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A number of mainstream media outlets are reporting on the tragic case of a Sicilian woman, Valentina Milluzzo who became pregnant with twins following IVF treatment and then died after miscarrying them.

Scant detail has been reported, but according to reports, Mrs Milluzzo was admitted to the Cannizzaro hospital in Catania, Sicily, after falling ill and going into labour at just 19 weeks in pregnancy, on September 29 where she remained in a stable condition for a couple of weeks.

On October 15 her condition worsened and one baby was then stillborn, Mrs Milluzzo’s condition then rapidly deteriorated, her family then asked for the other baby to be aborted, doctors refused supposedly on the grounds of conscientious objection, then it appears that the other baby was miscarried, shortly after which poor Valentina Miluzzo died too.

The various media reports seem muddled. In the Daily Mail the family’s lawyer allegedly reported that one of the unborn twins was suffering from from a ‘breathing complication’. This doesn’t stack up because a baby in utero does not actually breathe through their nose and mouth, but rather exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide with the mother through the placenta and umbilical cord. Clearly there was some kind of complication causing foetal distress which may have led to the miscarriage, but ‘breathing difficulty’ seems to be an overly-simplistic term. That said, this could simply be a translation error. But in any event the account in the Daily Mail, has the doctor refusing to abort both babies.

The BBC has a similar account, namely the doctor apparently refused to intervene to abort both babies after one got into difficulty, but the Guardian claims that having given birth to one stillborn baby, poor Valentina was in agony for 12 hours with the doctors refusing to intervene on the grounds that the other baby was still alive. The family begged for the doctors to abort the other child to save her life, the doctors refused and shortly afterwards the baby was born dead and Mrs Milluzzo died of septic shock.

The Guardian of course carries a photograph of pro-life nuns, just in case you hadn’t got with the programme about these evil Catholic types. It also runs a load of irrelevant copy with implied supposition about the recent decline in abortions in Italy being due to a shortage of doctors willing to perform them and whether or not Italy actually has enough people to carry out abortions because, shock horror, there’s a high rate of conscientious objectors. A decline in abortions, can never be seen as positive news now can it, and what this unsubtle inference fails to mention is Italy’s catastrophically declining birth rate. Maybe, just maybe, fewer women are getting pregnant and those who do actually want to keep their babies?!

First off, nobody should be blamed or jump to conclusions because the fact is that we do not know what happened. Of course the family would have been enormously distressed by the way events unfolded and one cannot blame them for wishing medics to take whatever action necessary to save the life of their beloved wife and daughter.

But in this situation, when we have the very sketchiest of facts, it is a revolting political opportunism that wishes to capitalise on a terrible tragedy of a woman, who is not yet buried, to claim, as the profiteers at International Planned Parenthood Federation (who  make money from abortion) have done, that the right of medics to conscientiously object to abortion, puts women at risk and must be removed. Medics are not disrespecting the law, they are acting in accordance with it. Italian law in common with other European laws, allows for abortion in certain specific prescribed circumstances, and also allows doctors who feel that their remit is to save lives not end them, to opt out. Freedom of conscience ought to take primacy. Nobody should be coerced by the law into carrying out acts which they find to be morally abhorrent.

In the case of a woman who has achieved a much-wanted pregnancy via IVF, one can well understand the reticence of doctors to abort the child, if there was a chance that they might survive. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, in the case of miscarriage, the best clinical approach is to conservatively manage a miscarriage, which negates the risks and complications of surgery. It’s not clear how aborting the surviving twin would actually have saved her life – an unborn baby is not some kind of toxin, poisoning a woman’s system from within.

There seem to be several terrible parallels with the case of Savita Halappanavar going on here. Both women would appear to have died of septic shock. The HSE inquiry ruled that Mrs Halapannaver died of sepsis which went undiagnosed for too long. An abortion would not have saved her life, but prompt administration of antibiotics could well have done, though sepsis does require extremely swift diagnosis and intervention.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, master of the Rotunda hospital in Dublin commented that Ireland’s pro-life laws had little to do with Mrs Hlappanavar’s death and echoed the view of most gynaecologists saying

 “I think most of us who work in obstetrics and gynaecology, there may be individual differences, but the majority would be of the view that if the health is such a risk that there is a risk of death and we are dealing with a foetus that is not viable, there is only one answer to that question, we bring the pregnancy to an end.”

Here are the known facts. At 22 weeks, Mrs Milluzzo’s much-wanted child was viable and potentially had a chance of life. Abortion is not on the protocols of treatment for pregnant women with sepsis. Patients and family wishes must of course be taken into account, but the fact that they may have been understandably begging for a course of treatment which they believed was the best chance of saving this woman’s life, does not mean that aborting the baby was the correct medical solution. Wishing to save both the life of the baby and the mother, if at all possible, does not mean that the doctors were negligent, uncaring or adopting a rigourist approach.

The hospital is strongly disputing the family’s account. They have said the following:

“There was no conscientious objection on behalf of the doctor that intervened in this case because there was no voluntary termination of the pregnancy, but (the miscarriage) was forced by the grave circumstances…I rule out that a doctor could have told the family what they say he told them.”

Italian law forbids doctors to withhold life-saving treatment when a mother’s life is at risk. This has been reiterated by a national association of Catholic doctors who said that when a mother’s life is at risk, doctors must do whatever is necessary to save it.

Regardless of what may or may have been said to the family by the doctor (and I think we also have to allow for misunderstandings, especially in such a traumatic situation) there is nothing as yet, which demonstrates that doctors wilfully refused to save the life of a dying pregnant woman and sacrificed her for the sake of her unborn child. We do not have enough evidence and we should not speculate or seek to vilify the doctors, who were the ones actually dealing with the situation and who had the medical knowledge to ascertain the best course of action. Presumably when Mrs Milluzzo went into hospital she was hoping that the doctors would do everything possible to save her children. The request for an abortion was a response to ease suffering and save her life when her condition deteriorated, but chances are that by this stage it was already too late.

There are always two sides to every story, what happened to innocent until proven guilty?

But sadly, that won’t stop the pro-choice bandwagon from using this story as further proof of the uncaring pro-lifers forcing women to die for the sake of their unborn children and trying to remove the conscience rights of doctors, even though tragic cases such as these are very few and far between. With an absence of backstreet butchery upon which to hang the need for compassion, any maternal death with any possible tenuous link to abortion must be milked to ensure every drop of righteous indignation and anger is directed at those who wish to protect the lives of the unborn, who must be portrayed as uncaring misogynists. Especially if they happen to be doctors.

Valentina Milluzzo was a beautiful woman with everything to look forward to. May she and her babies rest in peace.

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Yesterday I appeared on BBC1’s The Big Questions with my Catholic Voices hat on, in order to discuss the UN report into child abuse. Austen Ivereigh one of the founders of the project has done an outstanding job in terms of reporting developments, describing the process as little more than a kangaroo court and analysing what precisely went wrong. These posts should be mandatory for anyone wishing to understand the reasons behind Catholics’ vociferous expressions of shock, dismay and disgust and provide a comprehensive response, pointing out the many errors, false statements and lack of understanding.

No right-thinking Catholic wishes to deny or downplay the terrible harm that was caused to victims, a harm that was compounded by the attitude of those within authority who in many cases ignored or disbelieved their claims and some even went so far as to attempt to smear and discredit victims. All of this was contemptible and inexcusable – childhood abuse destroys lives and sets people up with a lifetime of mental health issues. I am the mother of four children I could not be responsible for my actions and would struggle to contain my anger were I to discover that someone had laid a finger upon my precious children, or had emotionally abused them in some way, and no doubt would succumb to wishing to wreak dreadful vengeance or fighting for justice.  The anger of victims of abuse is righteous and it is justified, they and their families have been treated shamefully by members of our church.

But truth is the bedfellow of justice and without it, justice cannot be served. This report lets down the victims by serving a false narrative of orchestrated abuse and a centralised deliberate policy of cover-up, whereas the truth is that the Catholic church is massively decentralised, individual Catholic bishops have a lot more direct canonical power than their Anglican counterparts. Where there were failings this was due to the ineptness at a local level, and if we want to prevent any sort of recurrence then we have to be able to look at what happened and analyse matters objectively. Blaming the Vatican directly is far too glib and simplistic, as well as being erroneous and it lets too many people off the hook, including those members of the laity who colluded with the abuse. Furthermore by writing such an blatantly ideological report, the UN allow those hardliners within the church who may be resisting reform to dismiss it. There are some countries who are still lagging behind in terms of formulating and reporting their child protection measures to the Holy See as Pope Benedict requested, along with some who seem to have very low prosecution rates, the UN has effectively deprived the Holy See of a chance to leverage the report and use it to rapidly effect change. John Allen, the veteran reporter, suggested that the report had been written before even hearing the Vatican’s testimony.

There is a lot that I wished to say yesterday, however the format of the show meant that I was never once allowed to finish my points and taken off on several blind alleys, such as for example, whether or not the law ought to force priests to break the seal of the confessional, despite the fact that there is no statistical or even anecdotal evidence to suggest that were priests compelled by law to report penitent child abusers in their confessional, this would have prevented any cases of abuse. Breaking the seal of confidentiality would discourage people from confessing their sins and being compelled to seek the help that they need, especially in the cases of those predisposed to pedophilia who were not guilty of any actual crimes. If a priest were to wish to confess sexual crimes in the context of the confessional, chances are that he would seek out a large city centre Cathedral far from where he lived in order that he could retain his anonymity in an old-fashioned confessional box, therefore it’s unlikely that a confessor would even know who he was, let alone whether or not he was a priest. What’s he going to do? Start chasing the guy down the aisle and conduct a citizen’s arrest, until the police arrive? Far better to withhold absolution unless and until the penitent has proven his wish to make amends by handing himself into the police. Mandatory reporting will simply discourage confessions and is an unacceptable incursion of the state into religious freedom and practice.

While the UK has witnessed child abuse, perpetrated by members of the Catholic church, the numbers are relatively small, 0.4% of priests and deacons were discovered to have been abusers and it’s notable that there are not many prolific UK survivors or survivors groups. Ireland is a different case due to the inter-relationship between the Catholic Church and state and the preponderance of state mandated Catholic institutions The scandal broke at a time where the church was beginning to lose its power and authority after decades of poor catechesis, without secure foundations the church crumbled as a result of the combined blows of the abuse scandal and the effect of the Celtic tiger.

Cases of Irish abuse are often presented in the UK media and without the cultural knowledge and background most Brits accept the narrative of Irish clerical abuse on an industrial scale without question, and are disgusted. Furthermore it’s very difficult for an English person such as myself to argue authoritatively against an Irish victim of abuse such as Colm O’Gorman who has dedicated his life to attempting to force change in the Vatican and takes issue with large chunks of doctrine. Speaking to him about the Miss Panti row, Colm doubted my perspective and cultural knowledge, due to my British nationality.

Nationality should not preclude being able to present and analyse facts – it’s easy to write me off as an English ignoramus who hasn’t studied Irish abuse in detail, however a close Irish friend of mine has had a similar interest in terms of discovering the truth of Irish clerical abuse to Colm, spending years painstakingly pouring over the original reports and so I present their compelling, factual and statistical report below. By concentrating on clerical abuse, we overlook the measures that need to be taken to combat a much more widescale problem, which would still appear to be being brushed under the carpet.

Abuse is by no means a distinctively Irish phenomenon, of course; in 2011 the NSPCA conducted a study, published as Childhood Abuse and Neglect in the UK Today, which found 24.1pc of British adults between the ages of 18 and 24 had experienced sexual abuse during their childhood or adolescence, while the 2007 Baltic Sea Regional Study on Adolescents’ Sexuality surveyed more than 1,500 18-year-old Swedish girls and found that 56pc of them had having experienced unwanted sexual contact. Different methodologies result in different figures, of course, but it is clear that this is a serious problem for all countries.

Background: The Carrigan Report 1930

The 1930 Carrigan Report noted that there was ‘an alarming amount of sexual crime increasing yearly, a feature of which was the large number of criminal interference with girls and children from 16 years downwards including many cases of children under ten years’; the Irish police estimated that under 15% of abuse cases ever went to court, as it was difficult to establish guilt and parents tended to feel it would be better for their children if their experiences were kept secret. The report was shelved, and nothing was done.

 The 2002 Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) study gave a fuller picture of the extent to which sexual abuse had been prevalent in Ireland; approximately 27% of 3,000 surveyed adults said that they had experienced sexual abuse in their childhood or adolescence.

Approximately one abuse survivor in sixty said that his or her abuser had been a religious minister; a further one in sixty saying his or her abuser had been a teacher who was a member of a religious order.

 The fact that this report found that almost 60% of Irish abuse had taken place in the context of the family circle, including neighbours, friends, and babysitters, has had little or no impact on Irish public life and has been but infrequently mentioned in Ireland’s mass media over the past twelve years. It seems to have been shelved almost as effectively as the Carrigan Report.

 In 2009 the Irish Times quoted an Irish detective who works with Interpol as saying that 85% of child sexual abuse takes place within the family circle; that same year the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland revealed that 97% of the abuse cases brought to their attention in 2008 had involved abuse within the family circle. Such claims and revelations have been resolutely ignored, however: Ireland’s public narrative of abuse remains resolutely focused on abuse by clergy and members of religious orders.

AbuseProportions

Irish Reports

The seriousness of the abuse of children within the Catholic Church in particular should certainly not be minimised in any sense, and the Irish State was quite right to address through a series of public reports the issue of abuse by clergy, members of religious orders, and lay people who worked with said orders.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009), otherwise known as the Ryan Report, examined the issue of abuse – sexual or otherwise – in the industrial schools that were long a feature of the Irish landscape.  As the 2011 Colm O’Gorman-commissioned Amnesty International report In Plain Sight: Responding to the Ferns, Ryan, Murphy, and Cloyne Reports notes,  173,000 people entered these schools between 1936 and 1970 and 30,000 former residents complained to the Irish state of abuse they had suffered, with 14,448 of these seeking redress from the Residential Institutions Redress Board; just eleven cases of alleged abuse were, however, forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and in only three cases did the DPP make a decision to prosecute.

Despite how Catholic religious orders ran the State’s industrial schools, references to the Holy See are conspicuous by their absence from the Ryan Report , the Vatican being mentioned barely at a dozen points over the course of the Report’s five volumes, usually in the context of when orders had been founded or how things changed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council; sections about communications with Rome invariably turn out to be about communications between particular orders’ Irish provinces and international headquarters.

At no point is Rome criticised in the Report, which implicitly recognises that the Holy See was in no meaningful way responsible for how these Irish schools were run; rather, the Report instead focuses on the religious orders themselves as essentially autonomous and distinctly Irish entities and on the Irish State which established, funded, and monitored the schools, and was responsible for children being sent to them in the first place.

 One telling detail of the report is section 1.6.77 which notes that when a Christian brother was suspected of abuse, the Irish authorities would often encourage him to seek dispensation to leave of his own accord rather than undergo the dismissal procedure; this, of course, meant that reports of abuse were not submitted to Rome.

The other three reports– the Ferns Report (2005), the Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin (2009) otherwise known as the Murphy Report, and the Commission of Investigation, Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne (2011), otherwise known as the Cloyne Report – were very different. These examined how between 1962 and 2009 Church and State had responded to allegations of child sexual abuse within the dioceses of Ferns and Cloyne and the archdiocese of Dublin.

If these reports can be said to have had a central finding it is that in the investigated dioceses, the Church’s own canon law policies on how to take action against priests accused of abuse were never followed. In Plain Sight recognised this, and a close reading of the reports bears this out: over the course of three official inquiries, the Irish State examined how the Irish Church handled 86 abuse allegations received between 1962 and 2009 and revealed that prior to 2003 not even one was submitted to Rome. No excuses can or should be offered for how these matters were mishandled by those in authority in the Irish Church.

Other than the cataclysmic mishandling of allegations, victims, and abusers by the Irish hierarchy and those associated with them, the Irish reports demonstrate something that Charles Scicluna, then in charge at the time of the CDF section that handled abuse cases – and a man who Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has described as someone who really ‘gets it’ when it comes to the Church and abuse – told The Tablet in 2010: at the time when clerical abuse was at its most prevalentRome simply wasn’t told what was happening on the ground.

Over the last decade, almost half of all Irish Times articles mentioning abuse have mentioned clerical abuse, despite this representing, it would appear, between 1.7 and 3.4% of all Irish abuse, and insofar as Ireland’s government is interested in fighting abuse, it is concentrating on abuse within institutions, religious or otherwise, despite it now seeming that institutional abuse in general is almost – though sadly not quite – a thing of the past.

It is, of course, right that governments should seek to stamp out abuse within all sorts of institutions; they should, however, be seeking to do much more than that in order to prevent abuse, help survivors of abuse, and bring to justice the perpetrators of abuse, the vast majority of whom operate outside institutional walls.

The Ferns Report

The 2005 Ferns Report examined allegations of abuse in the diocese of Ferns between 1962 and 2002. It considered allegations of abuse made against 21 priests; not even one allegation was passed on to Rome during the period covered by the report, although in 2003 the apostolic administrator of the diocese sought Rome’s advice regarding the case of Monsignor Michael Ledwith, with the CDF subsequently dismissing Msgr Ledwith from the clerical state.

  • Fr Donal Collins – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr James Doyle – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Alpha – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr James Grennan – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Sean Fortune – not referred to Rome.
  • Msgr Michael Ledwith – referred to the CDF in Rome in 2003.
  • Canon Martin Clancy – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Beta – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Gamma – referred to the CDF in Rome in 2004 or 2005.
  • Fr Delta – referred to the CDF in Rome in 2004 or 2005.
  • Fr Epsilon – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Iota – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Kappa – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Lamda – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Zeta – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Sigma – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Upsilon – yet to be referred to Rome.
  • Fr Theta – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Omikron – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Tau – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Omega – pending advice, not referred to Rome.
  • Unnamed priests – inquiry took view that diocese and police were right in taking no further action, therefore not referred to Rome.

The Murphy Report

The 2009 Dublin or Murphy Report examined allegations of abuse against a representative sample of 46 priests in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004, including cases where the civil authorities declined to prosecute, cases where the accused priests were dead at the time of accusations, cases where the accused priests were clearly innocent, and every single case where clergy had been convicted in the criminal courts.

Not one of these cases was sent to Rome for disciplinary reasons, although in three cases priests sought voluntary laicisation, and in three other cases priests appealed to Rome when action was taken against them.  In one of these three cases the appeal was upheld by the Roman Rota on technical grounds with the penalty being reduced; in another the appeal was initially upheld by the Roman Rota only to be subsequently overturned by the Pope; in a third the CDF rejected the appeal and confirmed the original decision.

  • Fr James McNamee – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Edmondus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Phineas – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Vidal  – although he subsequently retracted his request, voluntarily sought laicisation from Rome.
  • Fr Patrick Maguire – after decision to laicise, appealed to Roman Rota on technical grounds in 2002 and was instead suspended from ministry for the following nine years.
  • Fr Ioannes – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Tyrus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Jovito  – after 1993 decision to laicise, appealed to Roman Rota in 1994 and had penalty reduced to ten years suspension in a monastery; Dublin argued against this decision, and in 1996 Fr Jovito was dismissed by the Pope.
  • Fr Patrick McCabe – voluntarily sought laicisation in late 1987 and after Dublin contacted the CDF urging it to act quickly, was laicised in early 1988.
  • Fr Horatio – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Donal Gallagher – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Hugo – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Ivan Payne  – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Donato – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Harry Moore  – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Septimus –  after priestly faculties were removed, appealed to CDF Rome in late 2002, with the CDF supporting the decision to remove priestly faculties.
  • Fr William Carney  – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Thomas Naughton – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Cicero – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Clemens – at time of reporting, not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Dominic Savio Boland – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Quinton – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Marius – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Noel Reynolds – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Daryus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Terentius – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr John Kinsella  – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Laurentius – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Klaudius – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Francis McCarthy  – sought laicisation from Rome.
  • Fr Sergius – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Dante – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Cassius – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Giraldus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Aquila – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Blaise – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Benito – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Magnus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Jacobus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Guido – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Rufus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Ignatio – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Cornelius – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Ricardus – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Augustus  – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Ezio – not referred to Rome.

The Cloyne Report

The 2011 Cloyne Report examined allegations of abuse and concerning behaviour on the part of 18 priests – and one bishop – in the diocese of Cloyne between 1996 and 2009. The first case to be reported to Rome was that of Fr Brendan Wrixon, the report’s Fr Caden, who was reported in December 2005. Suspended in the meantime, in April 2007 Rome confirmed that he should be barred from exercising any priestly ministry; in 2010 the Circuit Criminal Court in Cork gave him an 18-month suspended sentence for an act of gross indecency committed in the early 1980s.

  • Fr Ronat – referred to the CDF in Rome in 2009.
  • Fr Corin – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Darian – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Calder – referred to the CDF in Rome in 2009.
  • Fr Moray – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Flan – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Drust – referred to the CDF in Rome in 2009.
  • Fr Tarin – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Kael – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Baird – Private intervention sought advice from CDF in 2004; Msgr Scicluna advised that diocese be asked to conduct a preliminary investigation. Diocese did not further contact Rome.
  • Unknown Priest – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Rion – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Caden – referred to the CDF in Rome in 2005.
  • Two priest teachers in a diocesan college – not referred to Rome
  • Fr Naal – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Kelven – not referred to Rome.
  • Fr Zephan – not referred to Rome.
  • Bishop John Magee – referred to Congregation for Bishops in Rome in 2009.

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Over the weekend my Irish pro-life colleagues thanked those of us in the UK who have been supporting their efforts to keep Ireland one of the safest places in the world for the unborn. All the tweets, blogposts and prayers have really helped to sustain them throughout their campaign; it has apparently been a source of comfort to see people from all over the globe uniting behind Ireland’s pro-life lobby in the face of Enda Kenny’s determination to steamroller abortion on demand into a country that boasts the lowest rates of maternal mortality in the globe.

Tomorrow is an extremely significant day for Ireland with the Dail due to vote on the bill that will introduce abortion up until term for mothers deemed to be suicidal, despite the fact that every single medical expert who testified to the Oireachtas committee stated that abortion is never an appropriate treatment for suicidality. The Irish government is acting purely on the basis of ideology and against all medical evidence and international experience for treating suicide ideation.

Minister of State, Lucinda Creighton has put her political career on the line, by not only proposing a series of amendments designed to adequately assess and treat a pregnant woman presenting as suicidal, but has also pointed out how Enda Kenny has misled Fine Gael voters, as their election manifesto in 2010 did not commit the party or their TDs to the introduction of abortion. If Miss Creighton votes against the bill, alongside 4 other TDs who have already signified their intent, then they will lose the party whip. It is thought that had Enda Kenny allowed a free vote then between 20 and 30 TDs would have voted against the bill, however Kenny is not prepared to risk his party’s political stability, deeming victory more important than the conscience of its TDs who are being forced to break any previous pro-life promises to voters. Any votes in favour will be made out of fear, not conviction.

Those of us who have regarded Ireland’s example as an inspirational model of maternal healthcare have been looking on in despair as a deeply ideological bill which will lead to abortion on demand is imposed upon the country, despite overwhelming public opposition to a liberal abortion regime.

For years the line of argument has been that Irish women seeking abortion are forced to come to England, in a bitter and grim irony the proposed bill will mean that heavily pregnant English women will now be able to travel to Ireland for a late-term abortion if they claim that they are suicidal.

Here’s the words of Dr Bernard Nathanson, one of the foremost pro-abortion activists in the USA, who helped found the National Association for the Repeal of the Abortion Laws, (and later converted to the pro-life cause) on the best mechanism for liberalising abortion law. For anyone following developments in Ireland, from the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar to the hatred shown towards Ireland’s Youth Defence group who have been subject to gross smears and allegations, had their headquarters smeared with human excrement and this morning had their website hacked with details of the names, addresses and phone numbers of their supporters published on line, much to the glee of certain pro-choicers, all of this will seem very familiar:

  • 1. Find a hard case, even if not fully relevant
  • 2. Create fear, doubt and confusion and even grossly exaggerate or lie about the facts
  • 3. Find a convenient, pro-life easy to hate group to demonise or scapegoat
  • 4. Legalise abortion on mental health or suicide grounds

Tomorrow – Wednesday July 10, a silent vigil will be held together with the Good Counsel Network outside the Irish embassy in London, at 17 Grosvenor Place, SW1x 7HR between 4;30 and 7:30pm  (nearest tube Hyde Park corner) in solidarity with Ireland’s pro-life campaign and in prayer for their unborn. This will be a wholly peaceful and prayerful event, attendees are asked only to bring a candle, no placards please. You don’t have to be Irish – anyone can pray for the sanctity of life.

This is to coincide with and add prayers to the vigil that will be being held outside the Dail tomorrow night as the bill is voted upon. Apologies for the late notice, please do your best to either attend or spread the word far and wide and above all pray for Ireland.

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Last week I received an awful lot of flack on Twitter and in other places, for my writing on the case of Savita Halapannavar. The main criticisms seemed to be that being neither Irish nor a qualified medic, I had no right or authority upon which to pass comment.

Every single medical fact I commented upon was not made without reference to highly experienced qualified doctors and midwives, all of whom were in disagreement with Dr Boylan, whose testimony that a termination would almost certainly have saved Savita’s life, was widely quoted by the pro-abort activists as being proof that the law needed to change, as it was, in his opinion, responsible for her death.

The reason that this case has needed to be scrutinised in intricate detail, is because it was so quickly seized upon by those championing abortion in Ireland, as being definitive proof that lack of abortion was leading to unnecessary deaths. What I am more than qualified to state, is that abortion devastates lives and causes infinite pain and hurt to many women, (and men) as well as ending the lives of their babies. By all accounts Savita was a lively caring, compassionate woman. The last thing she would have wanted was for more pregnant women to be vulnerable as a result of her death.

I have just received a copy of the following press release from John McGuirk which I have replicated in full.

Ends

Dear Sir:

The recent inquest on Ms Savita Halappanavar has raised important issues about hospital infection in obstetrics. Much of the public attention appears to have been directed at the expert opinion of Dr Peter Boylan who suggested that Irish law prevented necessary treatment to save Ms Halappanavar’s life. We would suggest that that this is a personal view, not an expert one.

Furthermore, it is impossible for Dr. Boylan, or for any doctor, to predict with certainty the clinical course and outcome in the case of Savita Halappanavar where sepsis arose from the virulent and multi drug-resistant organism, E.coli ESBL.

What we can say with certainty is that where ruptured membranes are accompanied by any clinical or bio-chemical marker of infection, Irish obstetricians understand that they can intervene with early delivery of the baby if necessary. Unfortunately, the inquest shows that in Galway University Hospital the diagnosis of chorioamnionitis was delayed and relevant information was not noted and acted upon.

The facts as produced at the inquest show this tragic case to be primarily about the management of sepsis, and Dr Boylan’s opinion on the effect of Irish law did not appear to be shared by the Coroner, or the jury, of the Inquest.

Obstetric sepsis is unfortunately on the increase and is now the leading cause of maternal death reported in the UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths. Additionally there are many well-documented fatalities from sepsis in women following termination of pregnancy. To concentrate on the legal position regarding abortion in the light of such a case as that in Galway does not assist our services to pregnant women.

It is clear that maternal mortality in developed countries is rising, in the USA, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Netherlands and other European countries. The last Confidential Enquiry in Britain (which now includes Ireland) recommended a “return to basics” and stated that many maternal deaths are related to failure to observe simple clinical signs such as fever, headache and changes in pulse rate and blood pressure. Many of the failings highlighted in Galway have been described before in these and other reports.

The additional problem of multi-resistant organisms causing infection, largely as a result of antibiotic use and abuse, is a serious cause of concern and may lead to higher death rates in all areas of medicine.

Ireland’s maternal health record is one of the best in the world in terms of our low rate of maternal death (including Galway hospital). The case in Galway was one of the worst cases of sepsis ever experienced in that hospital, and the diagnosis of ESBL septicaemia was almost unprecedented amongst Irish maternity units.

It is important that all obstetrical units in Ireland reflect on the findings of the events in Galway and learn how to improve care for pregnant women. To reduce it to a polemical argument about abortion may lead to more – not fewer – deaths in the future.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. John Monaghan, DCH FRCPI FRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Dr. Cyril Thornton, MB BCh MRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Dr. Eamon Mc Guinness, MB BCh MRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Dr. Trevor Hayes, MB BCh FRCS MRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Dr. Chris King, MB DCH MRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Dr. Eileen Reilly, MB ChB MRCOG Consultant Obstetrician/Gynecologist

Prof John Bonnar, MD FRCPI FRCOG Professor Emeritus Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Prof Eamon O’Dwyer, MB MAO LLB FRCPI FRCOG Professor Emeritus Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Prof Stephen Cusack, MB BCh FRCSI Consultant in Emergency Medicine

Dr. Rory Page, MB BCh FFA RCSI Consultant Anaesthetist

Dr. James Clair, MB BCh PhD FRCPath Consultant Microbiologist

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I know we should no longer be surprised when it comes to politicians displaying a capacity to lie to and deceive the general public, but the behaviour of two Irish Labour TDs, Aodhan O’Riordain and Anne Ferris really takes the cake.

Today’s Irish Sunday Independent (colloquially known as the Sindo) has run an exclusive splash, revealing that last June, four months before the death of Savita Halappanavar, these two politicians were caught on tape, explicitly outlining their intentions to use the X Case, (where suicide is deemed to be a life-threatening condition and thus a reason to abort) as a ‘starting point’ to introduce liberal abortion laws into the country.

Regardless of whether one takes a pro-life or pro-choice stance, this disingenuous approach is to be condemned. Politicians are elected on the basis that they represent those who vote for them. Aodhan O’Riordian stated that the X Case was a ‘starting point’, however if he were to be asked that question on the radio, his approach would be to lie about it, denying that it was a starting point and stating that ‘it is what it is’.

“It is a starting point. Once you get that . . . then you can move . . . and of course if I’m on the radio and somebody says to me, ‘It’s a starting point for abortion on demand’, I’m gonna say, ‘No, of course it isn’t – it is what it is.'”

Anne Ferris said

We will legislate certainly for what the European Court has told us to and then we can go further than that . . . we get the first part done and then we will go on to the next bit… I would say then next term it will happen.”

The transcript of the conversation also shows Ferris promising to drink a bottle of champagne after this measure is passed. This matters, not simply because of the subject matter, but also because it is a case of blaring political hypocrisy, whereby elected politicians are once again making monkeys of the electorate, lying about their stated intent and who will no doubt later agonise over the general public’s disillusionment with politicians and voter apathy.

Lying is never acceptable, but one’s intentions with regards to abortion, (or reproductive rights if you’re on the other side of the debate) is far too important an issue to lie about to the public. The attitude on display here is nothing short of contemptuous.

When it comes to thinking about the X Case and whether abortion ought to be a remedy for those who may be suicidal, it’s worth remembering that in the case of a person who may be suicidal, this is almost always due to a perfect storm of contributing factors, of which a setback such as a crisis pregnancy provides the tipping point. People who are suicidal or who suffer from severe mental health issues are deemed to be (albeit temporarily) incapable of informed consent in law, wills and other legal contracts are deemed to be invalid, so why, all of a sudden is a threatened suicide deemed to be a valid reason to abort one’s unborn child?

There is no evidence to suggest that abortion is an effective therapy for a psychiatric problem, which needs to be solved by psychiatric means, but there is an substantial body of research suggesting that abortion has a negative impact upon mental health. Suicidal tendencies in themselves should not be confused with a medically life-threatening condition. Whilst suicide is of course life threatening, the desire to end one’s life, is not indicative that a person will necessarily follow through on their thoughts, though they do of course, require urgent help. Abortion circumnavigates the issue, confirms the woman in her despair and is not indicative of the most compassionate and caring approach. What if the woman caught up in the vortex of depression, aborts her baby and later bitterly regrets her decision, realising that her fears about her pregnancy or ability to mother her child were unfounded?

David Fergusson, a pro-choice doctor, who believes that abortion should be available on social or economic grounds, has published a peer-reviewed study in this month’s Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, in which he reviewed the research to ascertain whether or not there were any mental health benefits to abortion. His findings were clear, as Breda O’Brien, is at pains to point out in the Irish Times:

“at the present time there is no credible scientific evidence demonstrating that abortion has mental health benefits.

The evidence will

“resurrect politically uncomfortable and socially divisive debates”. “However, it is our view that the growing evidence suggesting that abortion does not have therapeutic benefits cannot be ignored indefinitely, and it is unacceptable for clinicians to authorise large numbers of abortions on grounds for which there is, currently, no scientific evidence.”

With blatant disregard for scientific evidence as well as the views of the Irish electorate as a whole, a sizeable majority of whom wish to keep Ireland’s current laws protecting the unborn, the Irish Labour party are wishing to push and impose their ideological agenda on an unwilling public. It’s also interesting to note that 66% of voters are concerned about the EU’s potential to intervene in Irish pro-life laws.

As things currently stand, the Irish Supreme Court would be unable to accept any laws or proposals that go further than legislation on the X case, this being against the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution which reads as follows:

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.

Any legislation beyond X (and that’s accepting that suicidal people should be able to kill their unborn children to make them feel better) would require a repeal of the Eighth Amendment and a rejection of personhood.

All of which could spell trouble for Ireland’s coalition government led by Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, with Labour’s Eamon Gilmore occupying the Deputy Prime Minister position. Fine Gael explicitly promised voters in 2011 that they would not legislate for abortion and over 40,000 voters have signed a pledge never again to vote for the party if they introduce abortion measures. Worryingly for Enda Kenny, John Bruton, a former Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach is one of those also publicly opposing the coalition’s abortion proposals as are several members of the Fine Gael party. What is telling is that if Ms Ferris is to be believed, the tail is very much wagging the dog, when it comes to Ireland’s coalition government, with Eamon Gilmour, apparently ordering Enda Kenny to whip Fine Gael TDs into line on the issue of abortion. Extraordinary stuff, it’s a bit like Nick Clegg trying to tell David Cameron to whip Tory MPs into line with Lib Dem thinking.

This weekend in the UK has seen the forty-fifth anniversary of the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, which was sold to the British public on the grounds of compassion and helping women from dying in desperate circumstances. We now see over 200,000 abortions a year, more than 1 in 4 pregnancies are aborted and the numbers of those aborting under grounds F or G (to save the life of the pregnant women or to prevent grave permanent injury) are, in the words of the Department of Health, ‘exceptionally rare’. Grounds A and B that pertain to the risk of death or permanent injury of the pregnant woman account for a tenth of 1% of all abortions.

And yet, Ireland’s politicians perpetuate the myth that this is a necessary piece of legislation in order to further their own totalitarian ideology when it comes to the rights of the unborn. It’s a baffling state of affairs and one in which pro-lifers must do their best to support Ireland, whether that be via prayers or practical action. Ireland is a model of maternal care. It is the gold standard and a torch bearer for Western democracies everywhere. Ireland’s pro-life movement is cohesive, cross-party and pan-theistic, able to mobile huge numbers of people onto the streets to vocalise their support for the unborn. There are many lessons there for the UK, but equally Ireland must look to the UK as an example of how not to do things.

These revelations could be a crucial pivot in Ireland’s battle for life. What an own goal for Irish Labour and those advocating for Action on X.

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