Last Tuesday 30 April, Irish Government Fine Gael, published a Heads of Bill which they call the ‘Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act’, where if passed, abortion would be permitted when the woman is thought to be in danger, including when she claims to be suicidal.
The abortion bill was brought forward in response to the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died last October during a miscarriage. The 31 year old was 17 weeks pregnant when complications occurred, and after having requested and been denied an abortion, she died four days later from septicemia.
Rebecca Rougheen, spokeswoman for Youth Defence, Ireland’s leading Pro Life organisation, speaks to Aleteia about the proposed legislation and the Pro-Life response to it.
“This Act would for the first time in Ireland, allow for the direct and intentional killing of the unborn child, if a woman says she is suicidal” Rougheen explains. “This is hugely problematic, not only for medical practitioners in Ireland, but also for the Psychiatrists who will be asked to assess these women.”
Under such legislation, the woman claiming to be suicidal would be subject to three consultants, who must all agree that the abortion be done. The woman may also appeal to another three consultants if the initial trio does not approve.
The psychiatrists themselves have expressed grave concerns about the legislation. “Dr Brophy of the Irish Association of Suicidology has reported that the State will be asking psychiatrists to take part in an unworkable process, whereby they will be in a ‘hiding to nothing’ situation – i.e. damned if they do, and damned if they don’t” quotes Rougheen, and “all of the psychiatric experts called to give evidence at the recent Oireachtas hearings agreed that abortion is never considered a treatment for suicidality” she adds.
So how is the general public reacting to this controversial bill? “Fine Gael have gone back on the promise that they made prior to the General Election in 2011, where they assured voters that they would not legalise abortion in Ireland.” Rougheen states. “I believe the political fall out for Fine gael will be enormous; at this moment we have collected more than 50,000 signatures from voters saying they will never vote for Fine Gael again if they legalise abortion. This is an issue that will never be forgotten by the Irish people.”
According to Rougheen, the public are generally against this new abortion bill “their desire to protect mothers and babies is something that is firmly rooted in the Irish psyche” she explains. “An opinion poll conducted in February this year showed that 81% of people support the current situation where doctors act to treat both mother and baby during pregnancy, and that 77% of people support constitutional protection for the unborn that prohibits abortion but allows for the continuation of the existing practice of intervention to save a mother’s life in accordance with Irish medical ethics.”
abortion on demand
“At the moment, it appears that abortion will be allowed on suicide grounds through all nine months of pregnancy” Rougheen explains, “Much of the Irish public are extremely concerned about this, as we are aware that such legislation has led to abortion on demand in other jurisdictions.”
She mentions the tragic situation in Great Britain, where the 1967 abortion Act was deemed to be ‘restrictive’, and it’s advocates maintained that there would be very few abortions because of it’s restrictive grounds. Yet today “over 200,000 abortions are performed each year…last year alone, over 97% were performed on mental health grounds” she states, and “even it’s architect, Lord David Steele, years later said ‘I never envisioned there would be so many abortions.’”
So what have Youth Defence been doing in response to the abortion bill?
They have pulled out all the stops. “We have undertaken massive public awareness drives, nationwide advertising campaigns and mobilising more than 2,000 pro-life volunteers around the country” Rougheen states. “The message that Youth Defence wishes to convey to the public is that abortion is never necessary to save a mother’s life, and that here in Ireland, we are safer without abortion.”
She continues “doctors do their utmost to treat both mother and baby, and our doctors are actually obliged to intervene in pregnancy in order to treat women for any illness, even if that treatment results in the death of the baby as a tragic side effect. This is very different from abortion, which we know is the direct and intentional killing of an unborn baby.”
When asked what she expects the results of the bill to be, she replied that “because Fine Gael is in government with the Labour Party, whose leader Eamon Gilmore favours abortion based on the British Model, they are likely not to allow a free vote on the legislation in order to pass it.”
However Rougheen is still hopeful, as she and her colleagues devote their time to educating and encouraging the public to speak up on the abortion issue. “We want to see something like the Medical Council Guidelines implemented in law” she says “to provide our doctors with any necessary clarity so that they can continue to treat both mothers and babies.”
In asking Rougheen on action that Christians around the world could take, she replies “Now is the time to speak up about abortion. Talk to your your family, friends, public representatives. It’s never too late to get involved. Join your local pro-life group and help educate the public on abortion so we can change hearts and minds against it.” She continues “the truth and the scientific evidence is on our side, as well as love and compassion for women in unexpected pregnancies or difficult situations, or those that are suffering after abortion.”
Lastly, Rougheen reflects gravely: “I believe that one day, humanity will look back on abortion and see it for what it is, the greatest injustice of our time.” She thus urges us “stand up for life, now. Don’t wait. Don’t be in the position in a few years of regretting your inaction, or your silence.”