8th Amendment Demo

Galway Pro-Choice would like to thank everyone that came out today and made our demonstration such a success. For anyone unable to make it, there was a moving street action showing women as prisoners of the 8th Amendment guarded and kept in line by the ‘Irish State’. We had Dr. Sophie Faherty, a local G.P and member of Doctors for Choice address the crowd and our own Sarah McCarthy who addressed the tragic circumstances which have led us here, again, on the streets calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment. Due to such a massive turnout, we also decided to march through the city. It was a fantastically loud show of solidarity, not only to the young woman at the centre of the most recent horrific case, but to every woman in Ireland that has been forced to leave the country to access an abortion and those who risk 14 years in prison for importing pills to have an illegal abortion here.

We have never been able to vote to allow abortions in this country – only to restrict our ban further.  The youngest person that could have voted on the 8th Amendment would now be 49 years of age. This means that the women in Ireland today that are of child-bearing age, directly affected by the 8th Amendment have not had a chance to have their say on it.

Politicians have said there will not be a referendum in the lifetime of the current government.  Why not? How many more tragic cases have to happen before they let us vote on this issue? Write to your politicians and demand your vote! You can contact your local T.D through whoismytd.com  and you will find the petition to repeal the 8th Amendment at repealthe8th.ie.

Demonstrations were held today in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Derry, Belfast, London, Berlin, Warsaw and as far afield as Auckland.

The message is clear.  This issue is far from over.

Next Tuesday 26th August at 6pm, we will be having our next organisational meeting in the side room of Monroe’s on Upper Dominick St. All those who want to help the campaign are welcome to come along and get involved in making this happen. Hope to see you there J

UN Severely Critical of Irish Laws on Abortion

Ireland was recently represented by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald at the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Geneva.

The Irish State is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Committee hearings were held on 15-16 July to assess Ireland’s compliance with our obligations under the Covenant. By ratifying the Covenant the Irish state is bound to comply with its Articles, and to make any changes recommended to ensure our compliance.

Several Irish civic society groups, including the Abortion Rights Campaign, were also invited to the Committee where they read submissions and were questioned by Committee members with regard to Ireland’s abortion legislation.

Unfortunately, the UN Committee was critical of the Irish state for failing to protect the health and human rights of women under several important headings.

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Galway Pro-Choice Attends the March for Choice in Belfast

Taking part in a protest in Belfast has proven a very empowering experience to me. Although we were a small group compared to the anti-choicers who were parading, I feel we did make a statement – women need to be heard, our bodies are not a property of church/state, and we are here to stay until our demands are met. Police was around and they were quite intimidating, but that wouldn’t deter us. We chanted, shouted, and peacefully made a point that we are here to stay. Taking active part in a protest has been the materialization of my cyberactivism and I have learned a lot and am extremely grateful for the opportunity Galway Pro-Choice has given me. As a newcomer, it’s important to feel welcomed and GPC has been an outstandingly friendly group so far.

Galway Pro-Choice Holds Vigil for Tuam Mothers and Babies

Hundreds of people gathered in Galway’s Eyre Square on 11th June for a vigil to highlight the recent Tuam babies controversy.

Galway Pro-Choice along with a number of local NUIG students called the vigil ‘to commemorate the tragedies that occurred in the mother and baby home in Tuam, and the thousands of other tragedies that happened in all of the other mother and baby homes across the State.’

In a statement read at the vigil, survivor, John Rodgers said “What the Catholic Church and Free State Government did to vulnerable Irish families over the last one hundred years has to be amongst the worst atrocities committed by a generation of people who considered themselves a superior class of people.”

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A Victory for the Pro-Choice Movement in NUIG

The Choice and Feminist Societies at NUI Galway secured a significant victory in a referendum held last week. The referendum was to decide whether the Students Union should take a pro-choice stance. The exact proposition that was voted on was:

‘That NUIG Students Union adopt a pro-choice position, in support of the national campaign for full reproductive rights, which includes a woman’s right to abortion, whether elective or medically necessary. Furthermore, the SU should use every available measure to realise these rights on campus and nationally.’

This was a radical proposition that goes much further than the very limited legislation the government is expected to bring forward by the summer. And if we are to believe national polls, the referendum proposition went much further than public opinion. A poll in the Irish Times just last month found that only 37% of people fully supported a woman’s right to choose, although the poll found a large majority in favour of allowing abortion when a woman’s life/health are at risk or in cases of rape/incest or foetal abnormality.

Yet when the vote happened last Thursday, 70% of students who voted, supported the proposition. And this was with the highest voter turnout in years, possibly the highest ever in NUIG. Out of 3,596, votes, 2478 voted yes, 1118 voted no.
Obviously this reflects the fact that young people are generally more supportive of abortion rights. If the same vote was taken on a national basis the result would most likely be very different. But following on from success in referendums in Trinity College and DCU, it shows that things have changed drastically in this country.

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Claims by Prof. Eamon O’Dwyer not Grounded in Medical Fact.

This is a letter from GPC in response to a letter in last week’s Galway Independent which can be read here. The signatories of this letter included several high profile long-standing members of the catholic anti-choice campaign. The Galway Independent did not publish our response this week, however they did publish another anti-choice letter.

Galway Pro-Choice believes that the letter from Prof. Eamon O’Dwyer published in last week’s Galway Independent may have misled some readers in several significant respects.

The headline used, ‘Abortion not necessary to save a woman’s life’ is not a medical fact, it is merely the opinion of a tiny percentage of obstetricians and gynaecologists. This minority opinion is contrary to that of the World Health Organisation’s Millennium Development Goal Number 5. The WHO believes that access to safe and legal abortion for women is an important factor in reducing the number of deaths during pregnancy. In fact, unsafe illegal abortion is the leading cause of maternal death worldwide. Galway Pro-Choice sees no rational reason why women in Ireland should be denied access to a necessary medical procedure.

The letter was also accompanied by 22 signatories of a document called the Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare, September 2012. This declaration is the only medical document in history to ever express the opinion that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. Most of these signatories are also members of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, one of the world’s leading professional bodies in this fieldThe Royal College has over 12,500 registered members; 22 is a very tiny percentage of 12,500. Evidently, over 99% of Prof. O’Dwyer’s colleagues do not agree with the declaration. We will leave it to the reader to judge whether it is significant that only three of these 22 signatories are women.

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Protest at Colm Keaveney’s Office in Tuam

Galway Pro-Choice would like to clarify that we did not arrange a formal meeting with Colm Keaveney for today Saturday July 6th. This was in part because the last time we were in direct contact with him he was rude and hung up on one of our member.

We decided that a sit down and conversation was going to achieve very little; Keaveney has already voted against the legislation and has made his views on this issue clear. We have sent him several postcards and letters outlining our position on this legislation; he has had every opportunity to take it into consideration. We hoped that going to his office as a group and staging a protest would perhaps highlight the issue of his vote against life-saving legislation for women.

On his Facebook page he wrote:

“I will be seeking the agreement of one of the organisations that I am meeting with to see if I can reschedule their meeting or to leave early in order to accommodate Galway Pro-Choice and to meet with them to discuss their views.”

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Communication with Colm Keaveney

Yesterday, Colm Keaveney TD posted the following comments on his Facebook page:

“I understand that there is a protest occurring outside my office on Saturday concerning the legislation currently before the Dáil – the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. I have only recently learnt of the protest through the local media.

People have a right to protest, a right that I have exercised myself in the past, and they most certainly have a right to engage with their public representatives on this or any other matter. However, I will note that the group concerned, Galway Pro-Choice, have never made any effort to meet with me nor have they contacted my office to make their views known.”

He was talking about the Galway Pro Choice protest that we have scheduled for 2:30pm tomorrow afternoon outside his constituency office in Tuam.

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Colm Keaveney: Putting Votes over Women’s Lives

Due to his known opposition to accessible X-Case legislation, Galway Pro-Choice will be holding a protest outside the office of Galway East TD Colm Keaveney in Tuam on Saturday 6 July at 2:30pm.

The protest will be followed by a pro-choice public meeting in the town’s Corralea Court Hotel at 3.30pm.While there are certainly many flaws with the legislation in its current form, Mr Keaveney opposes it for all the wrong reasons. He objects to the “suicide clause” in the Bill. Yet two referendums and countless opinion polls have shown that the vast majority of Irish people support its inclusion. This position shows a callous disregard for those few women who become suicidal when denied access to abortion; such as the 14 year old rape victim Miss X.

Ciara Dalstra of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“As a Tuam town councillor, Deputy Keaveney told anti-abortion colleague Martin Ward that abortion was ‘the last resort for women and every aspect of a woman’s decision should be looked at and taken into consideration’. He also stated that extreme anti-abortion literature was ‘sickening and offensive’. Yet now he is the darling of extremists in Youth Defence due to his opposition to even this inadequate legislation. He has claimed that his objection is due to a lack of term limits, but has consistently refused to state after what point in a pregnancy a woman’s life should not be saved. If his about-turn on abortion is an attempt to make his life easier in a rural constituency at his next election, I can assure him that I and many of his other constituents will not forget his shameful disregard for the health of women if he continues to oppose meaningful X-Case legislation.”

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HSE Report Confirms That Legal and Medical Factors led to the Death of Savita Halappanavar.

Galway Pro-Choice acknowledges the publication of the final HSE clinical report into the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar and we offer our support to Praveen, his family, Savita’s family and their friends through what has been such a difficult time. We are alarmed that this report has been published in what appears to be a rushed manner. It shows a lack of courtesy to Praveen who is currently out of the country. He requested to see the final report and meet the minister before it was published. However, he was not consulted prior to its release and his lawyer only received notification less than 48 hours before publication.

As expected, this report vindicates what Praveen has maintained all along. It identifies significant medical shortcomings in Savita’s treatment, as well as the dire consequences of the 8th Amendment that equates a woman’s life with that of a foetus. It outlines that not all management options were offered, which her increasing infection warranted. Due to Irish law, she was denied a termination because a foetal heartbeat was still present. Had a termination been granted when she requested it, it would have most likely saved her life according to Dr. Peter Boylan, former master of Holles Street and leading obstetrician who gave expert testimony to the inquest into her death.

This report also outlines how Savita’s condition deteriorated rapidly as indicators were ignored. Monitoring and adherence to guidelines for the management of sepsis were not followed. Once the membranes had ruptured, the chance of infection and sepsis greatly increased. The passive treatment plan to “await events” put Savita’s life in jeopardy and culminated in her death. The report states: “Delaying adequate treatment including expediting delivery in a clinical situation where there is prolonged rupture of the membranes and increasing risk to the mother can, on occasion, be fatal.”

Rachel Donnelly of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“This report highlights how the 8th Amendment to our constitution interferes with medical care in our state with grave consequences. We must repeal the 8th Amendment to protect women’s lives and ensure that doctors can provide all management options and not be bound by law to put a foetal heartbeat before a woman’s life.”

It is also possible that the X-Case legislation (Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013) due to be passed this summer may not have prevented Savita’s death. Her health, as opposed to her life, appeared to be at risk when a termination was first requested. We therefore welcome Sir Sabaratnam Arulkatumara’s comments at the press conference on Thursday. He strongly encouraged the convening of a medical and legal team to examine when a termination can legally be performed when conditions affecting the health of a woman may escalate. As he said: “much later on can be sometimes too late”.

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