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Eighth did not impact reproductive rights

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone’s speech to the 2017 Kennedy Summer School referred on numerous occasions to a “Republic of Equals”, a “Republic of Opportunity”.

She stated: “... a genuine ‘Republic of Opportunity’ cannot happen unless we ensure equality and fairness for all. To achieve a ‘Republic of Equals’ there are challenges which must be met. My belief in equality is also central to my approach to childcare. “Equality is a rich and complex
concept.”

The Life Equality (Eighth) Amendment Article 40.3.3 of our Constitution states: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

This same minister took advantage of the great honour bestowed upon her, at being invited to open the special 2017 Kennedy Summer School, and the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, to unashamedly campaign for the repeal of the Eighth, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the people of Ireland on a margin of 2 to 1, in the relatively recent referendum of 1982.

She argues the repeal is about “reproductive rights” for all women.

The only right the Eighth acknowledges is the right to life of the unborn child; it does not remove any rights.

The minister failed in her speech to define what she meant by “reproductive rights” or how the Life Equality Amendment adversely impacts on a woman’s “reproductive rights”.

Which “reproductive rights” are currently denied to women by the Life Equality Amendment? Does it deny women access to sexual intercourse?

Does it deny access to birth control, either chemical or natural?

Does it deny a woman who becomes pregnant being denied any medication by virtue of her pregnancy?

The Irish Medical Council Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners, 7th Edition 2009, Clause 21.4 states: “In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.”

This clearly indicates that a pregnant woman could not be denied any medical treatment for her medical condition during her pregnancy, even if such treatment could harm or indeed result in the unfortunate demise of her unborn child. The import of this is that the objective of the required treatment is to ensure that the mother receives whatever medical treatment her condition requires. The difference in a procured abortion is that the mother receives no medical treatment because the objective is the direct demise of her preborn child.

The addition of the Life Equality Amendment to our Constitution simply granted a right to life to a vulnerable section of our society and did not adversely impact any ‘reproductive rights’ of a woman, as claimed by the minister.

So why is the minister for children so intent on repealing the Life Equality Amendment? The only objective it would achieve, would be the removal of a right from our Constitution for a very vulnerable section of society, the pre-born child. In what civilised society has a basic constitutional right ever been removed from a legitimate Constitution such as ours?

If this minister succeeds in getting her way, and the Life Equality Amendment is repealed, the pre-born child is denuded of any protective rights under our Constitution. Why would a minister for children want to remove the most basic of rights, that to life itself, from pre-born children for whom she has a responsibility?

The only conclusion one can draw from her speech is that she is intent on Ireland abandoning its long-held tradition of the protection for all in our Constitution, including pre-born children.

How does this minister then square her ideology, a Republic of Equals, with the grandiose statements?

John Mullins

Chairperson County Wexford Pro-life
Crescent Mall
Wexford

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