REPORT OF THE EXPERT GROUP ON THE JUDGMENT IN A, B AND C V IRELAND

This is the long awaited report, which was initially to be published last June, long before the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar 4 weeks ago.

In chapter 7, the Expert Group weighed advantages and disadvantages of each option, with a view to achieve legal clarity within a practicable system and the over-riding need for speedy action.

Implementation Options

Non-Statutory

• Guidelines

Statutory

  • Regulations – Regulate the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation to empower the Minister for Health to regulate the area by statutory instrument.
  • Legislation Alone – Regulate the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation.
  • Legislation plus Regulations – Regulate the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation, with certain matters left to the Minister for Health to regulate by way of secondary legislation.

The case for Legislation 2012 – Protecting the Life of a Mother, Sister, Daughter.

This issue of legislation has been avoided since 1992. Following the Supreme Court Judgment on the ‘X’ case and  referenda held on the same day as the 1992 General Election, subsequent governments have neglected to legislate for fear of repercussions at the ballot box (the other 2 referenda on abortion took place in 1983 and 2002).

Labour Members of the 27th Dáil elected in 1992 included Brendan Howlin, Joe Costello, Michael D. Higgins, Ruairí Quinn and Róisin Shorthall to name but a few.

Fianna Fáil members of the 27th Dáil also included such household names as Bertie Ahern and Míchael Martin (it’s worth clicking the link just to see him with a full head of hair!)

In 1992, despite an estimated 4,000 women travelling abroad for terminations, it was not an issue high up on the political agenda until February of that year, when the Attorney General sought an injunction against a 14 year old rape victim who was seeking to travel to the U.K for an abortion. The injunction was granted by the High Court, but the decision overturned by the Supreme Court which became know as the ‘X’ case (Kennelly & Ward, 1993, Folens).

There is comprehensive information on the internet so I’ll just add that an IMS poll conducted shortly after the three referenda in November 1992 found that of the people who were asked why they voted no, 48% said they felt the amendments would not rule out abortion, however, the same amount, 48%, voted no because they felt the proposed amendments would not protect the rights of the mother (Kennelly & Ward, 129,1993).

After a case taken in 2005 to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by three women referred to as A, B and C; the ECtHR came to a unanimous decision that there had been a violation of the third applicant’s right under Article 8 of the Convention due to the failure to establish a legal framework to determine whether a woman qualfied for a legal abortion in Ireland.

“The potential impact of the ECtHR judgment in A, B & C v. Ireland on Irish abortion law is that it should result in clarification of the extant laws regarding access to lawful abortions. This is more of a subtle change as opposed to a radical overhaul of the status quo. The most significant implication of this ruling is that it will be increasingly impossible for the Irish government to continue to evade its responsibility to introduce legislation containing guidelines governing the provision of lawful abortions. Certainly Ireland could ignore this ruling, given that the Convention is sub-constitutional. However, the potential political ramifications of failing to do so are that it could jeopardise Ireland’s membership of the Council of Europe. Thus far, Ireland has been a good citizen in terms of complying with previous rulings from the ECtHR. Regulating the existing position regarding the right to a lawful abortion where the mother’s life is at risk would be less controversial than the alternative, that alternative being a Constitutional referendum on whether to liberalise the right to abortion to include health and well being, or indeed socio-economic grounds”. (Daly, p 216, 2011).

References

Daly, B.

‘“Braxton Hick’s” or the Birth of a New Era?
Tracing the Development of Ireland’s Abortion
Laws in Respect of European Court of
Human Rights Jurisprudence’, 2011, European Journal of Health Law.

Kennelly, B. Ward, E. p115, ‘The Abortion Referendums’, 1993, How Ireland Voted 1992, Folens.

Social movement in Ireland

This week the Irish Government painted itself into a very big corner. Normally, in this situation, we are accustomed to a response from the Irish Government somewhere along the lines of; what paint, what corner? with not much more than an impotent whimper from the Irish media. This week however it all changed because the push to legislate for the x-case involve’s a devastated family, the Indian Government and the focus of the world ‘s media.

This story has gone world-wide with articles in every language you could ever google translate. Vigils were held for Savita across the country and internationally, figures for yesterday’s march in Dublin were officially recorded as 6,000, but participants and video footage show the figure to be more like 12,000. A Sinn Féin motion next week in the Dáil will seek answers and legislation which is 20 years overdue, but already the Government  T.D’s are trying to tiptoe across the wet floor; refusing to tackle this issue through cross-party co-operation.

We’ve seen all this before, with government back stepping and making excuses like a wrong turn in Soho, but  this issue also has the potential to open up the debate on social movement in Ireland. We would expect that any liberal democracy worth it’s salt has a healthy, thriving social movement sector, with citizens free to express anger or support for a whole array of issues that affect society; an integral part of the democratic process you might say. But on closer inspection and through some comparison, we soon find that not all democracies facilitate the development of social movement as much as they could.

There are four interchangeable values that describe how a political regime treats social movement; inclusive, exclusive. passively and actively (fig 1).

 

FIG 1

 

Conditions required for the Development of Social Movement in Liberal Democracies

 

 

These terms are all pretty self-explanatory, but to demonstrate;

at the red end of the scale I’ve placed the most unfavourable conditions for social movement; that is, a political regime that is actively exclusive. The UK, particularly during the Thatcher years was and is active in its exclusion of social movement, seeing it as socially costly and a threat to economic efficiency.

Next up the scale we have passively inclusive, the U.S.A. The government itself has little input or support but pluralism allows social movements to develop, form lobby groups, contest elections etc.

A country which is actively inclusive would be Norway. The state does intervene and get  involved in social movements often organising social concerns itself.

The reason why you’ll find passively exclusive at the green end of the scale is because this is a scale showing the most favourable conditions for social movements to grow and develop. In order for that to happen the social movement needs to be independent of government (excluded)  but allowed to develop and find solutions to social issues ( passively excluded). These conditions can be found in Germany and are credited for facilitating the development of contemporary environmentalism achieving a high level of ecological modernization.

So to place Ireland on the scale at present, with government and most media coverage intolerant and dismissive, the type of regime we live with is actively excluding social movement. Already Government T.D’s and some journalists are attacking the Women’s Rights social movement, in particular the action x movement which began over 20 years ago and was highlighted again this week due to tragic circumstances. The story broke in Wednesday’s Irish Times, with a comprehensive account of what had unfolded in an Irish hospital by Savita’s husband. When she pleaded for a termination, she was told this was a catholic country. This was dropped from the Irish media coverage in the following days, excluded in an RTE Six One news report on a piece of audio from Savita’s husband, which was included on the Channel 4 news at 7pm that same evening.

The political regime in this country must change, the way we do things in this country must change, and it won’t happen at the ballot box, as we are so often told. It will and can only happen with you demanding change now.

 

 

“This is a Catholic Country”

One of the most stark quotes from today’s frontpage Irish Times article on the unnecessary suffering and death of 31 year old dentist, Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway last month. There is also an article on The Guardian website , and that’s just the start, search for news items on google and you will find  a comprehensive list of articles from across the globe. Attempts to draw up and enact legislation following a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights was rejected by 111 T.D’s in the Dáil as recently as April this year. 

You will find the link to the bill and who voted which way here. I myself sent an e-mail to each of the T.D’s who rejected the bill (the red list at the end), this morning; attaching a copy of the Irish Times Article. 

Although I most certainly did not vote for any of  the T.D’s on that list, I still feel a responsibility as a citizen of this country to ensure those T.D’s realise the consequences of their actions/inactions and that everytime they walk into that chamber, they have an opportunity to put the wrongs in this country, right.

Rest in Peace Savita Halappanavar, our thoughts are with your family.