Tuesday, 21 May 2013
The Irish government, abortion and suicidal women
My daughter (crosses fingers) will qualify as a doctor next month. At the moment she's not sure what she'll specialize in but she's leaning towards psychiatry. If she does choose to do so, I'm praying she doesn't opt to practice in the south of Ireland. Because there the government is intent on using psychiatrists as a political shield in the abortion debate.
Every year over 4,000 Irish women travel to England or Wales to have an abortion, since it's not available in the 26 counties. The Fine Gael-Labour coalition government has been driven to address the problem following the death of an Indian woman, Savita Halappanavar, who wanted an abortion but was reputedly told she couldn't because "Ireland is a Catholic country". So in an effort to do nothing while appearing to do something, Enda Kenny's government is arranging to pass a law that will allow for an abortion not only when the mother's life is at risk for physical reasons but also if she is suicidal. In other words, he's going to shift the responsibility for deciding regarding abortion in some cases onto the country's psychiatrists. They effectively will become the gatekeepers for some abortions in Ireland.
In how many cases? Well, that's where the hypocrisy of the government shows. According to the Irish Times this morning, the actual incidence of suicide in pregnancy is between 1 in 250,000 and 1 in 500,000. So clearly most of the 4,000+ women travelling to England and Wales every year for an abortion are not doing so because they feel suicidal.
Suicide, in fact, is a red herring. A dangerous red herring. According to another psychiatrist in this morning's Irish Times, getting psychiatrists to judge regarding abortion and the danger of suicide is more likely to result in more young men in Ireland committing suicide, in that it might 'normalize' suicide.
In the very few cases where there is a risk of suicide by the pregnant woman, isn't the humane answer obvious? In prisons, there's such a thing as keeping a prisoner on 'suicide watch': that is, the prisoner is looked after so that suicide becomes impossible. Why couldn't something similar be arranged in those very few cases where women expecting babies are suicidal? What Enda Kenny's government is planning is that the problem will be solved by eliminating - i.e., killing - the baby.
No I don't know the answer to the 4,000 Irish women who travel abroad to have an abortion every year. But I do know a fake solution when I see one.