Doctors and protesters join growing clamour for a change in the abortion law
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Thursday 15 November 2012
Irish abortion laws have become “like a sword of Damocles” hanging over doctors because there are grey areas where they were left at risk of committing a criminal offence, according to the leading consultant obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan.
"Politicians need to act," he said yesterday. "We need to start acting like an adult state and get on with it."
Judging from the streets, the airwaves and the internet, almost the entire country seemed to be seething about the treatment of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist who died after she was refused a termination of her pregnancy.
On Eyre Square in Galway, the anger was palpable. Several women actually shook with anger as they spoke of the fate of Mrs Halappanavar. A typical response came from retired African aid worker Paud Murphy, who said: "It's awful, it's a disaster. I just feel very upset about it, as an awful lot of people do. We have to legislate so that it never happens again."
A vigil is to be held in the square tomorrow night. Some blame the medical profession but most anger was focused on the politicians who, it was widely said, had for two decades run away from clarifying abortion law.
Outside the Dail in Dublin on Wednesday night one of the protesters held a placard bearing the words: "Savita had a heartbeat too."
There remains a substantial minority resistant to change, including Rebecca Roughneen, a 27-year-old graphic designer and an organiser of the anti-abortion group Mayo Youth Defence. When she heard of the death, she said, "I thought it was horrific – really, really tragic. My heart went out to that family." But she added: "Nobody's really sure why she died, and I'd be afraid of the pro-abortion people using this to further their own agenda."
Earlier this month, an anti-abortion rally called by her group attracted several thousand people to Castlebar, home town of the Prime Minister, Enda Kenny. While much of the power of the Irish Catholic Church has ebbed, Ms Roughneen's group boasts it has been called "the cutting edge of the pro-life movement." It maintains: "We know that abortion is always wrong."
Attempts to change the law are sure to meet resistance. But opposition to abortion has faded and the Halappanavar case has roused public anger. Government minister Brian Hayes, admitted the issue has "festered away for many years". There was a resolve in the cabinet, he said, that "action in some shape or form will follow".
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall during coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
UK weather: Snow to fall during coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign
Ellen DeGeneres leads Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany in revealing game of Never Have I Ever
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...
Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...
£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...