Monday 21 May 2007

Babies, Storks and the Academic Dishonesty of the Anti-Choice Lobby

A recent advertisement circulated in Irish print media by the anti-choice group, “Pro Life Campaign”, is a striking example of the manipulative and unethical tactics the anti-choice lobby are willing to embrace. The ad, spotted originally by Choice Ireland in the Dundalk Democrat, encourages citizens not to give their vote to parties that have given a commitment to introduce abortion legislation. It founds this request on the claim that, “Support for abortion ignores the dignity and humanity of the unborn child and the most recent findings showing the negative effects of abortion on women (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, January 2006).”

The above citation to the reputable Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry is an obvious attempt to create an impression of academic and scientific support for the oft-cited (but scientifically insupportable) anti-choice assertion that abortion “has negative effects on women”. In fact a basic examination of the article cited merely demonstrates the extent to which the anti-choice agenda are willing to misrepresent facts and embrace academic dishonesty in an effort to garner support for their agenda.

The first point to be made here is that the journal article is mis-referenced and misrepresented at the most basic level. The article in question makes no reference to the notion that “abortion ignores the dignity and humanity of the unborn child”. Neither does the article find “negative effects of abortion on women”.

What the journal article does say is, “The findings suggest that abortion in young women may be associated with increased risks of mental health problems" (Fergusson et al, 2006, 16). The important word here is "associated". This is not the same as "showing the negative effects of abortion on women". What it specifically means is that the authors found a statistically significant relationship (at the Alpha level of below .05) between having an abortion and the presence of the specific mental health indicators they looked for. That by no means indicates or provides evidence for cause. Only correlation. This is a subtle but vital difference.

In order to elucidate the vital distinction between correlation and causation, statisticians often cite the following example. If you examine the records of the city of Copenhagen for the decade following World War II, you will find a strong positive correlation between the annual number of storks nesting in the city, and the annual number of human babies born in the city. Jump too quickly to the assumption of a causal relationship, and you will find yourself saddled with the conclusion either that storks bring babies or that babies bring storks.

In fact what you have here is a situation where the two variables (or things) being examined are correlated (or associated), not because one is causing the other, but rather because both are influenced by a third variable, that is not being taken into account. During the decade following World War II, the populations of most western European cities steadily grew as a result of migrations from surrounding rural areas. Additionally this was the post-war baby boom era. Copenhagen is also home to annually fluctuating numbers of storks. As population increased, there were more people to have babies, and therefore more babies were born. Also as population increased, there was more building construction to accommodate it, which in turn provided more nesting places for storks; hence increasing numbers of storks.

The findings of this research cannot be used to assert causation, only correlation. Abortion does not cause mental problems, it is "associated" or "correlated" with it. The study itself goes into the limitation of this in the discussion section. What it means methodologically is that, while confounding factors were taken into account (third factors that might influence the results), there is the possibility that other confounding factors which were not controlled for have not been taken into account and the association is a result of a third factor. Pointedly, the research did not control for existing psychiatric illness. It is quite possible that this, or any other factor not controlled for is creating a “confounding” association similar to the one between babies and storks.

The research itself also suffers from a variety of methodological problems which impose very serious limitations on the already weak finding that, “abortion in young women may be associated with increased risks of mental health problems”. Indeed the word “may” in this sentence already indicates the extent to which this is an unfounded hypothetical possibility, rather than a definitive evidence based reality.

Perhaps the most striking limitation to this research is the fact that it was conduced in New Zealand. In New Zealand, the provision of abortion is determined by the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, 1977.The Act requires that certain criteria are met before allowing a woman to undergo an abortion. In order to have an abortion in New Zealand, two certifying consultants must agree: 1) that the pregnancy would seriously harm the life, physical or mental health of the woman or baby; or 2) that the pregnancy is the result of incest; or 3) that the woman is severely mentally handicapped. An abortion will also be considered on the basis of age, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape. Given the implications of these criteria in terms of the mental health of women who are allowed to have an abortion in New Zealand, it is hardly surprising that the study should find some association between women with negative mental health indicators and abortion. Given the circumstances in which the pregnancy must take place, the presence of negative mental health indicators is almost required to have an abortion in New Zealand.

This is by no means the only methodological problem. Importantly, the sample of people that was used for the research may have been biased since it does not match the real population in New Zealand. Specifically the people that were sampled had a lower reported rate of abortion compared to the real population. We would always expect some difference in terms of populations, however as the study itself points out, this difference was statistically significant, (Fergusson et al, 2006, 17). This poses serious problems in terms of the validity of the research since certain types of people may be more likely to admit to having had an abortion. If this is so, the sample will be biased and the results may be invalid.

Another profoundly serious problem, which the article itself points out, is that the research took no account of the role of contextual factors. As the article itself makes patent, " It is clear that the decision to seek (or not seek) an abortion following pregnancy is likely to involve a complex process relating to: a) the extent to which the pregnancy is seen as wanted; b) the extent of family and partner support for seeking or not seeking an abortion; c) the woman's experiences in seeking and obtaining an abortion. It is possible, therefore, that the apparent associations between abortion and mental health found in this study may not reflect the traumatic effects of abortion per se but rather other factors which are associated with the process of seeking and obtaining an abortion. For example, it could be proposed that our results reflect the effects of unwanted pregnancy on mental health rather than the effects of abortion per se on mental health.” (Emphasis added, Fergusson et al, 2006, 22)

Owing to these limitations the real conclusions of the report are as follows:

"On the basis of the current study, it is our view that the issue of whether or not abortion has harmful effects on mental health remains to be fully resolved." (Fergusson et al, 2006, 23)

"Notwithstanding the reservations and limitations above, the present research raises the possibility that for some young women, exposure to abortion is a traumatic life event which increases longer-term susceptibility to common mental disorders.” (Emphasis added. Fergusson et al, 2006, 23)

"These findings are inconsistent with the current consensus on the psychological effects of abortion.”

The findings of this research are indeed out of step with the current consensus on the psychological effects of abortion. This is most likely due to the profound methodological limitations of the research as discussed above. In fact there has been much research on this issue and the consensus is that there is no link between abortion and psychological harm to women. The highly reputable and prestigious American Psychological Association outlined this in their 2005 statement on abortion. It concluded that “well designed studies of psychological responses following abortion have consistently shown that risk of psychological harm is low … the percentage of women who experience clinically relevant distress is small and appears to be no greater than in general samples of women of reproductive age” (American Psychological Association, 2005)."

This is not to deny that abortion is a difficult event for many women. Abortion is a hard choice for all women and one, which no woman chooses lightly. But for some women it is their choice. And with quality counselling to explore their decision prior to making it, it is a choice they rarely regret (IFPA, 2000).

What can be particularly traumatic for women in Ireland facing crisis pregnancy, is the fact that they are forced overseas to avail of an abortion. As women in crisis pregnancy in Ireland are exported abroad the reality of their situation and the decisions they must face are blatantly denied and their choice stigmatised in a way that can only compound the anxiety of a crisis pregnancy. Moreover women who choose an abortion are faced with the enormous financial burden incurred from travelling abroad. A statement by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist is particularly salient in this regard. “Only a small minority of women experience any long term psychological squeal after abortion. Early distress, although common, is usually a continuation of symptoms present before the abortion. Conversely, long lasting, negative effects on both mothers and their children are reported where abortion has been denied.” (Royal College Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2000).

If those who maintain the anti-choice agenda are truly concerned about the psychological welfare of women they might examine the academic consensus on the issue instead of misrepresenting it. Each year between 6000 and 7000 women from Ireland travel to Britain for an abortion. Abortion is a choice women will continue to make. It is also a right that they must be allowed to exercise over their own bodies. It is the absence of abortion rights in Ireland, which is damaging to the psychological well being of women.

The anti-choice lobby claims to be interested in the psychological well being of women and in reducing the numbers of abortions. This interest will not be served by misrepresenting academic research or by manipulating women. Neither will it be aided by denying women their right to an abortion in Ireland and compounding the crisis of their pregnancy. It will be served through legislation legalising free abortion; the introduction of adequate sex education programs; an end to the stigma surrounding sex and abortion; free and accessible contraception and the introduction of real supports for women who choose to go through with their pregnancies. If the anti-choice lobby are truly interested in the psychological well-being of women and reducing the numbers of abortions, the reality is that they would be better served turning their energies towards these issues.

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Ah, the joys of knowing that you're always right

Ah, the joys of knowing that you're always right

by Ian O'Doherty,

One of the interesting scabs reopened by the Ms D debate has been the bafflement felt by many people at the utter refusal of some religious people to even consider the possibility that it might actually be a kindness - rather than a mere convenience - to terminate the pregnancy of a foetus which will be ultimately born without a brain.

An interesting example of this mentality arrived in the ISpy inbox yesterday, and sat there smugly until it was eventually opened. And these are its words of wisdom: "Isn't more natural to let nature take its course? Who knows, the child might not be as badly affected as the medics predict."But even if the child is going to die, then after the natural term, he or she will die naturally without the recourse of some 'surgeon' tearing it to pieces limb from limb... how sick is that. Women have the right to be protected from abortion, as have their children."Since when does killing innocent and defenceless children become merely an option, a choice? God have mercy on us all."

And these are interesting points, so let's deal with them. Should we just let nature take its course?Applying that logic, the last Pope would have been dead 10 years sooner had his medical team not done so much to stop nature taking its course.

And as for "protecting women from abortion", the last time any of us heard a man talking about protecting women from making their own decisions came from the Taliban. Not that there's much difference between that lot and some of the more excitable fundamentalists in this country.

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Choice Ireland calls for no more “X” “C” or “D” Cases

Choice Ireland commends today's verdict in favour of “Miss D”s right to travel for an abortion. Nevertheless we are appalled by the treatment “Miss D” has received at the hands of our state. It is unacceptable that yet another woman has been dragged through the courts in order to vindicate her rights and her choice. It is also unacceptable that “Miss D” will now be forced overseas in order to exercise her choice to have an abortion.

Today is not a joyful day for Miss D. While she has finally gained the right to exercise her choice, she had to go through a lot to get to this point. She now has to face into the reality of an abortion. She must do this overseas away from the support of family and friends. She must then return to this country which, because it ignores the problem, has no proper free post-abortion care or counselling available. This is the situation for thousands of Irish women.

The abortion issue must be resolved. Without legislation to clarify the ambiguous legal position with regard to abortion, women like “Miss D” (as Miss “X” and Miss “C” before her) will continue to be dragged through the courts. Meanwhile due to the State's failure to face the reality of tragic crisis pregnancy, 17 Irish women a day have the anguish of their situation compounded by the financial and emotional burden of being forced overseas for an abortion. The current position represents a "head in the sand" approach to a reality faced by thousands of women in Ireland each year and is incompatible with any notion of respect for women.

Choice Ireland are today calling for no more "X", "C" or "D" cases, for the repeal of the 8th amendment and for free, safe and legal abortion to be made available in Ireland.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

D Case Verdict Expected Tomorrow - Choice Ireland Member Opinion Piece

The high court is due to decide Miss D's fate tomorrow (Wednesday 9th of May) at 2pm. Pro-choice rally in support of Miss D outside the Four Courts from 1.30pm.

There was a counter-demonstration of anti-choice extremists present at Monday's rally, see

Miss D has said she is glad of everyone's support. She bravely walked past the callously-displayed anti-abortion placards saying, "I don't care what they think".

Their presence on Monday just shows who the "pro-lifers" really are: anti-woman extremists, who think that even a foetus that will not live has an equal right to life as a young woman. It shows that even in the most straight-forward cases of the need for abortion, one can never argue logic with these people. No sane person could countenance forcing Miss D to go through with the trauma of pregnancy and birth when she clearly wants her agony to end.

The people of Ireland are far-and-away supportive of Miss D. Though some of them don't know it, the people of Ireland are far-and-away Pro-Choice. They know, as Choice Ireland knows, that abortion is a terrible thing to have to go through. It is a terrible choice to have to make. But sometimes it is the only choice. And, given proper access to impartial information and counselling, only the woman involved can decide when she needs to have an abortion. No-one, neither church nor state, has the right to interfere.

Long after they should have disappeared into the woodwork, the anti-choice element continues to make its presence felt in Ireland. They are seen with their gruesome placards on our streets, they are disproportionately active in the letters columns of our newspapers. They are present here and there throughout society in the guise of the social worker who would report Miss D to the gardai, the homeless-worker who would kick women out of hostels for having condoms, the teacher who would show young people pro-foetus bloodied propaganda and the pregnancy “counsellor” who would lie to young women about the process and after-effects of abortion. But though these people have a big voice, they have a small following. They are religious, anti-sex, anti-contraceptive, anti-choice fundamentalists. Let us hope their voice begins to be heard in Ireland for what it really is, and ignored.

Miss D has made her choice. Let her be. Let her go.

We in Choice Ireland are saddened that this case had to come to pass. Let there be no more cases like this. Let us stop exporting the problems of our young women. Let us stop traumatising and stigmatising them. We have already enshrined the "right to travel" for abortions in our constitution. Now let us break free from the pervasive influence of religious fanatics, let us end the hypocrisy and see that Irish women have the "right not to travel" for abortions.

Free, safe, legal abortions in Ireland now.

Saturday 5 May 2007

Rally in Support of Miss D

There were about 150 people in attendance at the rally at the GPO today to support Miss D.

Audio and pictures:

Her case continues at a special sitting of the high court on Monday (7th May).

Come along to the Four Courts from 10.30am to show your support.

Alliance for Choice Calls for Immediate Resolution of "D" Case

At a rally in Dublin today, pro-choice groups called for the immediate resolution of the "D" case. This young woman has been subjected to the stress and anxiety of court appearances and legal arguments at a time when she should have been supported by the HSE and state, not further traumatized. It is truly outrageous that this vulnerable young woman should have been forced to ask the courts for the right to terminate a pregnancy that can, at best, result in the birth of a child with no possibility of life.

The HSE must retract their callous approach to D's tragic case and facilitate her choice for a termination. She cannot afford any further delay and the Irish people will not thank the HSE or the government for again brutalising a young woman in their name.

Following on from the X and C cases in the 1990s, legislation dealing with the issue of abortion was promised, but even after the people rejected the Government's 2002 attempt to roll back the X judgement even that minimal protection has not been underpinned by law. WHile the near total ban on abortion in Ireland does not prevent most women from seeking abortions, it does result in increased delay, expense, unnecessary hardship and stigma for those women who face particular barriers to accessing services abroad, such as women living in poverty, young women, migrant and asylum-seeking women, and all those in the direct care or control of the State.

Doctors for Choice Advocate Safe and Legal Abortion

PRESS RELEASE from Doctors for Choice

In the current case Miss D should be offered a termination of pregnancy in a publicly funded Irish obstetric unit.

'This would ensure that she receives local medical and social care, with the necessary follow-up of post mortem, genetic counselling and psychological support as is appropriate' siad Dr Mary Favier of Doctors for Choice.

'It is clear that there has been support from Irish obstetricians for this course of action. In 2002, two of the Masters of the Dublin maternity hospitals acknowledged that they would prefer to see termination of pregnancy offered in Ireland, to women who are affected by fatal foetal anomaly' she added.

Ireland has the second hightest rate of neural tube defects in the world. Anencephaly is an abnormal development of the brain and skull which occurs during the first weeks of pregnancy. The upper part of the brain and its protective skull are missing and the lower part of the brain and the base of the skull are not properly formed.

Doctors for Choice have said that it is time to end the political hypocrisy surrounding the matter of abortion and women's health care in this country. We call on leaders of all political parties to respond to our statement that Miss D be offered a termination of pregnancy.

Psychologists for Choice Urge Compassionate Response for Miss D

PRESS RELEASE from Psychologists for Choice

Psychologists for Choice have said that Miss D should be given a compassionate response to her present traumatic condition, and that Miss D should have the right to have a ternmination of her pregnancy in Ireland should she so wish.

'We are extremely concerned for this young vulnerable and extremely brave woman. It should be abundantly clear that this woman should be afforded the respect to let her make her own decision to obtain an abortion, and that this should be available to her abroad or in Ireland should she so wish, and publicly funded by the HSE' said Dr Geraldine Moane, spokesperson of Psychologists for Choice.

Last year, at the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of D v Ireland, Government lawyers accepted that Irish law might actually permit abortion of foetuses that suffer from letahl abnormalities.

D was an Irishwoman forced to travel to Britain for an abortion of twins, one of whom was dead and the other was suffering from a genetic condition, which meant that it could not live more than a few days after birth.

In 2002, Deirdre De Barra, in a similar case, challenged the Government and the Catholic Church. In her letter to the Irish Times on February 24th 2002, she wrote-'I want to hear the response of the Taoiseach(Prime Minister), the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), the Attorney General, Cadinal Connell, to this specific aspect of the issue of the unborn. On behalf of other women and families who have suffered, I want to know this issue will be prioritised, addressed and resolved between the legislature and the medical profession.'

There was no response.

'The extent of political hypocrisy around the issue of abortion has been a scandal for 15 years since the X Case in 1992' added Dr Geraldine Moane.

Dr Geraldine Moane is spokesperson of Psychologists for Choice, an organisation campaigning for safe and legal abortion in Ireland.

Friday 4 May 2007

Founding Documents

These are the founding documents of Choice Ireland. Full text can also be found at
If you wish to contact us or become involved or go on our mailing list contact us:


Guiding Principles

We Are a Feminist Organisation
We See Reproductive Freedom as a Critical Element of Women’s Liberation
We Recognise that Reproductive Freedom is Multi-Faceted and we Seek to Ensure a Woman’s Freedom to Pursue ALL Reproductive Choices
We Will Promote Education to Empower Women to Take Charge of their Fertility
The Right to Bodily Integrity
No Affiliation to Parties Seeking Political Power
Resistance to Hard-Line Anti-Choice Fanatics
Solidarity with Like-Minded Pro-Choice Groups and Feminist Organisations
International Solidarity

What Do We Want?

Free Access to Accurate Information on All Crisis Pregnancy Options
Legislation Regulating Information Provided by Crisis-Pregnancy Centres
Immediate Legislation for the X and C Cases
Proper Sex-Education
Free Access to Multiple Forms of Contraception Including the Morning-After Pill
Free and Legal Abortion on Demand
High-Quality Post-Abortion Care
End to Stigma Surrounding Abortion
Practical Support for Women Seeking Abortion
End to Stigma Surrounding Sexual Health and Contraceptive Needs
Increased Support for Single and Low-Income Parents
Increased Protection for Working Mothers
Free Access to Quality Childcare
End to Stigma Surrounding Single Parenthood
Choice in the Method of Childbirth
Creation of More Feminist Health Centres


Guiding Principles

We are a Feminist Organisation

We proudly declare ourselves to be a feminist organisation. We reject the negative connotations that have been attached to feminism in recent years (mainly by its enemies). We call for all women who share our aims and principles to reassert ownership of the word.

We See Reproductive Freedom as a Critical Element of Women’s Liberation

Closing in on forty years past what could be called the ‘hey-day’ of the ‘women’s liberation’ movement, women’s lives are still defined and constrained by limitations on their reproductive choices which are both enforced by the coercive power of the state and imposed by predominant social paradigms concerning a woman’s ‘appropriate’ role. We find these limitations to be unacceptable. Although we realize that eliminating the current restrictions surrounding reproductive choice is not a panacea – women’s liberation is bound up in much more than reproductive capacity – we see this issue as being of fundamental significance in that larger struggle.

We Recognise that Reproductive Freedom is Multi-Faceted and we Seek to Ensure a Woman’s Freedom to Pursue ALL Reproductive Choices

We believe that it is the fundamental right of every woman to decide for herself whether and when to bear children. Any interference with this decision is unacceptable.

We aim to ensure that all women have the power to make conscious and well-informed choices regarding all aspects of their sexual and reproductive lives and to make such choices without fear of shame, alienation, or economic distress.

We are committed to supporting women in whatever reproductive choice they make.

We will Promote Education to Empower Women to take Charge of their Fertility

It is inherent to the concept of freedom of choice that not only is the full range of choices available to women, but women are fully informed about those choices. We believe that knowledge is power. As such, we will promote education of women about their health, contraceptive and reproductive options.

We support a woman’s choice to say ‘no’. The right to reproductive choice begins with the right to give or deny consent to sexual activity. Women must be empowered to make this decision freely and without undue pressure. Church-supported ‘abstinence campaigns’ are inadequate for this purpose because they do not locate the issue in its proper context – a woman’s right to control her own body.

Men must also be educated to understand the reasons why a woman may withhold consent and above all to respect that decision – at whatever stage, in whatever kind of relationship it occurs.

The Right to Bodily Integrity

The new ‘foetal rights’ movement limits the freedom of not only pregnant women but increasingly even of potentially-pregnant women of childbearing age. There are alarming reports from other countries of women being prosecuted for failing to meet particular behavioural standards during pregnancy. Women who have already given birth are also at risk from the threat to bodily integrity: in Ireland last year a woman’s right to refuse medical treatment was denied on the basis of her status as a mother.

This is a particular concern in view of the imminent Constitutional referendum to prioritise the ‘best interests of the child’. It is imperative that such an amendment does not provide a vehicle by which women’s bodies can be further subjugated to a reactionary agenda.

No Affiliation to Parties Seeking Political Power

Choice Ireland is non-party political and will remain that way. We will not risk being co-opted or having our principles compromised for the sake of political power or electoral gain. We also want to gain the widest possible support from the pro-choice left and this can only be achieved through complete independence.

Individual members may retain their own personal party affiliation. However, we are determined to ensure that no one political organisation takes de facto control of the group.

Resistance to Hard-Line Anti-Choice Fanatics

The anti-choice movement as pushed and funded in Irish society is primarily a religious one. It goes hand-in-hand with an anti-contraceptive, anti-sex education homophobic position. Many people holding this inflexible viewpoint have positions of power and influence over the young and the vulnerable through charitable, educational and governmental institutions eg. homeless shelters, schools, hospitals and social services. They can use their positions (and resources) to promote an anti-contraception, anti-choice agenda, while pro-choice workers are silent or silenced.

We call for people to recognise this destructive hard-line influence of the catholic church and to see that they have the right to resist it. We will support self-organisation of workers around the issue of choice eg. Doctors and Social Workers for Choice.

Solidarity with Like-minded Pro-choice Groups and Feminist Organisations

We are not seeking to reinvent the wheel. Our aim is to complement and add to the work already being done by organisations with similar or compatible goals. We will work with them, ask for their support and offer ours in return. This includes supporting organisations seeking the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to the North of Ireland.

International Solidarity

Our primary focus at this time is on women in Ireland. Nevertheless we remain interested in the larger structures of power facilitating the continuing oppression of women globally. In particular we express solidarity with women of the Global South who pay a unique price for the detrimental effects of capitalist and neo-liberal economic policies implemented to position certain places in the world beneath others. We seek to better inform ourselves about intersections of oppression, to increase our understanding of the way ‘gender’ functions in our societies, and to realise the possibility for a non-exploitative global community founded on mutual respect.

What do we Want?

Free Access to Accurate Information on all Crisis Pregnancy Options

Women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation have an absolute right to know exactly what options are available to them, and to hear the full facts about each option, presented in an unbiased and non-judgmental way. This right must not depend upon a woman’s age, income, area of residence, ability to travel, marital status, immigration status, sexual orientation or any other qualification.

Legislation Regulating Information Provided by Crisis Pregnancy Centres

At present, regulations exist for those crisis pregnancy centres that are funded by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency. However, anybody who wishes to set themselves up as an independent ‘crisis pregnancy centre’ is free to do so without regulation. The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has explicitly ruled out any change to this position.

As a consequence, fanatical anti-abortionists have been able to set up ‘rogue agencies’ such as the one operating at 50 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin 1, which advertise themselves under misleading names such as ‘A Choice For Women’ and ‘British Alternatives’ in order to attract women seeking abortions. These women are then subjected to false and psychologically traumatising misinformation about the abortion procedure.

Legislation is clearly needed to ensure that all crisis pregnancy centres operate within an agreed acceptable framework, with rogue agencies to be shut down and their operators subject to prosecution.

Immediate Legislation for the X and C Cases

It is now 15 years since the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is legal in the case of a threat to a woman’s life (including by suicide) and ten years since the subsequent C case. The Government has refused to put these decisions on a firm statutory footing. It should do so without delay. Legislation also needs to be put in place to prevent the occurrence of another case like Miss D’s.

Proper Sex-Education

Young people have the right to be properly informed about the workings of their own bodies. Growing up in a sex-obsessed society, with the pressures of the media, they must have independent open forums to discuss and learn about sexuality, sexual health, contraception and also boundaries and consent. Sex education should not just discuss heterosexual relations. Sex education must be brought beyond the mechanical and into the emotional. It is in their first forays into sexual experience that young people may become the victims of the sexual power imbalances inherent in our society. Young people must be empowered to make their own choices regarding their health and reproductive freedom. It is not enough to know how a condom works, you also need to know how to control sexual situations enough to be able to insist on using one.

Free Access to All Forms of Contraception Including the Morning-After Pill

True reproductive choice depends upon a woman’s ability to easily access whatever method of contraception (if any) she prefers. This is not only her right but is also an essential factor in minimising the numbers of women seeking abortion. We are calling for all contraceptives and related services, including STI screening and smear tests, to be available free at the point of delivery. Because of the critical timeframe involved we believe that pharmacists must be allowed to dispense emergency contraception, which should also be free on demand. We support the regular distribution of condoms in schools, colleges and health centres.

To lessen the burden on providers, we also call for the government to reduce VAT on all contraceptives to the legal minimum. As a broader aim we would seek a change in European law to add reproductive goods and services to the ‘VAT exempt’ category.

Free and Legal Abortion on Demand

Women must not be forced to seek anyone’s permission or to demonstrate that they have a particular reason for seeking an abortion. This right must not depend on a woman’s age, income, area of residence, ability to travel, marital status, immigration status or any other qualification. Abortion must be freely available and equally accessible to all women who seek it.

High-Quality Post-Abortion Care

At present the stigma on abortion means that women who make this choice have extremely limited options on where to go if they require post-abortion counselling or medical care. It is unacceptable that women should have to rely upon access to a small number of pro-choice agencies (non-existent in many parts of the country) or if they are lucky, a sympathetic doctor or counsellor in their own area. We are calling for the expansion of such services throughout the country, and for increased training for GPs and psychological professionals to provide a high standard of non-judgmental post-abortion care.

End to Stigma Surrounding Abortion

Every year more than 6,000 Irish women travel abroad to have an abortion. They are forced to do this in secrecy, with minimal support, inventing excuses for their families, friends, employers and colleagues. Many Irish women who have abortions describe the stigma around abortion as causing far more trauma than the abortion itself.

A woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy that she is unprepared to continue is not being irresponsible, selfish or ‘taking the easy way out’. The choice to abort a foetus is a difficult personal decision and can only be made by a woman herself – away from the influence of profiteers and crusaders alike.

Practical Support for Women Seeking Abortion

The legal regime and the stigma of abortion in Ireland mean that women who want to make this choice have few places to turn for assistance and support. We intend to help fill this void.

End to Stigma Surrounding Sexual Health and Contraceptive Needs

Many young people in particular delay or avoid obtaining contraception or related services because they are embarrassed. It is time that we stopped treating sex as a deep or shameful secret.

Increased Support for Single and Low-Income Parents

The cost of childrearing acts as a very effective constraint on women’s reproductive decisions. This is a burden that falls disproportionately on single and low-income parents. There can be no real ‘right to choose’ when some women who want to have children are financially unable to do so – nor is it acceptable that women should suffer poverty as a result of making this choice.

Increased Protection for Working Mothers

Many women who are employed or seeking work will find their reproductive choices limited. Difficulties range from outright discrimination, to insufficient maternity leave, to employers’ refusal to accommodate flexible working hours and breastfeeding breaks. We call for stringent, strictly enforced statutory protections to ensure that working women are not prevented from exercising their right to have children, or penalised for doing so.

Free Access to Quality Childcare

As a result of the enormous cost of childcare in Ireland, many women either cannot exercise their choice to have children or suffer a huge financial burden if they do. This expense also limits women’s options in terms of education and employment. All options concerning publicly-funded childcare should be immediately investigated.

Additionally, women who wish to remain at home to care for young children should be able to do so. It is illogical that a person can earn income and pension entitlements for looking after someone else’s children but not for looking after their own.

End to Stigma Surrounding Single Parenthood

We emphatically reject the notion that sex and reproduction should take place only inside the nuclear family structure. The nuclear family has its origins in the development of private property and class division; today, this structure is reinforced by a religion that places control of women’s bodies at the centre of its teachings. We support the right of both men and women to raise children alone or in a non-traditional family structure.

Choice in the Method of Childbirth

The traditional practice of midwifery has declined in large part due to a concerted effort by (mostly male) doctors to establish a monopoly over care. We support women’s choice to give birth at home, in hospital or in whichever setting she deems appropriate.

Creation of More Feminist Health Centres

Women’s healthcare is not limited to reproductive concerns. The ‘care’ we receive in professionalised facilities often reflects the biases of those delivering it. We demand the establishment of more feminist health centres. This will give women throughout the country the option of obtaining high quality, genuinely woman-centred healthcare.

Wednesday 2 May 2007

Rally in Response to the ‘Miss D’ Case

Choice Ireland are calling a rally in support of ‘Miss D’ and to highlight the disgraceful situation our government has yet again caused.

Saturday May 5th @ 12pm at the G.P.O
It is now over 15 years since the X case ruling and successive Irish governments have failed to introduce abortion legislation that clears the muddied waters surrounding Irish women’s right to travel for an abortion. By failing to legislate for cases similar to that of “C” and “X” the Irish government are inflicting unnecessary trauma on women who are already in incredibly stressful situations.

Yet another harrowing case of a woman seeking to overturn an order preventing her from travelling for an abortion has come before the courts. Miss “D”, a 17 year old in the care of the HSE is four months pregnant with a child who has been diagnosed with anencephaly. The prognosis for individuals with anencephaly is extremely poor. If the infant is not still-born then he or she will usually die within a few hours or days after birth (Thompson et al., 1994). No
woman should have to endure the trauma of carrying to full term a child who will not live more than a few hours. By preventing “Miss D” from travelling the Irish government are defining women by their status as a uterine incubator rather than individuals entitled to basic human rights.

“Miss D” is another case of several that have gone before and will come again that highlight the flaws in Irish abortion law. Without legislation to deal with this issue yet more Irish women in difficult situations will have to be dragged through the courts. Not all of the women who make the difficult decision to have an abortion come to the attention of the courts and the media. Every year over 6,000 women travel to England and further a field to seek a termination. Choice Ireland are today calling for no more “X” or “D” cases, for the repeal of the 8th amendment and for free safe and legal abortion to be made available in Ireland.

The Rally will be addressed by speakers from Doctors for Choice, Choice Ireland and Alliance for Choice.