after pill is now available over the counter in 44 countries, including the US, where individual pharmacists have an ethical opt-out.
A recommendation from the Council of Europe that all member states make it available in this way has been adopted in France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain.
In most of these countries, it is classed as a 'non-prescription' drug, which means it is still subject to significant restrictions and usually only available following a consultation with the pharmacist.
According to the British Medical Journal, there has been no increase in its use, and no decline in the use of other forms of contraception since it went on sale without prescription. This suggests that women are continuing to use it as they always have: sensibly and
judiciously. Because to use it otherwise, surely, is not to use it at all.
As long as there are men and women, as long as there are hormones and alcohol, there will be moments of unplanned and unwise passion.
There may even be quite a few of them later this month, when 50,000 students emerge from the fog of the Leaving Cert bristling with pent-up energy and in urgent need of ways to release it.
Of course, we would prefer them not to, and if they really must, we would prefer that they used safer barrier methods of contraception that also offer protection against STDs. But this is the real world, and in the real world, who benefits from us making it more difficult for them to avoid an unplanned pregnancy?
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
June 3, 2008
With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside.
When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe “bad old days.” Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.
I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals.
There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. Yet the patient never told us who did the work, or where and under what conditions it was performed. She was in dire need of our help to complete the process or, as frequently was the case, to correct what damage might have been done.
The patient also did not explain why she had attempted the abortion, and we did not ask. This was a decision she made for herself, and the reasons were hers alone. Yet this much was clear: The woman had put herself at total risk, and literally did not know whether she would live or die.
This, too, was clear: Her desperate need to terminate a pregnancy was the driving force behind the selection of any method available.
The familiar symbol of illegal abortion is the infamous “coat hanger” — which may be the symbol, but is in no way a myth. In my years in New York, several women arrived with a hanger still in place. Whoever put it in — perhaps the patient herself — found it trapped in the cervix and could not remove it.
We did not have ultrasound, CT scans or any of the now accepted radiology techniques. The woman was placed under anesthesia, and as we removed the metal piece we held our breath, because we could not tell whether the hanger had gone through the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Fortunately, in the cases I saw, it had not.
However, not simply coat hangers were used.
Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.
Another method that I did not encounter, but heard about from colleagues in other hospitals, was a soap solution forced through the cervical canal with a syringe. This could cause almost immediate death if a bubble in the solution entered a blood vessel and was transported to the heart.
The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.
It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.
What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.
Waldo L. Fielding was an obstetrician and gynecologist in Boston for 38 years. He is the author of “Pregnancy: The Best State of the Union” (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1971).
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tory MP Nadine Dorries, a former nurse who proposed a 20-week limit, said: "There comes a point when it has to be said this baby has a right to life." But her plan was defeated by 332 votes to 190. A move to bring in a 22-week limit was opposed by 304 votes to 233.
Pro-choice campaigners said there was no scientific evidence to justify a cut in the limit. Government figures showed 193,737 women in England and Wales had an abortion in 2006.
In modern Britain the most dangerous place to be is in your mother's womb. It should be a place of sanctity. Edward Leigh, Conservative MP
The votes followed two impassioned debates on the controversial Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - the biggest shake-up of fertility law for nearly 20 years. Earlier the government saw off another challenge to the bill when MPs rejected a cross-party move for doctors to consider the need for a "father and a mother" before allowing IVF treatment.
Before the abortion debate, Gordon Brown said he would vote for the status quo but Conservative leader David Cameron said he favoured lowering the limit to 22 weeks.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was also expected to vote against a reduction. Health Minister Dawn Primarolo insisted there was no evidence requiring the abortion laws to be changed. She said: "The upper gestational limit for termination of pregnancy was set by Parliament in 1990 at 24 weeks because the scientific evidence of the time was that the threshold of viability had increased and babies were increasingly surviving at 24 weeks and above. "That was the case in 1990 and it's certainly the case now."
But, David Jones, a professor of bio-ethics, said research on the survival rates for extremely premature babies was "disputed". Mrs Dorries said she believed the right of a woman to choose had its limits. She said she reached this decision after seeing the "botched" abortion of a baby boy when she was a gynaecological nurse. "I believe a baby has rights. Those rights kick in if that baby were born it would have a chance of life and if it feels pain as part of the abortion," she said.
'Protect the vulnerable' Ex-minister Edward Leigh, a father-of-six, who pressed for a 12-week limit, said it would bring Britain into line with the rest of Europe.
ENGLAND AND WALES ABORTIONS
Under 9 weeks: 54.9%
9-12 weeks: 34.3%
13-19 weeks: 9.2%
20-24 weeks: 1.5%
ONS figures from 2006
"In modern Britain the most dangerous place to be is in your mother's womb. It should be a place of sanctity," he said. He said "98% of abortions are social - only 1.3% are for foetuses which are handicapped, 0.4% are for risk to mother's life" and added: "It is a bleak picture of modern Britain ...I believe we should give that silent child a voice."
Labour's Claire Curtis-Thomas said she was not opposed to abortion, believing women had the right to choose. But she added: "I can't accept that we keep the limit where it stands where there is a possibility of life. The majority of people are deeply uncomfortable with that prospect."
Labour's Chris McCafferty said restricting when a woman could have a termination "is just prolonging the agony" and was "cruel, cynical, ill-informed and inhumane". "It's a basic misconception that women with an unwanted pregnancy should only enter into the actual decision-making process after counselling with someone they do not know," she said.
HAVE YOUR SAY
This is about a woman having the right to choose what happens to her body Leana, Shropshire Lib Dem
Dr John Pugh said: "There are people in our world today in no way inferior to us in capacity, intelligence and beauty who were born at 22 weeks. That ought to give us cause for reflection."
Earlier a bid to cut the limit to 12 weeks was opposed by 393 votes to 71. A further attempt to get the limit down to 16 weeks was defeated by 387 votes to 84. On Monday night a cross-party attempt to ban hybrid animal embryos was defeated, and a bid to ban "saviour siblings" was voted down by 342 votes to 163.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/05/20 22:59:11 GMT
From Indymedia Ireland:
Doctors For Choice was set up in 2002 by doctors, mainly GPs, who want to contribute to ending the silence around abortion in Ireland. In a new article, published in the current (May) edition of Forum magazine (a publication for GPs in Ireland), a member of Doctors For Choice looks at the issue of silence around abortion and general practice in Ireland today. Click here for PDF.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
* www.lisbontreaty2008.ie (neutral site by the Referendum Commission).
* www.rte.ie/lisbon (neutral site showcasing the views of pro and anti-treaty campaigners).
* www.vote4europe.ie (pro-treaty site by Fianna Fáil).
* www.finegael.ie (links to reasons for a yes vote).
* www.labour.ie/lisbonreformtreaty (pro-treaty).
* www.lisbonvote.com (anti-treaty site by Coir).
* www.libertas.org (anti-treaty).
* www.no2lisbon.ie (anti-treaty site linked to Sinn Féin).
* www.europarl.ie (site contains views on the treaty from various sitting MEPs)
Monday, May 12, 2008
House of Commons
London SW1A 1AA
16 May 2008
Dear Member of Parliament,
I write on behalf of the members of Voice for Choice and the
undersigned organizations with an urgent request for your support on
an issue of great importance to women, especially young women.
As you may know, some Members of Parliament and the anti-abortion
lobby groups have announced their intentions to put amendments to the
1967 Abortion Act so as to make abortion harder for women to access.
These efforts, to be made via the Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Bill, are particularly aimed at lowering the abortion time limit to
under 24 weeks of pregnancy, for all grounds for abortion.
Only 1.45% of all abortions in this country take place at 20–24 weeks
of pregnancy. Why are these abortions late? Some women experience
delays in referral. Some learn of serious fetal abnormality. For most,
the reasons are: not realising they are pregnant, uncertainty about
what to do, continuing bleeding that they think is their period, fear
of parents' or partner's reaction, denial that they are pregnant,
serious changes in personal circumstances, problems such as domestic
violence, and not knowing where to seek help. These women are
disproportionately likely to be adolescents or other vulnerable women.
Lowering the legal time limit for abortion would certainly punish the
women who could no longer access a safe abortion at 20–24 weeks of
pregnancy, but it would not reduce the need for late abortions, a need
which has been shown to exist across Europe and in almost every
country in the world. In countries where the upper time limit for
abortion is lower than in Britain, women are forced to travel abroad
for abortion care or seek illegal services at great emotional and
financial cost. We call on you to prevent this hardship being imposed
on women here.
The proposed anti-abortion amendment is largely based on claims of
changes to fetal viability. However, even for those who believe that
women's rights to abortion should be linked to the gestational age at
which extremely premature babies can survive, the medical and
scientific evidence from the recently published Epicure II study and
other research is unequivocal. The findings show that survival rates
below 24 weeks of pregnancy have not improved since the Abortion Act
was last amended in 1990.
The UK Government, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee,
and medical, nursing and scientific professional bodies have examined
the evidence, and all agree that there is no compelling evidence to
support lowering the abortion time limit.
Please support women in the UK by voting in support of the current
legal time limit on abortion.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Write your TDs and Senators asking them to support the Council of Europe's Resolution on Safe and Legal Abortion!
A Sample Letter to a TD:
Last week, the Council of Europe approved a resolution calling on member states to provide access to safe and legal abortions. The resolution was passed based on a report produced by the Council of Europe's Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men. The report specifically picked out Ireland, along with Andorra, Malta, and Poland, as the only countries in Europe where abortion is not available on request.
As a result of the X Case in 1992, abortion is legally available in Ireland in cases where there is a substantial threat to the life (as opposed to the health) of the mother, though in reality this has neither been legislated for nor tested. In most cases, doctors do not perform abortions in Ireland even in order to save a woman's life, as a result of sexual violence, or in cases of lethal fetal abnormalities, and those women who are able and can afford to are forced to travel abroad. Laws banning abortion are discriminatory because they expose women to increased health risks and undermine women's capacity to make responsible decisions about their lives and their bodies. In the case of Ireland, women who for whatever reason cannot travel abroad to obtain an abortion are forced to have a child they may be ill-equipped to care for. Further, banning access to safe and legal abortion does not prevent it from happening; it only forces it underground, making the decision to obtain an abortion more dangerous and traumatic for women. The Irish Government's continued failure to clarify the X case ruling and legislate for access to safe and legal abortion in Ireland is discriminatory against all women, and particularly disadvantaged women.
The Council of Europe's resolution is in line with international commitments Ireland has already made in relation to the Cairo Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), all of which recognize women's rights to bodily integrity and reproductive choice as human rights.
I urge you and your fellow members of the Dáil to follow the recommendation of the Council of Europe and work to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution (Article 40.3.3) banning abortion in Ireland. I also urge you to provide funds and resources for comprehensive sex education for children, reasonably priced contraception, and free and easily accessible crisis pregnancy counselling that includes all of the options.
A List of Cork TDs and Senators:
Cork East (4 seats)
1. Micheal Ahern (FF)
2. Ned O'Keeffe (FF)
3. David Stanton (FG)
4. Sean Sherlock (Lab)
Cork North Central (4 seats)
1. Billy Kelleher (FF)
2. Noel O'Flynn (FF)
3. Bernard Allen (FG)
4. Kathleen Lynch (Lab)
Cork North West(3 seats)
1. Michael Moynihan (FF)
2. Batt O'Keeffe (FF)
3. Michael Creed (FG)
Cork South Central (5 seats)
1. Michael Martin (FF):
2. Michael McGrath (FF)
3. Simon Coveney (FG)
4. Deirdre Clune (FG) :
5. Ciaran Lynch (Lab)
Cork South West (3 seats)
1. Christy O'Sullivan (FF)
2. Jim O'Keeffe (FG)
3. PJ Sheehan (FG)
1. Peter Callanan (FF)
2. Denis O'Donovan (FF)
3. Paul Bradford (FG)
4. Jerry Buttimer, Jnr (FG)
5. Michael McCarthy (Lab)
6. Dan Boyle (Green)
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Cork Women's Right to Choose Group Welcomes Council of Europe's Call for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion in Europe
In advance of the Council of Europe's session on abortion on 16th April 2008, Cork Women's Right to Choose Group welcomes the report issued by the Council of Europe's Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men calling for access to safe and legal abortions in all European countries.
The Report recommends that European states:
1) Decriminalise abortion if they have not already done so;
2) Guarantee women's effective exercise of their right to abortion and lift restrictions which hinder, de jure or de facto, access to safe abortion;
3) Adopt appropriate sexual and reproductive health strategies, including access of women and men to contraception at a reasonable cost and of a suitable nature for them as well as compulsory relationships and sex education for young people.
The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men specifically picks out Ireland, along with Andorra, Malta, and Poland, as the only countries in Europe where abortion is not available on request.
As a result of the X Case in 1992, abortion is legally available in Ireland in cases where there is a substantial threat to the life (as opposed to the health) of the mother, though in reality this has neither been legislated for nor tested. In most cases, doctors do not perform abortions in Ireland even in order to save a woman's life, as a result of sexual violence, or in cases of lethal fetal abnormalities, and those women who are able and can afford to are forced to travel abroad.
The Report highlights that laws banning abortion are discriminatory because they expose women to increased health risks and undermine women's capacity to make responsible decisions about their lives and their bodies. In the case of Ireland, women who for whatever reason cannot travel abroad to obtain an abortion are forced to have a child they may be ill-equipped to care for. According to the Report, "going through with an unwanted pregnancy can take a heavy toll on women's physical and emotional well-being and that of their families." The Report also exposes the hypocrisy that banning access to safe and legal abortion does not prevent it from happening; it only forces it underground, making the decision to obtain an abortion more dangerous and traumatic for women.
"The Government's continued failure to clarify the X case ruling and legislate for access to safe and legal abortion in Ireland is discriminatory against all women, and particularly disadvantaged women," said Sandra McAvoy, spokesperson for Cork Women's Right to Choose Group.
The Report's recommendations are in line with international commitments Ireland has already made in relation to the Cairo Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), all of which recognize women's rights to bodily integrity and reproductive choice as human rights.
"We urge the Government to follow the recommendations of the Council of Europe and other international organisations and provide access to safe and legal abortion in Ireland by repealing the 8th Amendment to the Constitution (Article 40.3.3) banning abortion in Ireland," Ms. McAvoy said. "In addition, people must have access to proper crisis pregnancy counselling, sex education, and reasonably priced contraception."
We believe that abortion should be treated as a health issue and not as a criminal law matter.
We campaign for all women in Ireland regardless of income, age or culture to have information on and access to the full range of reproductive choices.
➢ Free access to accurate information on all crisis pregnancy options
➢ Legislation regulating information provided by crisis pregnancy agencies
➢ Proper sex education
➢ Free access to multiple forms of contraception including Morning After Pill
➢ Increased support for single and low-income parents and working mothers including access to high-quality, affordable childcare
WE DEMAND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS FOR WOMEN
Abortion is illegal in Ireland based on the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Since abortion was legalised in the United Kingdom in 1967, large numbers of Irish women have been travelling to the UK to obtain safe and legal abortions. Between January 1980 and December 2006, at least 128,300 women were forced to travel to Britain for abortion services. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as others travelled elsewhere and many more were unable to travel at all due to economic and other constraints. The current cost of an abortion in the UK is £710, meaning that the most vulnerable groups in our society can be denied the right to control their fertility. These figures highlight the clear social need for this generally straight-forward medical procedure, which is already availed by thousands of Irish women each year, to be made freely and equally available in Ireland.
A 1983 amendment to the Irish Constitution gave an embryo or foetus a right to life equal to that of the women in whose body it grew. 25 years and multiple human rights violations later, women still cannot access safe and legal abortions in Ireland, even where women are pregnant as a result of rape or incest; face severe health risks from continuing pregnancy; or find that they are carrying a foetus with severe disabilities. Incredibly, it is denied even to those women in the deeply traumatic position of being told that their baby will be stillborn. Such women must either carry their pregnancy to term in Ireland, knowing their baby has died, or travel to Britain for a termination.
Despite having won the right to travel and the right to information about abortion, women in Ireland are still being denied the respect for their rights, life, culture, health, dignity, autonomy and bodily integrity that is guaranteed under international law. This situation cannot continue.
In 2002, another referendum criminalising abortion was defeated by Irish voters. In 2007, the Irish public was shocked when the HSE refused to allow a 17 year-old girl carrying a non-viable foetus to travel to Britain for an abortion. An ESRI/RCSI poll in 2007 found that 64% of the Irish population believes that abortion is permissable in certain circumstances. Clearly, the Irish people want to see change regarding abortion legislation in Ireland. However, the Irish government has continually refused to address the issue of abortion.
Abortion must be freely available and equally accessible to all women who seek it.