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Column: Changing the law on abortion is dangerous and unjust

There is no evidence to show that abortion treats suicide ideation – this means that any legislation based on the grounds of suicidal ideation is irredeemably damaged, writes Cora Sherlock.

Cora Sherlock

THE PROTECTION OF Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 is dangerous, unjust and irretrievably flawed.  This is becoming more evident as the days pass.

The deep flaw at the centre of this Bill surrounds the ground of suicide ideation.  Adopting this head as a reason for allowing abortion is wrong on several levels.  There are no clinical markers for suicide. It is not something which can be predicted with any degree of certainty.  Yet we are expecting psychiatrists to carry out this test accurately and then confirm that another human life – the life of an unborn child – can be ended on this highly questionable decision.

Government are ignoring the evidence

There is no evidence to show that abortion treats suicide ideation.  This has been accepted by many on the pro-choice side of the debate; however, they refuse to address the fact that this means that any legislation based on the grounds of suicidal ideation is irredeemably damaged.  There is in fact considerable evidence worldwide to show that abortion itself can lead to certain mental health risks. Once again, the Government is choosing to ignore this evidence.

One of the major issues highlighted at the January hearings was the fact that no person with suicidal tendencies should be encouraged to make an irrevocable decision, regardless of its nature.  Prescribing an abortion on this ground flies in the face of that belief, particularly when so many women report feelings of regret and sadness following abortion.

Last month, over 100 of the country’s psychiatrists made a statement calling on the Government to re-consider it’s proposals, due to the fact that the premise of this Bill has no basis in medical evidence.  In the face of such opposition from members of the profession, the Bill is unworkable.

There will be no way to control it

In truth, these psychiatrists are well aware that once this ground is legislated for, there will be no way to control or regulate it.  This has been the experience of other countries.  Many supporters of this Bill would like to ignore the evidence of countries such as California, where a similar piece of legislation was introduced in 1967.  Within just 3 years, 98 per cent of all abortions in California (numbering over 60,000), were carried out on the grounds of suicidal ideation.

And so it will be in Ireland. The Taoiseach is wrong when he says that we are simply “codifying” the law on abortion.  We are doing something much more than that. Our laws have an important legislative effect in society. At the moment, we operate a two-patient model in this country. A pregnant woman and her unborn child are treated equally before the law insofar as this is possible.

This model has served us well – in the last ten years, the World Health Organisation has consistently ranked Ireland in the top five countries in the world in terms of the safest country to be pregnant and give birth.

Targeting the unborn for destruction

If this Bill is enacted, then for the first time we will be conceding the principle that the life of the unborn child can be directly targeted for destruction.  We will be creating a statutory basis in Irish law for what may be a direct and intentional termination of an unborn child’s life.

This is unjust in itself, but to frame this law in the absence of any evidence proving that it will be beneficial to the woman involved is sinister and unnecessary.

There is no obligation on the Government to legislate in this way. Under the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the ABC Case, we are obliged to bring clarity to the law.  This can be done through Medical Council Guidelines which would put no unrealistic onus on psychiatrists, ensure the ongoing safety of pregnant women in Ireland, and protect the lives of unborn children.

Cora Sherlock is the Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign.

Liveblog: Final day of the Oireachtas hearings on planned abortion laws>

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Cora Sherlock

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