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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Draft Bill is a Step Forward but Still Fails Women.

Galway Pro-Choice welcomes the imminent passage of the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy” Bill clarifying when a woman is lawfully entitled to a termination in this country as a step forward. Nonetheless, we have serious reservations about the implications of the Draft Bill published late last night. Its ultimate failure to protect women in Ireland demonstrates the urgent need for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.

Women pregnant as a result of rape or incest, those with a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis, or women whose health is being put at risk due to a pregnancy, will still be left out of this bill. The recent Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll showed that the overwhelming majority of Irish people support the right of women in these situations to have the choice to avail of a termination.

Galway Pro-Choice is deeply concerned with the sentence of 14 years and/or a fine for those who procure an abortion in Ireland. Rachel Donnelly of Galway Pro-Choice stated:

“The criminalisation of women who obtain an abortion in this country is utterly shameful. The sanction of 14 years imprisonment and/or a fine will serve only to punish the most vulnerable, i.e. those who are unable to travel to England to obtain a safe termination. It will likely result in women being fearful to access the medical care that they need, with potentially devastating consequences.”

We are further concerned that a psychiatric emergency is still being treated differently to a medical emergency. Sarah McCarthy of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“The rhetoric surrounding this Bill has served to trivialise suicide and is insulting to people with mental ill health. The distinction between a physical and a mental emergency is against the advice of psychiatrists given at the recent Oireachtas hearings. This draft requires two psychiatrists and an obstetrician to assess a woman’s suicide risk even when the obstetrician has no training in psychiatry. We find this unfathomable; such an attitude only serves to further stigmatise mental health issues in this country.”

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Galway Pro-Choice Submission to the Joint Committee on Health and Children.

On Wednesday May 8th Galway Pro-Choice made a submission to the Joint Committee on Health & Children concerning the Protection of Life During Pregnancy (Heads of) Bill 2013.

Galway Pro-Choice believes that the proposed legislation will not adequately protect women’s right to life and health, or to terminate a pregnancy if their life is at risk.

The draft Bill does not provide the clarity that so many had hoped for. It still leaves many important issues either vague or unaddressed.

The exclusion of any consideration in this Bill for victims of rape or incest is shameful . The X-case was that of a 14 year old girl who was pregnant as a result of rape. This legislation will leave women in similar circumstances neglected. The fact that this Bill can appear without mentioning either rape or incest is utterly incredible.

These were our main recommendations:

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Galway Pro-Choice Condemns TD Brian Walsh’s Position on X Case Legislation

 Brian Walsh’s comments in the Irish Independent today reveal a complete disregard for the health and lives of pregnant women in Ireland.

Walsh is a TD for the Galway West constituency in which Savita Halappanavar died as a result of Ireland’s restrictive laws on abortion. His refusal to vote for legislation which would protect women’s lives is offensive and a reprehensible shirking of his duties to the women in his constituency.

Órlaith Reidy of Galway Pro-Choice said:

“Galway Pro-Choice has held countless public stalls in Brian Walsh’s Galway West constituency, and we have always received an overwhelmingly positive response. Indeed just last December we delivered hundreds of petitions signed by his constituents calling for legislation on the X Case to Mr Walsh’s office. We do not accept his assertion that this stance is representative of the people of Galway West. Rather it is a cowardly attempt to hide behind the people of Galway while promoting and voting on his own personal views.”

Commenting on the death of Savita Halappanavar, Brian Walsh stated in the Irish Times that the Government could not ignore the issue of X Case legislation. He said: “there have been seven governments that have sat on their hands. The Supreme Court ruling has to be legislated for.” His rapid turn-about on this issue represents a callous and cynical attitude, and favours electioneering over protecting women’s lives.

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Galway Pro-Choice Condemns Fianna Fáil’s Anti-Women Motions.

Galway Pro-Choice condemns the passing of three motions at today’s Fianna Fail Ard Fheis which oppose suicide being included as a ground for abortion under proposed X Case legislation. In particular, we condemn the decision of the Galway East Comhairle Dáil Ceantair of Fianna Fáil to propose one of these motions which would continue to place women’s lives in danger.

Orlaith Reidy of Galway Pro Choice said:

“The motions presented to the Ard Fheis reveal a fundamental disregard for women’s health. As Dr. Peadar O’Grady of Doctors for Choice has outlined, denying women the right to choose is a key cause of suicidality among pregnant women, and maternal deaths have markedly declined in countries where abortion is available.”

Ciara Dalstra of Galway Pro-Choice stated:

“Fianna Fáil’s failure to commit itself to legislate for the X-Case without reservation, expose its attempts to portray itself as having atoned for its mistakes in government as a farce. Anyone who cares about the safety and rights of women should be unable to support the party.”

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