Legislating for X is not enough – we must repeal the 1983 amendment

by Michael Nugent on November 21, 2012

Legislating for the X case is needed. It is more than twenty years overdue. But there is a danger that it will be portrayed as having resolved what the Government may be tempted to see as a short-term crisis.

Let’s focus on what we are actually talking about here.

Legislating to allow a doctor in a hospital to save the life of a woman who is in danger of dying is the absolute, rock-bottom, minimal level of ethical expectations that we should have of even a semi-civilized parliament.

It is astonishing that we even have to discuss this.

It shows how desensitized the public discourse has become to the suffering of women with unwanted pregnancies, that the media debate focuses almost exclusively on those women whose suffering is so grave that their lives are at risk.

And even at that, much of the public discourse is about the impact that the law has on doctors, and how doctors might fear the impact on their career, rather than on the suffering of the women whose lives are at risk.

Some ghouls from the anti-choice campaign seem to delight in the idea that Savita might possibly have died from something unrelated to the doctors refusing to give her the abortion she requested.

But, even before Savita died, it was already disgraceful that she was made to suffer, in pain and agony, for several days, with a dying foetus inside her body, in a hospital in a modern first-world democracy, where she could have legitimately expected that the medical staff would seek to maximise her health and wellbeing.

Instead, because of Ireland’s ongoing obsession with the theological status of ‘the unborn’, which is such an ill-defined concept that it features in our Constitution as an adjective unattached to any noun, Savita’s health was sacrificed for no sensible reason at all.

That Savita lost her life was appalling. But it was already disgraceful how she had been treated by doctors in a modern hospital. Just as it is continually disgraceful that we allow twelve women a day to travel for abortions to England instead of addressing reality here.

When a high profile case emerges, and we see an actual person rather than a theoretical debate, the Irish people show compassion and know the right thing to do. But then we forget about it until another high profile case forces its way into our ethical awareness.

Legislating for X is needed. It is more than twenty years overdue. But it must be the start of a campaign to repeal the 1983 anti-choice amendment to our Constitution.

Like many other people, I believe that a pregnant woman should have the right to decide what happens inside her body.

If ethical dilemmas arise in vindicating that right, we should deal with them on the basis of empathy, compassion, reason, human rights and democracy.

And we can not allow our compassion and reason to remain shackled by having supernaturally-inspired dogma enshrined in our Constitution.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aileen Treacy November 21, 2012 at 12:23 am

I’m in complete agreement, The so called pro-life brigade are not interested in the life of unborn children, they are concerned with insuring that women who have sex suffer consequences, if they were truly concerned with a fertilized ovum because it has a soul, then they would be endevouring to do something about the fact that (I’m told) two thirds of fertilized ovum are flushed away before implanting on the uterus wall. By any logic These also have souls… don’t they???? The so called pro-life crowd are concerned with a biblical image of women as subservient and vessels for a mans seed, they fear and hate anything that might allow a woman autonomy over her own life and future.

2 Robert Tobin November 21, 2012 at 1:17 am

The time is well overdue when the Roman Catholic Church is told to mind it’s own business in Ireland. The Australian Government has set up a Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in the community. It will look at all caring facilities but the Roman Catholic Church will be in big trouble.

3 Herschel Cain November 21, 2012 at 5:41 am

Completely agree, the 1983 amendment should go, but even with that amendment’s provision in place I struggle to understand the actions of the medical staff in Savita’s case. It doesn’t appear to me that they showed ‘due regard for the equal right to life of the mother’.

@Aileen, I read recently that its estimated to be somewhere approaching 50% of *all* pregnancies that naturally miscarry. Obviously, numbers are hard to be certain about because many occur without the woman’s knowledge, and of those that are aware most don’t report it. Either way, we can assume that the percentage is large and that all of these ‘potential’ humans have been specifically created by the will of God (at least in the minds of those with such intense interest in the contents of human wombs). At 50% that works out to almost 68 million ‘potential’ humans that God implants souls into every year, teasing them with the prospect of an earthly existence only to snatch it away again.

Add that to the still horrendous mortality rates for under 5’s and I think those on the god side of the argument have a long way to go to convince anyone on the rational side that ‘their man’ gives a flying shit about the ‘unborn’. Or perhaps now that he’s not getting so many sacrificial goats as he used to, he’s being pro-active and taking zygotes.

4 Gary November 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

“if they were truly concerned with a fertilized ovum because it has a soul, then they would be endevouring to do something about the fact that (I’m told) two thirds of fertilized ovum are flushed away before implanting on the uterus wall.”

The issue for them is not the ovum/embryo dying, but the fact that a human being CAUSED it to die. In the same way that animal rights protestors object to hunting (by humans), but have no problem with one animal hunting another in the wild.

5 Clare November 22, 2012 at 12:02 am

Comparing natural miscarriage to abortion is like comparing natural death to bloody murder. Not many people diminish the moral wrong of bloody murder since, after all, some people drop dead anyway.

6 Laauraa December 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm

There is actually an apetmtt to define personhood of an ovum within a broad time frame that could include a period of time within which the egg might be fertilized but without requiring evidence that the egg has been actually fertilized, thus allowing legal regulation of a woman’s actions as potentially murderous without direct evidence that she is even pregnant; all legislative apetmtts have failed to date, but the sheer irrationality of these legislative apetmtts persists.

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