Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

X case still debated 20 years on

In the 20 years since the X Case in the Republic, campaigns have repeatedly ignited over the need for Government to amend legislation to allow abortion when a mother's life is at risk.

The case resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that terminations should be lawful when a woman's life is in danger or she is at risk of suicide.

Despite the 1992 ruling, no legislation has been introduced to allow abortion to protect the mother's life.

An estimated 4,200 women travel from the Republic to the UK and other European countries each year to end a pregnancy.

Abortion was outlawed in 1861 and over the last 30 years there have been three referendums on what is one of the most contentious issues in Irish society.

In 1983 voters backed proposals to recognise that a mother and unborn child have equal right to life and since 2002 women have had the right to travel outside the state for a termination and the right to information on abortion, following other votes.

The issue sparked further debate this year when four women went public with harrowing stories of how they travelled abroad for a termination following diagnoses of fatal foetal abnormalities.

Now the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, 31, after she was refused an abortion while suffering a miscarriage has again triggered controversy.

Coincidentally, a 14-member expert group last night reported back to Health Minister James Reilly on the X Case and the implications of a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling on Irish abortion law, which found the state violated the rights of a woman with cancer who was forced to travel abroad to terminate her pregnancy.

The X Case centred on a 14-year-old girl who had been raped and became pregnant. The Attorney General asked the courts to impose a travel ban on the teenager which the Supreme Court later overturned because of her suicide risk.

The girl had a miscarriage before she was able to have the pregnancy terminated.

To coincide with the February anniversary of the case, left-wing TDs in the Dail parliament, Clare Daly, Joan Collins and Mick Wallace, put forward a Private Members' Bill to finally legislate on the X Case.

It was rejected by 109 votes to 20, with Labour TDs among those to vote against it despite the party's pro-choice stance.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's first private abortion clinic opened in Belfast in October.

The Taoiseach said Dr Reilly would review the report on abortion laws over the next day or two.

"He will bring this report to government, government will make its decision. We have agreed to be in contact with the (European) court by November 30," Mr Kenny said.

"This is a tragic coincidence in the sense that the ABC report from the expert group has been received by the minister. People will inevitably put these two issues together where they are actually quite separate."

Mr Kenny added: "I don't want to say anything more about the case. I think it's only right and proper that we should deal with the facts."

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