Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has told the Irish Parliament that the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, is expected to publish abortion regulations this Friday.
The guidelines are intended to provide assistance to obstetricians and psychiatrists as they try to steer their way through the medical minefield created by last year’s Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act 2013.
Prolife commentators have pointed out on numerous occasions that the Guidelines themselves are a further indication of how little this Government cares about the need to ensure best medical practice is maintained in Ireland. While the Act itself came into force on 1st January 2014, the Guidelines have been held off until now, a full nine months later (that’s providing they do actually appear on Friday; Irish media sources have suggested that they were on their way previously, only to be proven wrong).
Even supporters of the Act have found it difficult to reconcile the fact that the Guidelines have been so long in the drafting, given the seriousness of the issue. When questioned in January, the then-Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly, shifted the blame onto the Institute for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (IOG). This led to the Chairman of the IOG making a public statement to the effect that this was not correct, and that the Guidelines were being devised by a working group set up by Dr. Reilly’s own Department of Health. This now appears to be correct, because Minister Varadkar has taken over the running of the Department of Health since he assumed the position of Minister for Health following the cabinet re-shuffle in July of this year.
For prolife voters, this situation regarding the Guidelines has only added insult to injury. When this legislation was being considered last year, the Government ignored all of the expert evidence that showed that abortion is never a treatment for suicide and may in fact increase the risk of suicide in certain cases. Politicians were not allowed to have a free vote on this most sensitive and personal of issues; instead they were browbeaten by the leadership who expelled those brave few who adhered to medical evidence and voted against its implementation.
And now we discover that the Minister for Health, who himself refused to debate the legislation in any real way last year, was still looking elsewhere for answers in January, when his comments merited correction by the IOG.
The real problem with these regulations however, is that they cannot undo the damage that was done last year by the passing of the legislation. They cannot remove the suicide clause for example, which means that we are still left with the situation where abortion is legal in Ireland for the full nine months of pregnancy if the woman in question is suffering from suicidal ideation – something which cannot be classed as “treatment” in any way as it goes completely against every last piece of medical evidence, both in Ireland and abroad.
We have only very recently witnessed a tragic example of how dangerous this legislation is. A pregnant woman suffering from suicidal tendencies requested an abortion under the Act but due to the fact that she was 25 weeks pregnant, the obstetrician appointed to her case decided that an early delivery should take place instead. The baby was then delivered – at such a premature stage that he/she was at serious risk of brain damage, blindness or even death.
And it gets worse. As shocking as this baby’s predicament remains, he/she is lucky to be alive at all. The obstetrician could just as easily have decided that the woman was entitled to an abortion – even though there is no medical evidence to show that an abortion treats suicide ideation in any way. There is nothing in the Act requiring a baby to be born even if he/she has reached viability.
This is the horrific reality of the Irish Government’s new abortion Act. Despite their best efforts to conceal it from the Irish public, the brutal inhumanity of what is allowed is becoming very clear. That inhumanity will not be improved by the Government’s regulations, regardless of what they say.
The only way to restore compassion and care for all human beings, born and unborn, in Ireland, is to act according to medical evidence. The Government must now take account of its past mistakes and repeal this terrible Act so that full legal and medical protection for women and their babies can be restored.