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Some voices from the Medical Treatment (Termination of Pregnancy in Case of Risk to Life of Pregnant Woman) Bill 2012: Second Stage debate 18/19 April 2012 November 15, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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You’ll find the full text here and here

Reading back over the transcript of the debate it was notable how the following trope was evident. Mostly correct in itself in the abstract – though as it happens I’ve direct experience of how far adrift it can be in the actuality, and one quotation below is flat out wrong – but tellingly evading the central point (you’ll find a detailed and comprehensive post on this particular aspect of the discussion here from Wendy Lyon at Feminist Ire).

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Deputy Regina Doherty:      Meanwhile, Ireland remains the safest place in the world for women to give birth, with UN figures showing Ireland as a world leader in protecting pregnant women. The latest UN study on maternal mortality, published in 2010, shows that from 172 countries for which estimates were given, Ireland remains a world leader in safety for pregnant women. Time and again, international statistics show that Ireland has the lowest number of maternal deaths in the world. On the other hand, increasing evidence suggests there are serious mental health risks associated with abortion. A Finnish study in the European Journal of Public Health recently showed that women who had abortions were six times more likely to commit suicide compared with women who had their babies.

Deputy Áine Collins:     We are lucky in so many ways. In Ireland we have one of the best records in the world in maternity care, which is so important. The Government is committed to ensuring no woman’s life will ever be put in danger.

Deputy Tom Barry:     The Bill addresses the health of the mother, rather than of the child, but it is my understanding — I have spoken to a number of health professionals to seek their advice — that it is very rare for a medical condition to present that would leave no choice but to terminate or endanger the pregnancy to save the life of the mother. Where that is the only option, however, I would fully support that decision and, as I understand it, that stance is already taken in Irish medicine. However, there is far too much of a grey area in the Bill, as it stands. The risk of misdiagnosis is a major concern, particularly when we come to psychological and psychiatric conditions. I do not want there to be a situation where we would have abortion on demand under false pretences. As a scientist, I am well aware that there must be tolerance of errors in all that happens in science. However, errors in this instance have fatal consequences.

Deputy Mattie McGrath:     The life of the mother already takes precedence and rightly so. It is an emotive issue now, as it has always been. I thank the many people who contacted me from throughout the country and I thank those of all views who have contacted all of us. It is important that they contact us and that we respectfully listen to all sides.
The suggestion that pregnant women are denied necessary medical treatment because of the pro-life ethos in this country is simply untrue. In fact, Ireland is a world leader when it comes to the safety of pregnant women. For example, the latest United Nations report on the safety of mothers during pregnancy found that of all 172 countries for which estimates were given, Ireland is out in front. We have a great many problems in our health service, but this is a wonderful achievement.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Kathleen Lynch):      We are extremely fortunate in Ireland that we have an exceptional record in respect of maternal mortality. As the Minister indicated, according to the most up-to-date statistics from the World Health Organization, namely, those published in 2008, Ireland was second in the world in the context of its low maternal mortality rate. This would seem to indicate that pregnant women in this country receive a very high standard of care.

Deputy Tony McLoughlin:     I oppose the Bill as set out by Deputy Clare Daly as I believe the fundamentals, even its Title, are flawed. The life of the mother already takes precedence in medicine, as, of course, it should. In Ireland, thankfully, we have one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world.

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Comments»

1. Wendy Lyon - November 15, 2012

I did a long piece on that “safest country in the world” trope here. Those statistics are outdated anyway; according to the latest WHO figures, Ireland is only 13th in the world.

I think it was Tom Barry who said in that debate that he didn’t understand why Clare Daly had brought up the Lone Parents’ Allowance cuts because as far as he could see that had nothing to do with abortion. This is the quality of intellect we have making decisions about women’s lives.

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WorldbyStorm - November 15, 2012

I’d say it was genuinely shocking how poorly thought out their responses were in the main but it isn’t really shocking, it’s depressingly predictable.

I’ll put a link to that piece in the post above.

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CMK - November 15, 2012

Looking at the WHO figures it looks like Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Belarus (!!!), Poland and Czech Republic, to take just a sampling of European countries, have been rates than here. The data seems to be based on 2010 which in austerity time is an age ago. I wonder what the rates will be like by, say, 2015. From what I know from a very informed source our maternity services are close to collapse and that a series of, preventable, disasters and deaths are just waiting to happen. The recruitment embargo is effecting maternity care, no doubt the assault on consultants will have an impact too. Also, we have to take into account that private maternity care, delivered by public funded midwives and in public hospitals for the most part, of course, is a cash cow for many consultants. And, of course, people are going private because, surprise, surprise, their experiences of the public system scared the hell out of them. Many of the pathologies of our two-tier health system are impacting upon the delivery of maternity care. But I doubt if our ‘best place in the world to have a baby’ has survived the last two austerity budgets nor will it likely survive the austerity to come.

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Wendy Lyon - November 15, 2012

I’ve heard the same regarding the state of our maternity services. I’ve also heard that there are reasons to doubt the reported MMR rate. And by that, I don’t mean it’s actually lower.

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2. FergusD - November 15, 2012

Those speeches by TDs were incredibly smug – and entirely missed the point!

Maybe Ireland does have a good safety record for births, but if that list includes 172 countries then a hell of a lot of them are going to deprived countries. How does the RoI compare to Scandanavia for instance?

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3. Tomboktu - November 18, 2012

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