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Reneging on repeal: New threat to abortion rights

30 October 2018

After a period of quiet relief following the repeal referendum the struggle around abortion rights is returning to the political agenda. The effect of the referendum was simply to remove abortion from the constitution and make it an issue for legislation.

It is now  becoming evident that government proposals will be quite restrictive and that the battle will resume in the Dail when legislation is brought forward shortly. There is another issue that will not go to the Dail but is being settled in quiet negotiation between Fine Gael  health minister Simon Harris and the Catholic Church about the transfer of ownership of the new maternity hospital to a private company controlled by the church. The Nuns have made it clear that their ethos will prevail within the new company. Aside from the massive privatisation giveaway new legislative proposals that include a conditional freedom of conscience for medical practitioners means that abortion rights for the majority of women could be easily blocked.

Those who believe that Ireland is now post Catholic are very much mistaken. For quite some time the church has been retreating behind private shell companies that are replacing direct church control in healthcare. Private companies will remain within the Catholic ethos and the church state relationship that lies at the heart of the 26 County state is reinforced as the partners act to bring forward the mass privatisation of public services including healthcare.

In this case a 350 million euro hospital has been handed over to the church. This will directly affect the supposed “abortion on demand” 12 week period of early pregnancy. The process will be subject to medical supervision and it is proposed that it will require a scan which will only be available from one of the maternity hospitals.

The result will be class discrimination. Private consultants and gynaecologists will insure access to abortion without any difficulty for those with the money to pay while obstacles to treatment will remain for the working class.

On the 20th of October feminists met in Dublin in an educational conference to discuss the issue. As  a result of the conference a statement was issued:

The Declaration below was unanimously adopted at the Education Day of the Campaign against Church Ownership of Women's Healthcare on Sat 20th Oct 2018.

“We demand that the National Maternity Hospital be taken into public ownership as a condition of public funding; that the €350 million earmarked for the new build be conditional on this change of ownership; and that the new maternity hospital be governed by a new, secular charter fit for the 21st century."

"We call on all individuals, organizations and groups who supported Repeal to sign and actively support the declaration."

It is of vital importance that those forces who mobilised around the repeal movement now return to action to ensure that abortion rights become a reality.

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