Last Saturday thousands of people took to the Irish capital in protest of the restrictive abortion laws in the country. The controversial topic is still top priority in the news this week as the Government debate on possible legislation following the untimely and unnecessary death of Ms. Savita Halappanavar.
Much of this was discussed in tonight’s Private Members’ Business brought forward by Sinn Fein in a motion calling to legislate on 1992 X Case ruling. First up to speak was Mary Lou McDonald (SF) who after sending condolences to the Halappanavar family (as all speakers did prior to individual speeches) called for the ‘modest’ proposal to legislate in order to protect pregnant women when their lives are in danger. She commented on the failure of this Government and successive ones to act.
Following her speech Gerry Adams (SF) confirmed that Sinn Fein was not in favour of abortion, but maintained that there was a necessity for legal clarity and a demand for the safety of women in care. Adams also denied Sinn Fein were being opportunistic in its motion. Dessie Ellis (SF) recounted the tragic events of Sheila Hodgers, another woman whose death in 1983 is the result an attempt to protect the foetus first. Martin Ferris (SF), among other things, pointed out that ‘the option of not doing anything is not available anymore’.
James Reilly, Minister for Health (FG) was quick to dismiss claims that Ireland is not a safe country for pregnant women stating that the HSE and HIQA aim and have succeeded in providing adequate care to all patients. He also assured that in the event of something going wrong it is part of the policy to query and investigate the causes behind them. Kathleen Lynch (LAB) was also at hand appealing for calm in the situation and that a rushed solution could lead to bigger problems. Whereas, Ciara Conway (LAB) challenged Sinn Fein to examine their own inaction of the issue particularly in the North, where they have the power to enact the UK Abortion Laws and have failed to do so.
Much was discussed of the Health Service Executive Inquiry team – and the fact that three of its initial members were staff of the Galway University Hospital in which Ms. Halappanavar died – leaving Michael McGrath (FF) to concede that the very inquiry could hit a wall if Mr. Praveen Halappanavar’s wishes are not met. Mr. Halappanavar is said to be against cooperating with the HSE and wants a full public inquiry into his wife’s death.
Today Mr. Halappanavar, husband to Savita, told media that he has no Faith in the HSE.
So where does this leave us? Nothing was said here that the media haven’t printed before. The story shows no signs of slowing down, and with the next protest taking place tomorrow, and Reilly’s expert group findings to be published on 27 Nov, legislation looks imminent.
Previous governments have avoided the issue.
Ms. Halappanavar was presented to Galway University Hospital on the week of 21 Oct complaining of back pain. She is reported to have experienced a miscarriage and was refused an abortion on the numerous times she requested one. She died later that week.
A third protest will be held outside the Dail tomorrow evening 21 Nov at 6pm.