Pro Life Campaign calls for Guidelines to protect mothers and babies in pregnancy
X case legislation would lead to wide-ranging abortion
Remarks by Caroline Simons, Legal Consultant to the Pro Life Campaign,
Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2, 27th November 2012
The events of recent weeks have brought home to us all that, regardless of where one stands on the issue of abortion, everyone is in agreement that women in pregnancy should continue to receive all necessary medical treatment. Where there is disagreement is that some are using the occasion to campaign for an abortion regime in Ireland.
None of the options in the Expert Group’s Report explicitly sets out a particular way of safeguarding the lives of both mother and baby in pregnancy. This was apparently on the basis that the Group interpreted its terms of reference as requiring it to advise “on how to give effect to existing constitutional provisions.” It is clear from the term of reference No 3 that no such limitation in fact applied to the Group. The Chairman in his Preface states ”it is absolutely not our business to decide political controversies.” This is correct, because it is ultimately a matter for the people whose range of options is not limited to those contained in this report.
The most important option, not contained in the report, is to reverse the Supreme Court decision of 1992, which would allow for abortion up to birth. If people do not want to introduce such an abortion regime in this country, this is the only political option and it has to be confronted.
What the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in A, B & C v. Ireland requires is not abortion but clarity for women in pregnancy regarding medical treatment needed to safeguard their lives. This clarity can be provided in a number of ways.
The simplest way is for there to be an accessible procedure drawn up by the relevant bodies of medical expertise.
These guidelines can explain the underlying principles of medical care in Ireland and in particular that women in pregnancy should receive all essential medical treatment needed to safeguard their lives even where this unavoidably results in the death of the baby, but where the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby as far as practicable is also upheld.
Opinion polls that distinguish between abortion and essential medical treatment consistently show a substantial majority support such medical treatment but oppose the introduction of induced abortion. The general public gets this distinction, and supports the excellence of Irish medical practice based on it, which has produced Ireland’s world-leading record of safety in protecting the lives of women during pregnancy.
The Pro Life Campaign will strongly oppose any attempt to introduce abortion along the lines of the X case ruling. The X case is being presented by those who support abortion as very restrictive. The reality is that the X case does not provide for a duty of care to preserve the life of the baby in the course of medical interventions to safeguard the life of the mother. In addition, the X case heard no medical evidence and current medical research, far from confirming that abortion helps women with mental health problems, has failed to find any benefit to women from abortion, and indeed many peer-reviewed studies suggest it exposes significant numbers of women to negative after-effects.
A calm debate is needed, but above all, an honest one, based on an acknowledgement of the equal value of all human lives. We must also face the fact that if Ireland were to go down the road of legalising abortion along the lines of the X case, we will end up with situations like that in England where babies who survive abortion and are able to breathe unaided are left in a corner without any medical care to die of exposure. This horrific reality must form part of the discussion we are having at present on abortion.
The Pro Life Campaign believes that the clarity needed for Ireland’s response to the European Court of Human Rights’ decision in A, B & C v. Ireland can be achieved without the introduction of abortion.