“legal certainty”, legislation on the X-Case, or women’s right to choose?

Driving in to work this morning Anne and I became increasingly annoyed at the reports on the death of Savita Halappanavar and particularly the continual use of the phrase “we need legal certainty”.

This is because it is quite possible that legislation could be passed that would give “legal certainty” but would still allow women in Savita’s situation to die. The difference being that, using her tragic death as an example, the decision of the doctors not to terminate the pregnancy would have had the full backing of the law instead of there just being the fear that acting would have been breaking the law.

It seems clear to me that where a woman in clear pain and suffering is requesting a particular medical procedure to end that pain and suffering, in this case a termination, she should have that medical procedure carried out. At the very least the criteria should be based on what is best for the health and well-being of the women rather than a judgement on the likelihood of her death. In fact it should go further than that because such a decision should not be the in remit of doctors or anyone else, it must only be the decision of the women herself – and that means women should have the right to choose. The current legal framework denies that right and was the direct cause of Savita’s death – it must be changed.

And in Ireland that means a change to the Constitution to remove Article 40.3.3 which reads – “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

While I would obviously not oppose calls to legislate for the X-Case it is clear that even the most progressive version of such legislation would barely scratch the surface in terms of the real needs of women in Ireland which are for the right to free, legal and safe access to all aspects of the control of their fertility, including abortion – as early as possible, as late as necessary.


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