News Roundup

Poland rejects call to legalise abortion

The Polish government has rejected calls for a liberalising of its abortion laws. Reacting to a report issued by the Council of Europe in which the nation is urged to decriminalise abortion and remove conscience protection for doctors, Poland accused the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights of “overstepping his mandate” and interfering in Poland’s internal affairs in issuing the report. “Polish law in this regard has its sources in the Constitution and is conditioned by a widely shared care of Polish society for the respect for life,” the official response stated.

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Pro-Life Campaign demands apology from Coppinger over abortion slur

The Pro-Life Campaign (PLC) has called for an apology from Ruth Coppinger TD following her suggestion on national television that a featured story on a woman who survived a botched abortion was “manufactured” and one the PLC is “milking”. The PLC’s Lorraine McMahon said: “Deputy Coppinger should be encouraging debate, rather than smearing victims who tell their stories. Her comments were reprehensible and she should withdraw them and issue an apology…Ruth Coppinger wouldn’t tolerate similar comments being made about families telling their stories from a pro-choice perspective and rightly so. It is unacceptable for her to rubbish personal stories that don’t suit her agenda.” The PLC pointed out that the story at the heart of the row is well documented in medical records.

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US voters oppose linking school funding to transgender access

US voters strongly disagree with the Obama administration’s insistence that school funding be tied to open toilet and changing facilities access for people who self-identify as transgender, a new poll has revealed. The survey of voters, conducted by Quinnipac in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, found that opposition was, on average, 14% higher than those voicing support, with 55% in Ohio, 54% in Florida and 53% in Pennsylvania. The survey comes as 11 states continue with legal action against the Obama proposals to tie open facilities with school funding. The Quinnipac results have implications for the forthcoming elections in the United States, observers have stated.

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US Bishops condemn abortion funding ruling

The US Catholic Bishops have condemned a ruling in the state of California that forces health plans offered by religious bodies to continue funding abortions. Following the ruling by the Department of Health and Human Services on the issue, arising from an appeal launched by the Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop William E Lori of Baltimore issued a statement in which they said: “It is shocking that HHS has allowed the state of California to force all employers – even churches – to fund and facilitate elective abortions in their health insurance plans…Even those who disagree on the issue of life should be able to respect the conscience rights of those who wish not to be involved in supporting abortion.”

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Attorney General to rule latest Abortion Bill unconstitutional

The Attorney General is expected to inform the Government next week that a Bill proposing abortions in cases of a ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ is unconstitutional. According to The Irish Times newspaper, the Bill to be brought forward by Mick Wallace TD next week is identical to a Bill proposed by Independent TD Clare Daly to the last Dáil. Attorney General, Máire Whelan informed the then coalition government that Ms Daly’s Bill was unequivocally unconstitutional, in her opinion. Ms Whelan’s advice centred on the fact that, even where suffering from a condition incompatible with sustained life, a foetus may be capable of being born alive. In this instance, she told the government, “it is quite clear that article 40.3.3 is engaged”.

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Group seeks to challenge schools’ admissions policy through funding

The right of Catholic schools to prioritise children from that faith community should be challenged by making the provision of State funding reliant on ending the so-called ‘baptism barrier’, it has been suggested. The call has been made by a campaigning group, Equate, which cited three constitutional experts who state: “There is no constitutional right to unconditional public funding for private or denominational schools and the Constitution permits the imposition of reasonable conditions on the provision of public funding.” This, Equate argues, allows for a change in legislation to remove the right of religious schools to protect their ethos without any fall-out for politicians backing such a move. Education Minister Richard Bruton, who has previously cited constitutional difficulties on the ‘baptism barrier’ is to meet with Equate on the matter.

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Tusla reviews ‘age gap’ rule after child removed from grandparents

The child and family agency Tusla is to review its ‘age gap’ guidelines following a controversial decision to remove a child from the care of his grandparents. Under current rules, Tusla requires foster carers to not be more than 40 years older than foster children. This was the rule used when, in May, a nine-year-old child was removed from his grandparents’ care as the couple were in their 60s. The ‘age gap’ review was announced by Minister for Children Katherine Zappone following lobbying by Independent TD Mattie McGrath who took up the issue on behalf of the grandparents.

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Zika driving huge increase in abortions across Latin America

The Zika virus has resulted in a huge increase in abortions in Latin America, according to researchers. According to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Brazil and Ecuador have seen a doubling in their abortion rate, while other nations have seen increases of at least a third. As abortion remains illegal in various Latin American nations, researchers looked to requests made to unofficial providers, charting, for example, online requests for abortion pills before and throughout the Zika outbreak.

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Cabinet to be briefed on Abortion Bill

The Attorney General will address the Cabinet next week on the legality of a private members’ Bill aimed at introducing to Ireland abortion in cases of foetal abnormality. The legislation is due to be debated in the Dáil next week, and members of the Independent Alliance have already called for the Taoiseach to allow them a free vote on the matter. That call has been led by Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath, while Minister John Halligan said he would back the Bill. Fianna Fáil will allow a free vote while Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats, Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit and the Green Party are expected to support the Bill.

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Two Northern Ireland schools to be jointly run by Churches

Two primary schools in Northern Ireland are to make history by becoming the region’s first jointly-run Church school. Desertmartin Church of Ireland Primary and Knocknagin Catholic Primary, in Derry, want to merge and be jointly managed by the Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland. While there are a number of integrated schools in Northern Ireland, this proposed joint-management merger would be a first. Parents are now being consulted on the plan, which has the support of staff in both schools, and if consensus is reached, the proposal will be put to the Department of Education with the education minister having the final say on allowing the plan to go-ahead.

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