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Elsewhere

Existential issue

One of the most deeply divisive issues in Irish society was recently reignited when the Irish Parliament began debate on a bill that would provide for limited access to abortion.
In the 20 years since the Supreme Court’s decision in the “X Case,” successive governments have shied away from enacting the legislation needed to carry out the order.

The proposed measure would provide “for termination of pregnancy where a real and substantial risk to the life of the pregnant woman exists.”

But in this conservative and Catholic nation, sentiment against abortion runs strong, and over the past few months anti-abortion groups have been pressuring politicians to oppose the bill, and are confident it will be defeated.

The X Case arose when a 14-year-old girl, known as X to protect her identity, told her mother that she was having suicidal thoughts after she was raped by a neighbour and had become pregnant. The family planned to travel with her to England for an abortion because of the ban in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

While awaiting departure, the family asked the Irish police if DNA from the aborted fetus would be admissible as evidence in any future prosecution of the perpetrator.

The police then informed the attorney general of the girl’s intention to have an abortion, and he refused her the right to travel on the basis that abortion was repugnant to the Irish Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled against the injunction on the basis of there being “a real and substantial risk” to her life.

Although it later emerged that the young girl had had a miscarriage, the public voted in a referendum arising from the case to pass two of three proposed amendments to Ireland’s Constitution.

In essence, the revisions allowed citizens to leave Ireland to have an abortion and declared it legal to distribute information about abortion services abroad. The amendment that was rejected would have disallowed abortion in Ireland for women who were suicidal because of pregnancy.

NYTSF

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