Pro-life campaigners are putting pressure on Fine Gael to keep the party’s pre-election promise not to introduce abortion legislation.
The Minister for Health James Reilly announced at the weekend the members of the 14-member ‘expert group’ from the medical, legal and nursing profession which will report to the Government on the issue within six months.
The group will advise the Government on how to implement the 2010 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the A, B and C v. Ireland case.
Spokesperson for the Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) Dr Ruth Cullen said: ”The establishment of the expert group presents a genuine opportunity to re-affirm the ethical distinction between necessary medical interventions in pregnancy and induced abortion, which intentionally targets the life of the baby.
”Pro-choice activists are falsely claiming that Ireland is obliged to introduce abortion following the European Court of Human Rights decision. In reality, the court recognised the right of the Irish people to decide on the issue,” Dr Cullen said.
John Smyth of the PLC said: ”There are at least a couple of known abortion advocates on the group while others would be expected to defend the pro-life position.
”If the group does its job properly, pro-life people have nothing to fear.
”The Fine Gael party gave a pre-General Election commitment not to introduce abortion legislation and said that ‘women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to save their lives, and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld’.
”There is a huge onus on them to honour this commitment,” Mr Smyth said.
The expert group will be chaired by Justice Mr Seán Ryan and consist of the following 13 members:
Dr Peter Boylan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist;
Dr Mary Holohan, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist;
Dr Imelda Ryan, psychiatrist;
Dr Ailish Ni Riain, general practitioner;
Dr Mark Walsh, general practitioner;
Ms Christine O’Rourke, office of the Attorney General;
Ms Mary O’Toole, senior counsel;
Ms Joanelle O’Cleirigh, solicitor;
Ms Denise Kirwin, solicitor;
Dr Deirdre Madden, Medical Council;
Dr Maura Pidgeon, An Bord Altranais;
Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer;
Mr Bernard Carey, assistant secretary, Department of Health.
A, B and C v. Ireland
The ECHR — a Strasbourg-based body overseen by the 47-member-state Council of Europe (not to be confused with the smaller, 27-member-state European Union) — considered the case of three Irish women who insisted their human rights were violated because they had to travel to Britain to obtain abortions.
‘Miss A’ was a drug addict and alcoholic living in poverty when she became unintentionally pregnant. The ECHR rejected her claim utterly. ‘Miss B’, who claimed she risked an ectopic pregnancy had she carried her pregnancy to term, also had her case rejected by the court, which found that there was not enough medical evidence to support her claim that an ectopic pregnancy was a certainty.
In the case of ‘Miss C’, the woman involved was in remission from a rare form of cancer and feared it may return once she became unintentionally pregnant. However, the woman was unable to find a doctor willing to make a determination as to whether her life would be at risk if she continued her pregnancy to term, making it impossible for her to obtain an abortion in Ireland.
The ECHR unanimously ruled that ‘C’s human rights had been breached, because, while Irish Supreme Court ruled that the country’s Constitution allows for abortion in life-threatening situations, no legal procedures for establishing whether or not a pregnancy is life-threatening exist.