Dear Sir... Readers' Views (27/10/16)

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Dear Sir... Readers' Views (27/10/16)

Compassion needed for abortion legislation

Time to air a dirty little Irish secret: in the sixties and seventies the word on the street was that if you were pregnant it was a better idea to go to a Protestant maternity hospital to have your baby. (In Dublin this meant the Rotunda rather than Holles Street). Why? Because in the Protestant hospital they would save you, the mother, ahead of the baby if there was a problem.

Obstetricians have two patients — mother and baby. But occasionally, in urgent cases where both mother and baby might die, a medical intervention will be made that favours one of those lives above the other.

In 1983 the eighth amendment was passed to avoid this choice thus forcing on doctors and their patients an equal right to life of mother and baby during pregnancy.

All hospitals (dealing with pregnant women) have since then had to operate under this fundamentalist belief enshrined in the Irish constitution.

Let’s imagine for a moment that abortion was not legal or available in Ireland, the UK or anywhere in the world. A utopian dream for those on the pro-life side of this debate.

Now imagine you are a woman who finds herself in a crisis pregnancy (for men, if it is too difficult to imagine being a pregnant woman, imagine the situation as if it was your loved one: daughter/wife/girlfriend/sister/mother/friend).

The crisis pregnancy could be any of the following: i) you are 14 and you were raped four weeks ago; ii) you are 55, happily married for 30 years with four grown up children and you recently returned to part-time work. You thought your late period was the start of menopause but when you begin to feel sick you do a test and realise that you must be about 10 weeks pregnant; iv) you are a 17-year-old college student and the condom your boyfriend was using split; v) you already have three children and discover you are nine weeks pregnant; you have just received a cancer diagnosis urgently needing radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Continuing the pregnancy is not advised as it will accelerate the cancer and shorten your life considerably. Treatment will cause severe physical damage to the unborn baby.

What do you do in any of these situations? Should access to a safe abortion in a hospital be permitted in any of these cases?

If continuing the pregnancy was the most traumatic option open to me, I believe I would try to end the pregnancy myself.

How would I do this if the state would not help me to do it legally and safely? Internet drugs? Soapy water through a tube into my uterus? Hot bath and a bottle of gin? Throw myself down the stairs? Hit the lower part of my stomach very hard, repeatedly? Knitting needle?

Yes, horrific, but this is a list of the things that have crossed my mind — and I am aware that trying any of them would also present a serious risk to my own health.

I hope my closest family and friends would help me and I hope that the health system would assist me in avoiding infection or death after the event.

The article referring to the “unborn” should be removed from the Irish Constitution as it is not helping.

The Constitution is not the right place for such complex medical, social and moral issues.

Legislation needs to be enacted with short time limits and freedom for women to choose (without having to pretend they are suicidal) to end their unwanted pregnancies.

In my view 12 weeks is an absolute maximum time frame to consider. It is the natural point at which most women begin to think of their pregnancy as viable.

Almost 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage with the majority of those (80%) occurring during the first 12 weeks.

Life is messy. Driving abortion underground or abroad is not a solution. Our Constitution insists on a conflict of interest regarding the equal right to life of the mother and baby when the fact is that babies in utero are part of the mother by virtue of the umbilical cord. An unborn baby’s life is contingent upon the life of the mother.

In Ireland we have been coerced towards referenda ad infinitum on travel rights, information rights, exceptional cases, etc.

Are we not capable of a compassionate framing of the law to protect women and health professionals in this most complex of questions?

Alison Hackett

Dun Laoghaire

Co Dublin

Give us back our natural resources

Any ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ worth its name should, as a matter of priority, be debating the following question:

Is the State acting contrary to that Common Good, espoused so many times throughout our Constitution, in the area of the privatisation of Ireland’s natural resources?

Denying the public purse ongoing revenues vital to providing basic services for the welfare of the people whilst giving away our valuable natural resources for short-term gain to private ‘enterprise’ for the long-term enrichment of the few has to be in breach of, not only of the principles envisaged by our founding fathers, but of democracy itself.

If the law as it stands allows the State such powers, then it is flawed and must be addressed.

The powers assumed by the State in this area must be challenged in Constitutional Law; the law changed if necessary; and the Constitution amended accordingly.

The very fact that this important issue needs to be addressed at all speaks volumes about the calibre of ‘representatives’ we continue to elect to Dáil Eireann.

Joe Brennan


Co Cork

Define race hate as a criminal offence

I note your continuing constructive editorial and coverage of racist incidents in the Republic.

There is no doubt about the rise of aggravated incidents recorded by the Gárdaí, 151 to mid-2016 as against 119 during the whole of 2015. Of course this is serious and action for a solution is required.

A positive start would be to ensure the definition of types of incidents relate to the reality of the victims perception — though it is recognised that the increases in recorded race hate incidents may now be helped with the changes to the Pulse data base.

Having the appropriate categories is a big step forward but not sufficient without the introduction of supporting structures to arrive at the solution process.

The nub of the problem is that hate crime is not a specified offence under Irish law though it can be taken into account in a trial (Irish Examiner, October 17).

As a practice this is too weak. Hate crime needs to be incorporated into the criminal justice system and defined in law as a specific offence.

Racist behaviour could then be prosecuted through the courts and lead to successful redress for victims.

It would also sent out a clear message that racist abuse/incidents would not be tolerated in the Republic — what better way to demonstrate the principles of 1916 in this commemoration year.

I wrote previously on this matter (Irish Examiner, August 19) and at that time also proposed additional community structures to drive forward the reporting of incidents.

For now it would be a great start if race hate was defined as a criminal offence to encourage and give victims the confidence to report it and support the gárdaí and the courts to help, at the very least, reduce its incidence on a permanent basis.

Tony Walsh




Robbery in Ireland occurs on daily basis

A friend of ours refuses to come to Barcelona to visit us, as he fears being robbed. I tried to reassure him of the likelihood of that happening and added that if he is robbed it will be only once, whereas in Ireland he is being robbed on a daily basis, either by direct route or stealth.

Property tax, car tax, water charges, motor insurance, over charging restaurants, dentists, hairdressers, etc.

He may be robbed in broad daylight if he is not smart enough to conceal his wallet in Barcelona, but he is being mugged here on a regular basis, with his wallet safely tucked into his bureau at home.

And not a Cop to be seen.

Holly Barrett



Appalling figures on waiting lists

Hospital waiting lists are at an all time high. New figures show almost 535,000 are waiting for inpatient, outpatient or day care at the end of September.

It comes as hospitals are braced for another winter of trolley gridlock in emergency departments. This is despite repeated statements by Minister Harris about working to reduce waiting lists.

Lists have in fact increased by 26,000 since he was appointed. This is totally unacceptable. Where is the country’s recovery for 78,696 patients in the queues for surgery waiting 15 months and 18,000 waiting for tests.

In previous years, hospitals were able to tackle the backlog, not anymore. A lack of staff including doctors and nurses will continue to slow down this work in public hospitals while the HSE spend €200 million on agency staff. we need to keep theatres running and cover areas like intensive care units and regular wards as a top priority.

Noel Harrington



Co Cork

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