The Government acted on its commitment in the programme for Government to establish an expert group on the judgment in the A, B and C case. The expert group published its report only shortly after an unfortunate young woman passed away in a Galway hospital. I welcome the Government’s commitment to make a decision before the Christmas recess on what action it will propose to take on foot of the report. I also welcome the decision by the Joint Committee on Health and Children to hold public hearings into the issue. It will be important that the committee ensures all sides are afforded an opportunity to speak and be heard.
Abortion divides society and has been a major political issue for the past 30 years. The 1983 referendum on the eighth amendment to the Constitution was only the second campaign in which I became involved. I was also involved in a long and bitter strike at the time. During the campaign, posters were put up on my housing estate and I recall explaining to people in the area that the amendment was in my view wrong. On the evening of the vote, I was in my sitting room when a neighbour knocked on my door and asked whether I could give her a lift to the polling station, which was some distance from my home. I agreed to drop her to the polling station and within ten or 15 minutes of my return, five or six more neighbours, mainly women, had called to my home asking for a lift. I recall that it was not a particularly nice evening. It emerged in the course of our conversations that the husbands of the women had refused to drive them to the polling station because they were not happy with their wives’ voting intentions. This incident had a major effect on me.
The reason I stated that men should perhaps shut up in this debate is that I find it difficult to stomach listening to men articulate a position on an issue that affects women and their health. Society has come far in recent years. For the remainder of the time I lived on the housing estate in question, I had the label of “abortionist” hanging over me. The term was used in my presence to describe me, although I am as pro-life as anyone else. Given that people have deeply held positions on abortion, we must respect the feelings and convictions of others on this issue. At one stage, it was dangerous to be a progressive voice in this country.
Thousands of women who must leave Ireland and travel to England for abortions do not receive any recognition. They are hidden members of our families and society – in my view society is our family. If we are truly caring, we must accept that these women experience torment as they travel alone and endure an abortion before returning and hiding their experience from their families. Many of these women cannot sit down over a cup of tea and discuss this traumatic event in their lives.
It is time we allowed women to make decisions about their own health. I believe every Member of the House will try to show consideration for the deeply held beliefs of others. Fulfilling our responsibility to legislate will be a difficult challenge because Members will come under extreme pressure. However, the least the House can do is legislate for the outcome of the X case.There is no appetite to revisit this matter time and again. We must deal with the X case, but that is only the beginning and the Dáil must take a further step and address other issues, for example, rape, incest et
Copyright Kevin Humphreys 2013