Sunday, June 23, 2013

Protection of life during pregnancy bill 2013

Our government is currently debating the controversial 'Protection of life during pregnancy bill 2013.' Controversial because for the first time in this county it will legalise the deliberate and intentional taking of an unborn life, as opposed to relying on the principle of double-effect to provide any and all life saving treatment to the mother; and controversial because of its inclusion of the threat of suicide as grounds for an abortion. (You can read the proposed legislation here with notes; but you can pretty much ignore the notes, as they have no legal force; it is only the text of the legislation itself, and the interpretation which the courts may give it, which counts.)

The section dealing with threatened suicide makes interesting reading, part of which I copy below: 

Head 4 Risk of loss of life from self-destruction
Provide that 
(1) It is not an offence to carry out a medical procedure, in accordance with this head, in the course of which or as a result of which unborn human life is ended, where –
(a)that procedure is carried out by a registered medical practitioner at an appropriate location, 
(b)one obstetrician/gynaecologist, who must be employed at that location, and two psychiatrists, both of whom shall be employed at a centre which is registered by the Mental Health Commission, and one of whom shall be attached to an institution where such a procedure is carried out, in accordance with this head, jointly certified 
in good faith that –
(i) there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the pregnant woman’s life by way of self-destruction, and 
(ii) in their reasonable opinion this risk can be averted only by that medical procedure.

Now, it occurs to me on reading this that the bill says that an unborn human life can only be ended where 'there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the pregnant woman’s life by way of self-destruction' and it is the reasonable opinion, made in good faith, by one obstetrician/gynaecologist and two psychiatrists that the risk can be averted only by the ending of the unborn life (& from the plain reading of the text it would seem that all three must be ad idem on this). As the expert testimony put forward at the public hearings on this matter was that there was no evidence whatsover that suicidal ideation could be treated by an abortion, the logical conclusion is that there can be no good faith, reasonable opinion supportive of abortion proffered by any medical professional in any case where their opinion is sought. 

Can we be assured then that the Minister, in keeping with his statements during the Dail debate on this bill, will use his powers to suspend 'services' in any institution that seeks to abuse the legislation by offering abortions on such a basis? This is, after all, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill; and during any pregnancy there is more than one life to be protected. Or are the ministers words nothing but blarney; and this section of the bill will be used to justify a regime of de facto abortion on the demand, just as the section of the UK's 1967 Abortion Act dealing with a woman's mental health (here) has been used? I pray for the former, but very much fear the latter if this Bill is passed.


  1. Rabbi Levi, you and I both know that this is a ridiculous over simplification of the issues under consideration. Either you have not the slightest clue on the topic which you presume to pontificate hereupon (which I doubt), or you are deliberately manipulating the information in order to confuse and mislead your readers. This latter has been a tactic employed by various religious 'authorities' on this subject. Frankly, I find it dishonest.

    "The people of God," some of whom may be your readers, deserve much better than to be stupefied by rhetoric. Rather each person ought to be entrusted with the full body of the facts and allowed to arrive freely at their own fully informed decision. What have we to fear from the truth? We both know the reality of the threat of suicide in Ireland, and we both know the role that the Churches have played in this horrific reality. Is it not time that we cut the emotive and manipulative language and sought something much better for everyone in the discussion?

    Jason Michael McCann

  2. Brother Jason,
    in my post I make no claim to being all encompassing, but I do argue what I consider to be the facts of one aspect of the issue currently under debate in this country. I thank you for your comments, but do not think they address any of the points I actually raise in the post.
    God bless,

    1. Well allow me to remind you of how what I commented upon does in fact address your post. You wrote, and I quote, "As the expert testimony put forward at the public hearings on this matter was that there was no evidence whatsover [sic] that suicidal ideation could be treated by an abortion." From this you move forward to discuss "logical" conclusions. In my reply I noted that we were both aware of the reality of the threat of suicide in Ireland. This had nothing to do with what you wrote? So be it. Then, let us consider your use of logic in speaking of the lack of evidence in the opinion of experts. The only logical conclusion that may be reached from this statement is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Perhaps we studied Philosophy and Formal Logic in different places? From these dubious conclusions you move on swiftly to a pronouncement on the impossibility of professional bona fides. Would you be so kind as to explain this thinking in more detail?

  3. Jason,
    'the reality of the threat of suicide' - which is a huge problem in Ireland - has no connection with the abortion debate, which has as part of it the completely separate issue of what is called suicidal ideation in pregnancy.

    As to absence of evidence not being evidence of absence, it sounds as if you are conceding that there is no evidence ... and I think legislation that intends to deprive someone of their constitutional right to life under the constitution needs to be evidence based.

  4. The very moment that suicide becomes part of the abortion discussion in Ireland the threat of suicide in Ireland becomes germane. It puzzles me why you cannot accept this. As to my concessions, I am more than content to concede (I never asserted otherwise) that there may indeed be an absence of evidence. This changes nothing. That there is no empirical evidence that I will die does not remove my certainty that in time I shall.
    While the potential life of the "un-born" has rights under the Irish and other secular state constitutions, such must be weighed in the ethical debate in a field of competing rights. Pregnant women take their own lives not infrequently, you do know this, and pregnancy does play its part in many of these tragedies. When the 'life' of the "un-born" poses a real and immediate threat to the living and lived life of the already-born woman then there is real space for a discussion. I do not quite understand why you are fudging this and acting as though what I am saying is irrelevant. I have read over the whole thread a number of times and I seem to be making sense. Maybe my own intellect has suffered some catastrophic damage.

  5. Hi Jason,
    we'll have to leave it there as it doesn't appear to be going anywhere. You believe one thing on this, I another. Happily for you, the government agrees with your position, so this is likely to become the law of the land ... unless the government TDs forgo the whip ... we'll see.