News Roundup

United Nations Committee tells UK to outlaw abortion on grounds of foetal impairment

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recommended that the UK change its abortion law so that selective abortion on the grounds of foetal impairment would be outlawed. It also expressed concern about end of life matters and affirmed both that the right to life is absolute and persons with disabilities should always be treated equally and not be perceived as lacking “a good and decent life”.

Concerning unborn persons with disabilities, the statement of Concluding Observations said: “The Committee is concerned about perceptions in society stigmatizing persons with disabilities as living a life of less value and the termination of pregnancy at any stage on the basis of foetal impairment. The Committee recommends that the State party changes abortion law accordingly. Women’s rights to reproductive and sexual autonomy should be respected without legalizing selective abortions on ground of foetus deficiency.”

Regarding end-of-life matters, the statement said: “The Committee observes with concern the substituted decision-making in matters of termination or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and care that is inconsistent with the right to life of persons with disabilities as equal and contributing members of society. The Committee recalls that the right to life is absolute from which no derogations are permitted and recommends that the State party adopt a plan of action aimed at eliminating perceptions towards persons with disabilities as not having “a good and decent life”, but rather recognising persons with disabilities as equal persons and part of the diversity of humankind, and ensure access to life-sustaining treatment and/or care.”


Men and women who defy gender norms at heightened risk of mental health problems says study

While women have proved they can be the main breadwinner in a marriage, and men can be the main home-maker new research out of the University of Illinois finds that couples who go against the age-old gender norms are actually at a higher risk of damaging their psychological well-being.

Karen Kramer and Sunjin Pak of the University of Illinois examined data on nearly 1,500 men and 1,800 women, aged between 52 and 60, who had participated in theUS National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth. They found that men’s well-being decreased once they had left the workforce to tend to household matters, while the inverse wasn’t true for women. In fact, their findings showed that women who became the breadwinner of their family reported more symptoms of depression.

“We observed a statistically significant and substantial difference in depressive symptoms between men and women in our study,” said Kramer, who is a professor of human development and family studies. “The results supported the overarching hypothesis:  Well-being was lower for mothers and fathers who violated gendered expectations about the division of paid labor, and higher for parents who conformed to these expectations.”

Even among the more egalitarian-minded couples, differences arose. Women in that subgroup experienced better mental health when their wages and share of the family’s income increased. However, regardless of their beliefs, men’s mental health took a hit when their earnings as a proportion of the family income shrank – suggesting perhaps that “work identity and (the) traditional role of primary earner are still critical for men, even when they have a more egalitarian gender ideology,” the researchers wrote.


Zappone attacks equal rights of the unborn

Minister Katherine Zappone has said Ireland cannot be a ‘republic of equals’ unless the equal right to life of the unborn is removed from the Constitution. Until that happens, she said, women’s ‘reproductive justice’ will not be attained. “As long as the Constitution treats a foetus as equal to a woman, her autonomy can be nothing more than a myth,” she warned in a speech in Wexford .
“It [the Eighth amendment] oppresses us with the burden of choicelessness. Choicelessness is not only about the ability to decide whether to remain pregnant, but about the ability to decide what is done to our bodies, including in pregnancy and labour.”
“As a woman, a progressive, a campaigner and a Government Minister I firmly believe we need a system of reproductive justice – which must include a referendum on reproductive rights. That is why repealing the Eighth amendment is about reproductive rights for all women, including those who want to continue with their pregnancies. Of course, for those who don’t the amendment means they cannot access abortion in Ireland.”
Minister Zappone said the amendment is creating inequality between those who can get pregnant and those who can’t. “Without repealing the Eighth Amendment and the clear establishment of reproductive rights for all, those who can become pregnant in Ireland will be unequal to those who cannot. That situation simply cannot persist.” Besides the wide availability of abortion, overcoming that also required universal and effective sex education and the accessibility of contraception, the Minister added.
Later in the day, Taoioseach Leo Varadkar welcomed Minister Zappone’s contribution to the debate and gave a partial backing to her comments. “I don’t believe Irish women are fully equal, but I think that’s about many things, not just the Constitution. We see it in lots of different fields. It is an issue that I know divides households,” he said.

Varadkar: Unborn child should have human rights but doesn’t specify them

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said while he does not think an unborn child should have equal rights to a mother, neither does he think it should have no rights at all. He did not specify what he thinks they are.
In a wide-ranging interview with Maureen Dowd of the New York Times Mr Vardkar spoke about his views on abortion in light of plans to hold a referendum on the pro-life amendment to the Constitution next year.  “As a doctor, I would perform pregnancy scans,” he said, “and while I don’t accept the view that the unborn child, the foetus, if you prefer that term, should have equal rights to an adult woman, to the mother, I don’t share this view that the baby in the womb, the fetus, whatever term you want to use, should have no rights at all. And there are people who take the view that human rights only begin after you’re born and that a child in the womb with a beating heart, the ability to hear, the ability to feel pain, should have no rights whatsoever. I don’t agree with that.”
Last July, the High Court ruled that the unborn child had rights in addition to the right to life from a variety of sources. Counsel for the State had argued against that, claiming that the unborn child had only a right to life stemming directly from the 1983 amendment to the Constitution. The State has appealed that judgement to the Supreme Court which has yet to rule on the question, though commentators expect the Court to rule in favour of the State and restrict the scope of unborn rights to simply the right to life from the Eighth amendment. If the Court were to rule that way and if the eighth amendment were repealed, then the unborn child would be left with no juridical rights whatsoever. It is not clear whether the Taoiseach believes the unborn should have rights but not the right to life, or whether the unborn should have a right to life but not equal to that of the mother. The wording of any referendum would be crucial in this regard: a straight up repeal could leave the unborn with no rights, whereas a change to article 40.3.3 might allow the unborn child retain some rights, though that would anger pro-choice campaigners who are intent on repealing the eighth amendment in its entirety.

Australia’s vote on same-sex marriage to go ahead High Court rules

Australia’s postal vote on same-sex marriage will go ahead this month after the High Court dismissed a challenge against it. The court handed down its decision 24 hours after submissions closed following a two day hearing. Same-sex marriage advocates had launched two cases, that were heard simulatenously, in a bid to stop the vote. Ballots will now be sent out from next week and all votes must be returned by November 7. The result will be announced on November 15.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, a vocal opponent to legalising gay marriage, welcomed the court’s decision. He said the vote would allow “forgotten” Australians to have their say despite “elites” trying to stifle democracy.
“Following the High Court case brought by self-appointed elites trying to stifle the Australian people being thrown out, I am pleased that all Australians will have their say on marriage,” Senator Abetz said in a statement posted to social media. “This case was hypocrisy writ-large from the left like Andrew Wilkie who used the exact same process to extract funding from the Gillard/Brown Government. Democracy is an infinite good and political elites should never seek to stand in the way of the people having their say. This plebiscite will give all Australians, especially the forgotten people who are concerned about the consequences for free speech, freedom of religion and parental choice, to have their say.”
Opposition leader Tony Abbott has taken aim at Labour party leader Bill Shorten, accusing him of “elitist bullying” after he gave a statement saying he would legislate same-sex marriage regardless of the people’s vote. This could be done as the result of the vote will not be binding on parliament  “Shorten has just said that he’ll legislate SSM regardless of the people’s vote”, Abbott tweeted. “This is the kind of elitist bullying that people so dislike and are rightly concerned to reject.”


Twenty-seven aborted babies left to die, West Australia parliament told

Twenty-seven babies over a 17-year period who survived abortions were left to die without any medical care, the State Parliament of Western Australia (WA) has been told. Replying on behalf of Health Minister Roger Cook, Parliamentary Secretary Alanna Clohesy made the admission in response to a question from a Liberal Party Member, Nick Goiran, who wants a parliamentary inquiry into abortion.Twenty-one of the babies were 20 weeks gestation or more.
The admission came as the Queensland parliament considered a bill to totally decriminalise abortion in the State. Latest figures for WA show around 8,000 unborn children are aborted each year. Based on the WA and Queensland statistics, a dozen or more children could be born alive each year only to die after struggling for breath. Nick Goiran’s campaigning since 2010 has revealed that children have been aborted late term (post 20 weeks) for disabilities including dwarfism, cleft palate and Down syndrome, contravening the State’s laws only allowing abortion post 20 weeks for “serious disabilities” or significant medical conditions affecting the mother.
A spokesperson for pro-life organization, Emily’s Voice, said, “The children received no medical care or comfort because the mothers, the medical profession and society demanded dead children. The Defence of Human Life in WA has organised a petition demanding an inquiry, and we encourage supporters in the West to add their names in opposition to this crime against defenceless children.”


Children’s rights group calls for implementation of legislation banning anonymous sperm donation

The Children’s Rights Alliance has called for the urgent implementation of the sections of the Child and Family Relationships Act that ban anonymous sperm and egg donations in assisted human reproduction.
“Children have a right to know their identity. The Act is important because it seeks to protect children’s identity by banning the use of anonymous donations in assisted human reproduction,” said chief executive Tanya Ward. “It also clarifies parentage for children who are conceived this way, establishing a legal relationship between them and their parents.” The law allows children produced in this way to have two fathers or two mothers, or just one parent as well as a mother and a father.
Ms Ward pointed out that many adoptions were not recorded properly, “causing immeasurable damage to people by not being able to access their past and their history”.
UCC law lecturer Dr Deirdre Madden said the rights of children to access information on the identity of donors should take priority, even if this caused supply issues for fertility clinics.
Neither Dr Madden nor the Children’s Rights Alliance believe in the right of a child to a mother and a father.


Tory MPs launch ‘manifesto to strengthen families’

A powerful group of Tory MPs yesterday pressed Theresa May to do more to support marriage and the family.
The 44 MPs, including three former Cabinet ministers, called for bigger tax breaks for married couples and for school pupils to be taught the benefits of marriage.
Their 18-point family manifesto said that fatherhood should be promoted and fathers helped to assume their family responsibilities. It said that ‘couple penalties’ in the tax and benefit system that encourage mothers and fathers to live apart should be removed.
One of the 44, Congleton MP Fiona Bruce, said family life must be strengthened ‘if the Government is to achieve its welcome aims to increase social mobility, deliver social justice, and make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just a privileged few.’


Lidl apologises for removing crosses from food packaging

Supermarket chain Lidl has apologised for airbrushing Christian crosses out of images on some of its food packaging, after being hit by criticism on social media.
The packaging of some of its Greek-themed products depicts images of the island of Santorini’s domed blue churches, but they are missing the crosses mounted on top.
“We are sorry for any offence caused by the artwork on our Eridanous range. We can confirm that we will be revising the design as soon as possible,” the German discounter said in a statement.
Lidl said its product design was not intended to convey any ideological standpoint.
“We made a mistake in the most recent revision of the product design and are now treating the issue with the highest priority,” Lidl said.


Fertility clinics scrambling to block key sections of 2015 Child and Family Relationships Act

The Irish Fertility Society has been lobbying the Minister for Health to not implement sections of a 2015 law that would ban anonymous sperm and egg donation and set up a register of donors so that donor-conceived children could request information about their biological parents after they reach the age of 18.
In a letter to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, obtained by the Irish Times, the Society alleged a litany of negative consequences should the Act be fully implemented including women being driven abroad to obtain fertility treatment or into “private arrangements with men on the internet”. Other “unintended consequences” of the Government’s plans will be a rise in women buying sperm from foreign donor banks and using it in their homes without medical supervision, a substantial risk of sexually transmitted diseases from “random donors with questionable motivations”.
The letter does not point out that many donor-conceived children seek out their natural parents and half-siblings each year.