From the Archives

Abortion and the Privacy Debate

Abortion isn’t just a medical debate it is also a privacy debate. The right for a woman to have the privacy to make decisions that, in her judgement, are the best for her and for her family. We are forgetting that the ‘pro-life’ side does not mention the fact that a woman should be trusted to make her own decisions.

When I started studying law, I came across a book detailing the whole story of the X case in my college library. As a nerdy student that loved current affairs and remembered the X case as a child, it was a must read on my list even though my course work didn’t require it to be read at that stage. Lost in the middle of library aisle, I shed a tear for the poor young girl who had to have the most horrific moment of her life played out amongst the media and those who felt that they knew better than her as to her future and her body. The fact that the girl, who had travelled to England for necessary medical treatment, told her parents that she felt like throwing herself under a train rather than to travel back was shocking. To say that this country is good to its women and children is a farce. Noel Browne was hounded by the Church and powers that be to stall the passage of the Mother and Child Act. The same state that placed its unwanted in locked barbarous institutions to afford privacy to its own stains, wished to play out this tragedy in the highest court of the land. This is same country that cannot get its act together to bring forward a bill to give constitutional rights to children.

The privacy aspect of abortion first came from America in the form of Roe v. Wade. Then the contraception case of McGee v. Attorney General put the fear of God into the ‘pro life’ groups that Ireland would soon face its own abortion/privacy battle. In 1983, the constitutional article was inserted into the constitution. However since X and the raft of cases which followed, there has been an acceptance that abortion may be necessary to protect the life of the mother. However, it is a black mark on all parties that have held power in Ireland since, including the current, who have not recognised the rights that are already in the constitution and have not legislated accordingly. In fact, it is an undemocratic move by the institutions of democracy, namely the Legislature and Executive to disrespect the judiciary, as an equal branch of government and guardians of the Constitution, who have stuck to the same message on the life of the mother where her life is in danger, the citizens who rejected the attempts to remove the grounds in such cases and, moreover, the women who are the victims of the lack of leadership to pass the needed legislation.

Abortion is a fact in Ireland; we pass the burden to another country to deal with the problems that we are not responsible enough to face up to. Dragging out the ‘harlot’ argument of using abortion as contraception is irresponsible and degrading to women. The fact is that rape occurs in this country and has very low reporting rate. Contraception can fail; even the best form of protection has a 99.8% effectiveness rate. Until the Irish state grows up and allows women the privacy they need to be respected to make their own decisions, the abortion debate will mark out the country as an immature nation.