myth 2.

myth 2.

Welcome to Day 2 of the ’8 Days-8 Reasons to Repeal the 8th’ where each day running to International Women’s Day, Abortion Rights Campaign we will be busting 1 common myth about abortion in Ireland. So check back here for tomorrow’s myth and tweet your own at us @freesafelegal and using #RepealThe8th. [Visit site.]

The Pope’s beliefs about abortion will become relevant the day the Popebecomes pregnant

Yes. On newstatesman:

Oh, Pope Francis. He was doing so well. For almost a year, liberals all over the world allowed themselves to believe that this Pope was different, that this Pope was more interested in the loving-each-other aspects of Christianity than in stigmatising contraception and shaming homosexuals. Then, in his annual speech on the state of the world, Jorge Mario Bergoglio gave a resounding statement against sexual freedom and abortion rights, reminding us all that whatever else the Pope is, he is still the head of the Catholic Church. In other news, bears – despite a massive global rebranding effort – still shit in the woods.

Say what you like about the last guy, but at least he didn’t pretend to be progressive. Right now, I find myself actually missing Benedict XVI, with his snazzy red shoes and squinty evil grin. If you’re going to be Pope, you might as well do it properly. If you’ve waited your whole life to be despotic commander with millions of followers, you should at least enjoy yourself. [Rest.]

The Irish Abortion Act changes nothing for women

On bpas:

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act came into force in Ireland on January 1. It allows abortion in an extremely narrow set of circumstances, and in effect changes nothing for Irish women.

We see Irish women every day in our clinics, all of whom have been failed by their own government. Below are four case studies of Irish women who came to one of our clinics during one morning late last year:

C, 20

She has recently had a baby. It was a difficult pregnancy resulting in an extremely premature birth. Her son is disabled and needs constant care. She said she was finding it very hard to be away from him – her journey to England will have been the longest length of time they have been apart. She feels strongly this is the right decision – “It’s not what I need for me and my son.” She fell pregnant after having been advised against using contraception for medical reasons – and told it was highly unlikely she could conceive again. Her doctor was not supportive when she became pregnant again and told her that “life is sacred.” She said she wanted to speak about her experience because she is worried about the next generation of young girls and wants things to be better for them. [Rest.]

Twitter followers in exchange for less time in purgatory

Good to know that the Vatican is not above a bit of cynical self-promotion. (Remember before all of this when we thought that god, or that sort of thing, was the only driver behind the Vatican’s actions? And I’m sure there’s no money in it either. *ahem*) If I was a god-fearing sort at all, I’m sure I’d be all over this (though I am still waiting for the, “It was all a joke/ satire announcement).

Vatican offers ‘time off purgatory’ to followers of Pope Francis tweets

In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis‘ tweets.

The church’s granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins. The remissions got a bad name in the Middle Ages because unscrupulous churchmen sold them for large sums of money. But now indulgences are being applied to the 21st century. But a senior Vatican official warned web-surfing Catholics that indulgences still required a dose of old-fashioned faith, and that paradise was not just a few mouse clicks away. [Rest, guardian.]

So, the pope’s Twitter followers get time off purgatory. What’s the problem?

Is it really ludicrous that the Vatican should be claiming you can get time off purgatory by following the pope on Twitter?

There are obvious problems. If as a materialist you don’t believe in purgatory, or hell, or any kind of moral balancing in an afterlife, then the whole thing is absurd, though no more absurd than any other belief about purgatory. Or you may be a Christian, happy to imagine our souls must be purified before they are fit to see God entirely (and this is the most charitable interpretation of the doctrine of purgatory I can find) but none the less amused and outraged that the pope should stick his oar into the business. Indulgences, after all, were the single greatest and grossest abuse of papal power to inspire the Reformation.

But let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the pope does have an informed opinion on what behaviour pleases God and benefits the soul. Does it then matter at all what technology he uses to spread his opinions? Is there anything intrinsically more ridiculous in following a devotion on Twitter than in the flesh, or on television? [Rest, commentisfree.]


Ireland passes law allowing limited rights to abortion

Hugely important progress. It’s not enough (see below re. rape cases for example) but it is a start I thought I’d never see.

Irish parliamentarians passed a groundbreaking law early on Thursday allowing limited abortion rights in the republic.

Enda Kenny and his coalition government pushed through the protection of life in pregnancy bill, which will allow for abortions only when a woman’s life is under threat if her pregnancy continues or if she is suicidal.

Despite threats of excommunication from cardinals and bishops, the privately devout Catholic prime minister eventually won the vote after a marathon two-day debate in the Dáil.

Members voted by 127 to 31 to legalise abortion in cases of medical emergencies as well as the risk of suicide.

However, pro-choice and anti-abortion groups have already threatened court cases to challenge the new law.

The legislation which passed through the Dáil after 24 hours of tortuous debate will not stop the annual abortion trail from Ireland to Britain.

According to Irish department of health figures released on Thursday, about 4,000 Irish women travelled to British hospitals and clinics to terminate their pregnancies last year. They included 124 who were under 18.

The new law also does not include women who were raped, meaning grim traffic across the Irish Sea for abortions will continue.

Rest: The Guardian.

Is the Catholic Church’s hard line on abortion legislation an acceptance that its influence over the Irish state is over?

On sluggerotoole:

There are some interesting twists in the abortion debate in the Republic. As Michael Kelly of the Irish Catholic newspaper noted yesterday Armagh’s new-boy-to-be Eamonn Martin has been clear in ways his soon-to-be predecessor Sean Brady never was. As he also added, Rome will be pleased.

Nevertheless, the latest MRBI/IPOSOS poll on whether there should be legislation (as opposed to guidelines) is still pretty overwhelmingly in favour…

Asked if they were for or against the heads of the Bill to legislate for the Supreme Court X judgment of 1992 permitting abortion where a mother’s life is in danger, 75 per cent said Yes, 14 per cent said No and 11 per cent had no opinion.

Supporters of both Coalition parties were the strongest backers of the legislation with 79 per cent of Fine Gael voters favour; 78 per cent of Labour; 77 per cent of Sinn Féin and 74 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters.

People over 65 were the least enthusiastic about the legislation with 60 per cent in favour and 26 per cent against. The 25 to 34 age group was the most strongly in favour but there were large majorities across all age cohorts.

The best-off social categories were strongest in support of legislation while farmers and the poorest DE social group were the least enthusiastic.

The thing is that there won’t be a referendum on this issue. The referendum will be in the chamber, and this is where the church’s rather intemperate (not to mention very general) threat of ex communication was aimed.

And it has caused a lot of difficulty. Micheal Martin had intended to march his party through on a whip, but was the first to relax and for the first time in his party’s history allowed his TDs have a free vote. We’ll see later on whether there are consequences to letting ‘soldiers of destiny’ have such a free hand.

Meanwhile Enda Kenny, posing as the most unlikely secular hero in the history of the state is choosing the book of statute over the book of church law and in the process denying a party a free vote that’s been accustomed to having one in times past.

The world turned upside down? [Rest.]

Irish Feminists Still Fighting Church’s Political Influence

What you see in our Second Wave feminists is a focus against the Church, and the Church’s control of women’s bodies and minds,” she said. “That meant specifically targeting reproductive justice issues. … [But] the unmarried mother was the main social problem, the battleground in the culture war. Feminists were arguing for support so that women could keep their children. And we won.”

On msmagazine:

When I walked into Dr. Katherine O’Donnell’s Dublin flat, the first thing I saw was a weighty-looking tome resting in the middle of her dining table: Impure Thoughts: Sexuality, Catholicism and Literature in Twentieth-Century Ireland. It’s exactly the kind of book you’d expect to find in the home of a women’s studies professor, and it was a fitting third party to our conversation that afternoon. I’d come to talk to O’Donnell about her country’s women’s movement, and in any discussion of Irish feminism the Church looms large.

The Church also figured prominently in the death of Savita Halappanavar last year, which sparked outrage and focused the world’s attention on women’s rights in Ireland. Halappanavar was admitted to a Galway hospital on October 21st, miscarrying at 17 weeks. She was repeatedly denied the abortion that might have saved her, being told she couldn’t have the procedure because Ireland is a “Catholic country.” The international outcry following her death forced the Irish government to at least appear to reassess its abortion restrictions: In May it announced a bill that seemed to clarify when doctors can perform abortions to save a woman’s life. Lawmakers probably hoped this small concession would deflect political scrutiny, but by then it was too late. The global feminist community had already begun to question what exactly was going on in Ireland. [Rest.]


A Magdalene Laundry survivor speaks out

On the washingtontimes:

It was December of 1946 as the harsh winds of a Baltimore winter howled outside of the ancient dining hall where twelve year-old Patricia Noel sat struggling to hold back the tears rising up inside her. She felt abandoned and alone in the world as she tried to hold back the pain that life had inflicted on the fragile heart of such a young girl.

At eight years old she had lost the only person that had ever mattered in her life when her mother died. Her father, a heroin addict, had left long ago, abandoning her mother and two siblings, leaving them destitute and living on the streets. When her mother died, Patricia and her brother and sister became orphans and wards of the state. A heartbroken and innocent young girl, Patricia became swept up in a wave of Social Service placements that shuffled her through a myriad of institutions and foster homes.

One of the places Patricia Noel was placed was St. Johns Episcopal orphanage located in Washington D.C. near the White House, where she felt loved and cared for. Fears of creating “institutionalized” children led them to transfer Patricia to a foster home that only returned her to Social Services. Eventually, at the age of eleven, Patricia was sent to the Magdalene Laundry in Baltimore, Maryland, run by the Good Shepherd order.

Magdalene Covenants were set up by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages to provide a place for repentant prostitutes seeking to cleanse their sins in preparation for marriage. These institutions would take a darker turn, however, as the industrial revolution dawned and young girls who violated a strict feminine moral code became slave labor in a hell they could never have imagined. [Rest.]

When a Doctor Wields a Bible: The Alarming Rise of Catholic Hospitals (US)

On alternet:

Across the U.S., religious healthcare corporations  are absorbing once secular and independent hospitals and in the process imposing religious restrictions that pit standard medical practice against theology.

Recently, a woman was traveling across the Midwest when she developed abdominal pain. She and her husband went to the nearest hospital, where she was diagnosed with a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. The doctors recommended immediate surgery to remove the fallopian tube containing the misplaced embryo, a procedure that would reduce by half her future chances of conceiving a child. They failed to mention that a  simple injection of Methotrexate would solve the problem, leaving her fertility intact. Why the omission? The Catholic hospital where she got diagnosed was subject to the “ Ethical and Religious Directives” of the Catholic bishops, which state, “In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.”

According to Catholic moralists, an injection that destroys an ectopic embryo is a direct abortion, while removing the part of a woman’s reproductive system containing the embryo is not. While this may sound strange (or abhorrent) to outsiders, it has its own  internal logic. Catholic ethics ultimately are determined by theologically based perceptions of what actions God approves and doesn’t approve. While compassion does matter, the end goal is to improve the spiritual standing or righteousness of the person performing the action. These theological dictates may or may not align with the questions that govern secular medical ethics and practice: how to minimize harm and suffering or maximize wellbeing while respecting patient autonomy. [Rest.]


Thousands may sue over illegal adoptions (Ireland)

On the irishexaminer:

A High Court decision to allow a woman who claims her baby was put up for adoption in the 1970s without her permission to sue for damages could open the door to challenges from thousands of women who had their children taken from them in forced and illegal adoptions.

The woman is suing a religious order and the HSE, as successor to the adoption agency which arranged the placement of her daughter more than 40 years ago, claiming the adoption was done without her knowledge while she was a resident with the order. She is not contesting the adoption order.

The woman claims she was not even consulted when, as a teen mother, the baby was taken for adoption. She says that she suffered psychological harm, among other injuries, due to the defendants’ alleged negligence, breach of duty, and breach of her constitutional rights.

She also claims fraud and undue influence in relation to documents she allegedly signed for the adoption.

The claims are denied.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan, who said the parties, with the exception of the HSE, should not be identified at this stage, described the case as a difficult, sensitive, and painful one. [Rest.]

A Brief History of Abortion in Ireland

This week, I’ve started to think if I never heard the word “abortion” again, I’d be a happy camper. I’ve been avoiding listening to the radio and watching television in an attempt to avoid the subject. Meanwhile, I’ve been spending most of my free time on the Abortion Rights Campaign. You might be wondering why. Well, Ireland’s history with abortion is much much MUCH different than other countries.

For myself and for my readers, here’s a quick and dirty recap of the history of abortion in Ireland:

  • The 1861 Offences Against The Person Act revised an earlier act of 1828 that made raping, assaulting, and killing a crime. They specifically include obtaining or helping someone to “procure a miscarriage”, no matter what the reason.

For those of you who don’t know your Irish history, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom then. So this law from 1861 was actually a British law. Then there was a war of independence, and the Irish Free State was created, followed by the creation of the Republic of Ireland in 1949. (I include this information because an embarrassing number of Americans slept through this bit of world history class. p.s. Northern Ireland is still part of the UK.) While the UK has repealed the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 (abortion is legal in England, Scotland, and Wales up to 24 weeks), it’s still on the books in Ireland, both north and south.

  • In 1983, abortion just wasn’t illegal enough for Irish politicians, probably because it was becoming legal elsewhere, so they decided to amend the Irish Constitution so that it would never become legal in the future. “There won’t be any Roe v. Wade nonsense in our country!” they said. And so… [Rest.]


Irish Women Seeking Abortions May Be Sent to Psych Ward

From what I gather, this could happen in cases where there is “suicidal intent” and an abortion is denied. In other words, a woman who seeks an abortion because she is suicidal could be locked up until she gives birth. And, as if that’s not horrific enough, I can think of a number of ways in which that net could be widened.

Ireland has very strong anti-abortion laws. It’s illegal. That’s it. However, new legislation has been proposed that would allow Irish women to terminate their pregnancy if there is a threat on their life—including suicidal intent.

The New York Times explains that even if the bill passes, terminating a pregnancy will not straight-forward. If a woman’s life is in an emergency situation, one doctor will be able to approve an abortion. With non-emergency situations where a woman is still at risk, two doctors (one being an obstetrician or a gynecologist) will need to sign off on the procedure. For cases of suicidal intent, a woman will need approval from two psychologists and an obstetrician. According to the Irish Examiner, if a woman is denied a termination she might be forced to spend the rest of her pregnancy in a psychiatric ward. [Rest.]


Ireland’s pro-choice activists risk prison with mass leafleting campaign

Pro-choice activists in Ireland are risking up to 14 years in prison with a guerilla-style information campaign designed to help the estimated 11 Irish women per day who travel to Britain for terminations.

They are targeting cafes, pubs, clubs, gym changing rooms and public toilets with thousands of leaflets giving contact details for British abortion clinics as well as the price of terminations. The literature includes a website where Irish women can buy early abortion pills (effective up to nine weeks of pregnancy) online via

Organisers and supporters behind the campaign, which began after Savita Halappanavar’s death in Galway University Hospital last autumn, say they intend to intensify their leaflet blitz after the government approved a bill on Tuesday to allow for strictly limited abortions in Ireland.

Disseminating information on how to buy early abortion pills is illegal in the Republic and under the new legislation those helping to procure an illicit termination risk being jailed for up to 14 years. [Rest.]


A ‘very real tragedy’ behind a human rights case (Ireland)

For the first time yesterday, the Irish woman who brought the ‘D versus Ireland’ case spoke out publicly about the “very real tragedy” that led her to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

In Jan 2002, she was 39, the mother of two boys aged 10 and 12, and delightedly expecting twins.

But, at 14 weeks’ pregnant, the initial results of an amniocentesis test revealed one of the twins had died. Three weeks later, full test results revealed the second twin had Edward’s Syndrome, a condition which usually ends in miscarriage or death shortly after birth because of heart abnormalities, kidney malformations, and other internal organ disorders.

“She [the doctor] said there is nothing we can do, nothing in this country. The thing was I thought there would be special treatment. It’s a common enough occurrence. There are several hundred of these cases… I assumed there would be a situation in our hospitals where there would be a sympathetic arrangement where there is this woman who’s got terrible news, she wants these babies but she can’t have them… But we have to say ‘go home sort it out yourself or carry on’,” she said in a RTÉ radio interview on Today with PK.

A termination in these circumstances could not be sanctioned in this country.

Deirdre was just 17 weeks’ pregnant and facing carrying the dead foetus for another 23 weeks. She’d have to endure the excessive bloating that accompanies such pregnancies, and the fatigue, and somehow find the chutzpah to receive good wishes and comments on her pregnancy from people who were blissfully unaware of what was really going on in her womb. [Rest.]


Ireland Is Opening an Inquest into the Awful Death of Savita Halappanavar

Ireland is set to open an inquest into the horrifying (and probably unnecessary) death of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist who died from suspected complications from septacaemia after the hospital that admitted her reportedly refused to terminate her pregnancy. Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant at the time.

According to the Telegraph, Savita’s widower Praveen insists that the couple repeatedly requested that the hospital terminate Savita’s pregnancy, but were refused because a fetal heartbeat had been detected. Praveen says he and his wife were told, by way of explanation, that Ireland is a Catholic country, which is just another way of saying, “The gestating woman dying in agony in our fine hospital is less important than the nameless fetus floating in her uterus, a fetus that will almost certainly die, one way or another.”

[Rest: jezebel]


Pink smoke released over Vatican protesting lack of women priests

When women are in the running for pope, I’ll be interested. Any moment now, wouldn’t you say?

The release of black smoke, and not white smoke, from The Vatican chimney signified that a new pope had not been named. But what was the meaning of the less visible and less discussed pink smoke released over The Vatican? It was a protest against The Vatican’s refusal to ordain women priests.

Erin Saiz Hanna, the director of the Women’s Ordination Conference, which staged the protest and has been advocating for the ordination of women for three decades, stated,

“The current old boys’ club has left our Church reeling from scandal, abuse, sexism and oppression…. The people of the Church are desperate for a leader who will be open to dialogue and embrace the gifts of women’s wisdom in every level of Church governance.”

Miriam Duignan, Communications coordinator of the association ‘Women can be priests’ said,

“The Catholic church should be a healthy and vibrant place with equality, with both men and women called to the priesthood. Jesus did not exclude women. Jesus encouraged women and actively sought to include them…. So why do the cardinals who are supposed to represent Jesus, make a point of actively excluding women, of telling them to be quiet? And of criminalising anybody that speaks out in favour of women priests?”

Therese Koturbash, the international ambassador of the organization Women Priests explained, “[t]he pink smoke is a sign of the voices we’re mourning who are excluded from the current conclave.” Despite the Church’s intransigence and Pope Benedict’s crack down on the ordination of women, Koturbash is hopeful: “Already there have been so many changes that have happened in the church, that it wouldn’t be a big step to start including women.”

[Rest: feminisiting. Also, this: pinksmokeoverthevatican]


Mother Teresa: Far from Saintly

Don’t believe the Vatican hype.

The myth of altruism and generosity surrounding Mother Teresa is dispelled in a paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montreal’s Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education.

The paper will be published in the March issue of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa. Like the journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who is amply quoted in their analysis, the researchers conclude that her hallowed image—which does not stand up to analysis of the facts—was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign.

“While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church’s most celebrated woman and now part of our collective imagination—Mother Teresa—whose real name was Agnes Gonxha,” says Professor Larivée, who led the research. “The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further.”

[Rest: scienceblog]


Ireland: The Holy War on Irish Wombs

Below is a very good account of the abortion situation in Ireland. Note Dennis’ “Oh, I wouldn’t know anything about all of those other things about women’s rights you’re talking about, I just want to tell women what to do with their wombs”.

It’s a freezing Saturday afternoon in Dublin, and, on the corner of O’Connell Street, a nervous young man called Dennis wants me to sign a [link] Ireland: The Holy War on Irish Wombspetition with a picture of a dead baby on it. Dennis is 21 years old and doesn’t like abortion one bit. Especially not now that there’s a chance, for the first time in a generation, of liberalizing the law just a little to allow women at risk of actual death to terminate their pregnancies.

“I’m trying to keep abortion away from Ireland,” repeats Dennis, churning out the slogan being yelled by stern older men behind him. “If [a woman] doesn’t want a child, there’s obvious steps she can take to not have a child.” Like what? “Well, for example, abstinence,” he says, looking down at me uncomfortably. “Purity before marriage.” What about sexual equality? Dennis is blushing, despite the cold. “Well, I’m here against abortion. I wouldn’t have anything to say to that.”

It’s illegal for a woman to have an abortion under almost any circumstances in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if she might die in the delivery room. Every year, thousands of women with crisis pregnancies scrape together the money to travel overseas to have abortions—and that’s if they’re lucky. If they’re unlucky—immigrants, shift workers… anyone who is too poor to afford a red-eye Ryanair flight to London—the only options are to take black-market abortion pills or be forced to give birth. Right now, members of the Irish Parliament are trying to push through legislation that would allow women to have abortions if they’re at risk of suicide, but the Catholic hard-right are fighting back.

Since 1967, when Britain made abortion legal, over 150,000 Irish women have gone to England to end their pregnancies. They go in secret and, since that figure only covers those who list Irish addresses, the true number is probably much higher. It’s a situation that has been tacitly accepted in Irish society for years: Abortion is sinful, but we’ll put up with it as long as it happens far away and the women involved are shamed into silence. “It’s an Irish solution to an Irish problem,” says Sinead Ahern, an activist with Choice Ireland. Now all that might be about to change.

[Rest: AWID]