Dr. Ruth Cullen, The Irish Times, 5th March 2012
OPINION: TWO DECADES have passed since the Supreme Court ruled on the tragic X case.
The teenage girl at the centre of that case found herself in a horrific situation, and the Irish people’s overriding feeling at the time was one of immense sympathy for her.
Tragically, however, the decision of the Supreme Court seemed to be that, in order to show care for the girl, article 40.3.3, introduced specifically to protect the unborn child, had to be interpreted to allow abortion.
Over the last 20 years, there has been quite an amount of legal and political commentary on the ruling.
However, the evidence, or rather the lack of evidence, upon which the ruling was grounded has received less scrutiny.
The court decided that Ireland’s pro-life amendment permitted legal abortion in circumstances where there was “a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother”.
It further ruled that these circumstances included the threat of suicide.
However, the court heard no medical evidence on the question of whether abortion protected women from suicide. And increasingly, we are seeing medical research demonstrating that far from protecting women from suicide, abortion increases the risk that women will suffer grave mental health problems.
For example, the widely publicised Finnish study, which appeared in the European Journal of Public Health, showed that there was a significantly increased risk of suicide among women who had abortions.
They were six times more likely to commit suicide compared with those who had their babies.
Research carried out recently by Dr David Fergusson in New Zealand and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that, compared to other women, there was a 30 per cent greater risk of mental health complications among women who had abortions.
This research undercuts the rationale at the very heart of the X case ruling, a rationale for which there had been little basis in the first place.
The Supreme Court also failed to hear evidence showing that Ireland is the safest place in the world for women to give birth.
Sadly, and alarmingly, politicians seeking to legalise abortion are inexcusably ignoring this fact even today. The TDs who introduced a private members’ Bill on abortion a fortnight ago have attempted to create the impression that pregnant women in Ireland are being denied medical treatment because of the lack of available abortion.
However, they are wilfully ignoring the evidence of UN statistics which show Ireland as a world leader in terms of maternal mortality.
What has been missing from this debate are the voices of women who regret their abortions.
Five years after the X case, Ireland was confronted with yet another traumatising abortion court case, the C case.
This involved a young girl who was pregnant as a result of rape. The High Court decided that it was in the best interests of the girl to permit the then Eastern Health Board, who had taken the girl into care, to take her to England for an abortion.
But in an interview in 2009 the woman at the centre of the case said that her abortion caused great pain and sorrow.
Her story and the stories of many other women who regret their abortions have been effectively silenced.
For too long they have been ignored and in some cases dismissed by those, such as the National Women’s Council, who claim to speak for all women.
The group recently appointed by the Government to examine Irish law on abortion, must take these stories into account, as well as the reality that Ireland is the safest country in the world in which to be pregnant.
It might also look at what happens in countries where abortion is made legal.
In the US, abortionist Dr Kermit Gosnell was recently charged with killing seven born babies and a 41-year-old woman on whom he had performed an abortion.
One of Gosnell’s victims, Robyn Reid, said that when she heard he had been charged with killing viable babies with scissors and giving a woman a lethal dose of painkillers, she felt sick.
“I didn’t know that he was such a monster doing this to everyone,” Reid said.
“I didn’t think it’d happened to somebody else. I thought it was just me.”
Stories like this and the recent revelations from Britain about abortionists performing sex-selective abortions reveal the full implications of what legal abortion entails.
Fine Gael gave clear commitments at the last election that “women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments in pregnancy are necessary to safeguard their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld”.
Public opinion backs this stance.
When people have the distinction between necessary medical interventions during pregnancy and induced abortion made clear to them, in poll after poll, they reject abortion.
Twenty years after the X case, the Irish people deserve to hear the full story about abortion.