Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Seanad Éireann Debate

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Senator Martin Conway: Information on Martin Conway Zoom on Martin Conway] These issues affect the lives of people and will help save lives. It has been a difficult couple of weeks. Some of my best friends cannot support the Bill and I feel for them and the struggle they have had in dealing with this. Having said that, I want to see more support structures for our 5,000 citizens who feel they must go abroad. That is not good enough. The ideal situation is that the 5,000 people are persuaded to keep their babies but that is not always possible. We need to realise this is an issue that cannot continue to be ignored. By ignoring it, we are ignoring citizens.

Senator Jim Walsh: Information on Jim Walsh Zoom on Jim Walsh When first elected to this House in 1997, I expected to be involved in debates on socioeconomic issues along the lines outlined by Senator Conway, who I respect. In all my expectation, I never thought I would be debating the most fundamental right, the right to life. With more sadness than anything else, I rise to make this contribution. My guiding principle throughout my life, in politics and outside it, has been that human life is inviolate from conception to natural death. Interrupt it anywhere along the continuum and the rest of that life is obliterated.

A mother's life must be protected in all medical circumstances, including medical complications during pregnancy. Clear evidence from the Joint Committee on Health and Children hearings was that current medical practice is such that there are no inhibitions on the obstetrician or gynaecologist treating a woman. All of them stated clearly that they never experienced, personally or in the experience of colleagues, a situation where they were inhibited from doing so by the law.

My concern surrounds the inclusion of section 9, which deals with suicidal intent. Undoubtedly, suicide is a major problem in our society. The number of pregnant women, based on medical evidence, is one in 500,000 but some 350 in every 1 million young males commit suicide. It is a huge problem but we must practice evidence-based medicine. No textbooks or medical journals advocate abortion as a treatment for suicidality. It was said by some of the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children and by some of the pro-choice psychiatrists that it is a treatment for an unwanted pregnancy and therein lies the problem. I subscribe fully to the two-patient model of looking after mother and child, which has served us so well in the past.

Let us consider protecting the mother. I oppose the legislation because it is anti-women. It disempowers women and the experience everywhere is that women in the poorer socio-economic groups are disempowered and suffer most from this. It is also about men failing to take responsibility. In a booklet written by Dr. Pravin Thevathasan, post-abortion trauma is described as the psychological consequence of repressed grief following abortion. He attributes it to low self-esteem and it may be either a symptom of post-abortion trauma or the root cause. He states:

Guilt may be a healthy sign that a person is gaining insight into the significance of abortion. It will be accompanied by anger when the woman feels that the decision to abort was left to, that is, made by, other people. Guilt may be the beginning of healing, so those who campaign for guilt-free abortion are attempting to rob human beings of their very humanity.[...] Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon and may be seen as an unhealthy attempt to atone for the destructive act of abortion. Broken relationships are common following abortion. This is because the father and/or mother may be silently grieving for the aborted child and because either parent may feel let down, manipulated, ignored, spurned - even disgusted - by the other. [...] Anger is often directed at the father of the aborted child, at friends or other relatives who suggested the abortion [...] Flashbacks may occur [...] Some women have flashbacks when they pass any hospital or clinic where abortions are done [and some when they give birth to another child]. Anniversaries – of the conception, the abortion and the projected date of birth – can produce sudden low moods. [...] Alcohol abuse as a means of coping with the emotional pain of abortion is common, as are drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and other forms of addiction.

All this was clearly illustrated by any who took the time and trouble to attend the various meetings at which Women Hurt attended. In the 21st century, is this medieval barbaric procedure the best we can offer a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy and who can, no doubt, be in serious distress? The doctor to whom I referred gave case studies from his experience. He talked about a 20 year old student presenting with severe depression, who had two abortions in four years. A 35 year old woman had been cutting her wrists and the reason given was that, at the age of 18, she was coerced into an abortion by her boyfriend. Cutting herself was a symbolic gesture of atonement for the destructive act of abortion. A 16 year old girl, seen after her tenth overdose, was feeling angry and depressed following an abortion. A 50 year old woman was admitted with severe depression because of talking about the abortion she had 30 years previously. A 25 year old man started using hallucinogenic drugs in order, he said, to get in touch with his lost child.

Some years ago, the actress Shelley Winters talked about her two abortions. She said she would give up everything, including her money and Academy awards, if only she could have those children now. Gloria Swanson begins and ends her autobiography with lamentations over her aborted child. Recently, other celebrities including Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Appleton spoke of their heartbreak following abortion. Dr. Pravin Thevathasan states:

As a nation, we were profoundly moved when a young artist killed herself after aborting her twin babies. She wrote of how much she longed to be with them.

So much for claiming the legislation is about protecting women. When we move on to the unborn, obviously they have no chance whatsoever. Sometimes, when we talk about abortion, people are prone to using sanitised language. I refer Members to Dr. Anthony Levatino, a US obstetrician who performed as many as 1,200 abortions. After his daughter died in a tragic automobile accident, he re-evaluated his position on abortion and stopped performing them. He told members of a Congressional committee they should support a Bill going through and described in detail what abortion is. He stated:

Your patient has been feeling her baby kick for the last 2 months or more but now she is asleep on an operating room table and you are there to help her with her problem pregnancy. The first task is remove the laminaria that had earlier been placed in the cervix to dilate it sufficiently to allow the procedure you are about to perform. [...] The first instrument you reach for is a 14-French suction catheter. [...] Picture yourself introducing this catheter through the cervix and instructing the circulating nurse to turn on the suction machine. [...] What you will see is a pale yellow fluid that looks a lot like urine coming through the catheter into a glass bottle on the suction machine. This is the amniotic fluid that surrounded the baby to protect her. With suction complete, look for your Sopher clamp. [...] This instrument is for grasping and crushing tissue. When it gets hold of something, it does not let go.

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