Jewish view on abortion prioritises the mother’s life
Alison Hackett raises many interesting points in her letter (‘Compassion needed for abortion legislation’, Irish Examiner, October 27).
While I, as an orthodox Jew, do not want to criticise Christian theology, our religious perspective on abortion, which is based on the same Biblical texts, may be of interest to readers.
Where we differ from the Christian tradition is our belief that, coterminous with the original revelation at Sinai, we received instructions as to how the written text should be interpreted. These instructions were passed on orally and form the basis of Talmudic law.
Based on the exegesis of Genesis 9.6, we accept that causing an abortion is a crime, though, from Exodus 21.20-25, we deduce that it is distinct from, and less severe than, murder. This leads logically to the conclusion that the potential for life of a foetus is not legally equivalent to the life of the mother.
We also deduce, from Leviticus 18.5, that preserving human life is paramount and supersedes other divine commandments.
(All these exegeses depend on a close reading of the original Hebrew, which may be lost in translation). Furthermore, this is extended, based on Deuteronomy 22.25-27, to permitting the killing of a ‘pursuer’, someone intent on murder or rape, to prevent them from committing that crime, provided there is no alternative available.
Our oral tradition teaches that, during the birth process, the child has the status of such a ‘pursuer’ and we must do whatever is necessary to save the mother’s life, even at the expense of the as yet unborn child. This is understood to include where the pregnancy might lead to her committing suicide (Alison Hackett’s first and fourth scenarios) or having some fatal medical condition (her fifth scenario).
The latter might permit performing an abortion, especially if the foetus could not be independently viable.
Finally, according to our oral tradition, pregnancy is only legally established 40 days after conception (about eight weeks after the last period), so any procedure prior to this is deemed not to be an abortion at all. This corresponds to a woman’s self-perception that her period is late, rather than that she is pregnant at all (her second scenario).
Obviously, every situation is fraught with ethical dilemmas, and each one has to be judged on its particular circumstances, yet I believe the above principles give sufficient latitude to deal with most cases and are “capable of a compassionate framing of the law to protect women and health professionals in this most complex of questions”.
Unsolicited mail attracts burglars
In response to the ‘Lock up, Light up’ campaign to deter burglars, people should have a legal right to opt out of unsolicited mail being delivered to their house and to prevent sales people calling to their doors, just as they can opt out of telephone cold calls under data protection.
This would incude all flyers, advertising material, and charity collections, sales people calling, etc. These unwanted advertisements, and other material, are often left hanging out of letterboxes, telling opportunistic criminals there is no-one home.
These materials are sometimes delivered by criminals as markers for other criminals.
Sales staff should have the skills to understand that their material is not wanted and homeowners should have the right not to have their letterboxes made a portal for unwanted junk.
In the UK, a scheme makes it a criminal offence for a trader to ignore your request to leave your home and not to return, if you have a notice to this effect see http://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/30/trading_standards/1410/doorstep_sellerscallers/5.
I have suggested to the Law Reform Commision that this country should have a similar scheme, maybe in conjunction with gardai, and covering all sales and the delivery of all unwanted junk mail, etc.
I think it should be an offence to ignore a notice on a door that says ‘No Unsolicitated Deliveries Or Sales Callers’.
Solar is our best nuclear alternative
As the co-chair of Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA), I was delighted to read the Irish Examiner’s editorial calling for the installation of solar panels in all new houses, as part of the strategy to increase energy security (Irish Examiner, October 25). I agree about the hypocrisy of importing UK nuclear energy through our interconnectors with Britain. But, like our sister organisation in the UK, we vigorously challenge the case made for new nuclear build, and particularly object to the impact on Ireland of proposed Irish Sea coast nuclear sites at Hinkley Point, Wylfa, and Sellafield Moorside.
Irish renewable energy policy has expanded rapidly in recent years, but it has been too narrowly focused on wind. There is huge potential for solar energy in Ireland, and the Government should grasp the opportunity with both hands and run with it.
A similar ‘feed-in’ tariff system, pioneered in Germany, and followed by the UK, has boosted solar power in both countries from small bases to being a core part of their energy mix. It was not just houses (new and existing) that benefited, but solar was put on many civic and public buildings by local authorities.
Local government can be key to delivering decentralised energy, if it is free to do so.
There is no real reason our county councils cannot, like councils in Nottingham, Bristol, and Edinburgh, in the UK, establish energy supply companies (ESCOs) to generate and sell energy, and put any profits back into helping those most affected by fuel poverty. It is a safe investment with a predictable return, perfect for highly prudential organisations, such as local authorities, and for contributing to problematic pension reserves.
Shortly, NFLA is publishing reports on the UK decentralised energy revolution and how Ireland could, and should, do likewise.
I agree with your challenge to Ministers Denis Naughten and Simon Coveney. I am confident that councils like Louth, where we have established a dedicated, multi-disciplinary renewable energy unit, would be willing to support them, if they advocated such policies.
Let’s get on with building energy security together.
Heuston bosses should take note
May I thank the four people who contributed coins to pay for my parking ticket at a dark-and-wet Heuston Station, one early morning last week, as I rushed to catch a train. Why don’t the parking machines there take notes? I intend to make a donation to Senior Helpline, in lieu.
Information on sinking of HMS Wasp
I am researching the sinking of the gunboat, HMS Wasp, in September, 1884, off Tory Island, Co Donegal, with the loss of 52 sailors. Those whose bodies were recovered are buried in graveyards from Malin Head to Glencolmcille. Some were identified and others not. My research leads me to believe that three Cork men were on board:
John Buckley, signaller, Aghada, Co. Cork, born in 1865 (body recovered); David Flynn, stoker, Ballymore, Co Cork, born 1834 (body recovered), and John W. Kerrigan, gunner, Saleen, Co Cork, born 1852.
Should anyone have any knowledge of the above, or were related to them, I would welcome communication.
The Wasp was originally stationed at Queenstown (Cobh).
I can wait longer to be rid of Indaver
On reading your editorial (“Unacceptable — Incinerator decision delayed”, Irish Examiner, October 26), I was overcome with remorse. I am one of those who caused the delay to which you refer. I owe an apology.
Along with 112 others from the community around Cork Harbour, I gave evidence to the 17-day An Bord Pleanála oral hearing on the Indaver proposal. We gave 113 different, but related, reasons why the incinerator proposal should be rejected.
We questioned the Indaver witnesses in detail and exposed the many fatal deficiencies in their proposal. We gave the An Bord Pleanála inspector a mountain of evidence to sift through, in compiling his report, and a multitude of issues that had to be explored and judged, so that the final report to the board would represent fairly the evidence of the hearing.
I’m not surprised this task has taken the inspector five months, so far, and that the report has not yet gone before the board.
I don’t think it is fair to conclude that “these delays ... hardly suggest an efficient planning culture”. The inspector has a mammoth task before him, and I hope, and trust, that the time it has taken reflects a careful and thorough approach to the work.
I hope that these months of scrutiny will lead the inspector to the recommendation that the evidence demands an emphatic refusal of permission, and that this recommendation will be upheld by the board. We have waited 15 years to get rid of Indaver, and we can wait a little longer. What matters is not that the decision is made quickly, but that it is done right.
Name Munster HQ after Anthony Foley
A truly fitting, and lasting, memory to Anthony Foley would be the naming of the Munster HQ, at the University of Limerick, in his honour.