COMMENT: The Irish government are in denial and it is hypocrisy they endorse not the rights of the unborn
A video has been circulating the Internet.
It is a piece of investigative journalism by The Times. In the video a young woman goes to a crisis pregnancy agency and seeks counsel regarding abortion. The advice she is given is incorrect, it is medically unsound and it is irresponsible.
The woman is told abortion may lead to breast cancer, to future child abuse, to infertility. She is told she is too late to take the abortion pill, despite being within the 10 week limit. She is told she is beautiful and quite intelligent and to think about what her parents would say if they found out she had an abortion.
The contrived experience of this woman however does not prove that all crisis pregnancy agencies are operating in the dark ages of Catholic fear and shame, or that women are conspiratorially misinformed and it does not prove that we are a nation which hates women who want abortions.
This video proves just one thing; that the Irish government are in denial and it is hypocrisy they endorse not the rights of the unborn.
The Women's Centre
The Women’s Centre on Berkeley Street, Dublin 7, is where the undercover video was shot. The Centre advertises itself as a "team of counselors providing confidential & non-judgmental advice on abortion in Ireland for unplanned pregnancies".
Its website is comprised of stock photos, and anyone who has spent more than a few days on the Internet would know something was amiss from the outdated font alone.
The Women’s Centre is not affiliated with the HSE, it is unregulated and it is not subject to independent inspection. It is a business.
The Women’s Centre was chosen by The Times for this particular undercover investigation but it is worth pointing out that it is not representative of the Irish Government’s approach to abortion.
That does not in any way absolve them of blame for the fact that it is allowed to trade and spout its archaic advice in Ireland in 2016.
Repealing the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal rights to the mother and the unborn child, has become the civil rights issue for a generation, just as it was for the previous generation and the one before that too.
Women’s reproductive rights are not just a trendy topic or a fashionable statement and their limitations at the legislative hands of the Irish government should be examined not sensationalised.
The HSE is associated with fifty crisis pregnancy agencies located around Ireland. These are all listed on the positiveoptions.ie website.
Under Irish law, these centres give:
"information, advice and counselling on all options available to the pregnant woman. This information must be truthful and objective and must fully inform the woman on all options and must not be accompanied by any advocacy or promotion of abortion".
This means, without explicitly advocating abortion, crisis pregnancy agencies are allowed to give information on abortion in other countries where it is legal. It is lawful to give the names and addresses of abortion services and it is lawful for doctors and others to give the woman in question her medical records.
Through its centres the HSE provides the names, the addresses and the contact details of clinics where Irish women can get abortions.
The HSE also provides women who have had abortions with free aftercare the details of which are on; abortionaftercare.ie. The services are funded by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme which was set up in 2007.
The programme provides a post-abortion check-up for three weeks after the procedure, it also provides urgent medical care and post-abortion counselling. These services are also available for women who have taken abortion pills.
This situation, when considered objectively is morally corrupt. Ireland will provide women with information and with after-care but will not legalise abortion on its shores. What this creates is a legal footing for unregulated clinics and quacks to provide the kind of misinformation that The Times' video uncovers.
The problem is not with this agency, nor the counsellor who attempts to bully and scare the woman in the video, the problem is with the successive governments who refuse to touch the constitutional issue with anything other than white gloves and shrugging platitudes.
In the last 30 years Ireland has progressed in its moral and social attitudes relating to the sexual autonomy of individuals - allowing contraception for under 18s in 1990, recognising rape within marriage as criminal also in 1990 and decriminalising homosexuality in 1993.
Social conscience in Ireland has always preceded political courage. The reality of the exportation of Irish crisis pregnancies to the UK remains however and continues to put the physical and psychological health of women in jeopardy.
The media attention on the Eighth Amendment and the legalisation of abortion cannot be irresponsible. This is much too important for that. Women and men deserve autonomy over their own bodies. At the very least they deserve a cohesive policy, one that does not discriminate against those who can afford to travel and those who can't.
While some ministers have spoken up, have supported the rights of women and men, these are few and far between. The government is unstable. It took 70 days just to form a coalition that nobody believed would last.
Is this a government willing to sacrifice itself for a historic referendum? Is it a government willing to get involved and debate rather than give sound bites to a media core vying for news? Is it a government willing to put people before politics?
By their silence, and by their funding of abortion pre-care and post-care the government is showing itself to be flaccid and an undeserving political representation of both sides in this very public argument.