News Roundup

Free contraception to be provided to all women by 2021, says Health Minister

Free contraception for women will be available from 2021, Minister for Health Simon Harris has told the Dáil. The move comes despite there being no conclusive evidence that ever more freely available contraception reduces unplanned pregnancies in the general population.

The Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution on abortion recommended the provision of free contraception and Mr Harris established the working group to examine policy, legislative and regulatory issues on access to contraception.

Mr Harris said significant progress had also been made on providing ‘free’ male contraception. “We have very significantly increased the amount of condoms being distributed. We are putting vending machines into a number of locations throughout the country and our sexual health strategy very much aligns with this, not only in terms of reducing crisis pregnancy but in terms of reducing STIs (sexually transmitted infections) which are at a worrying level in our country.”

He said legislation would be necessary and there were regulatory and policy issues that had to be dealt with “when it comes to the female side of contraception”.


Minister Harris steps up campaign against pro-life groups

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has issued an information sheet to GP clinics and hospitals on preparing for ‘unlawful infringements’ by pro-life people on women accessing abortion.

Mr Harris listed laws that already protect people from “behaviour that impedes access to services or causes distress.”

However, he also insisted that Gardaí put in place “local area safety plans” in case of unlawful disruptions.

Eilis Mulroy of the Pro-Life Campaign said the Minister’s correspondence makes clear he views peaceful pro-life witnessing as a significant threat to public order.

She also called the provision of ‘safety plans’ an ‘alarming development’:

“This kind of language is more appropriate to dealing with impending riots or looting or other forms of large-scale public disturbances.

“It is clear then that the Minister is perpetuating, however indirectly, a hostile perception of pro life citizens based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

“He is generating worrying and deeply unfair levels of personal mischaracterisation that needs to be immediately addressed.

“We are calling on Minister Harris to reconsider his inflammatory language and to become aware that this can only lead to the stoking of public resentment against pro life people that is absolutely unwarranted,” concluded Ms Mulroy.


57% in NI oppose Westminster-imposed abortion changes, new survey finds

A majority of people in the North do not support forthcoming Westminster abortion changes, according to a survey.

The poll conducted by Belfast research group LucidTalk examined 1,424 responses, weighted to represent Northern Ireland society, to a survey conducted over three days at the end of September.

The survey asked those participating: `Do you support the changes voted for at Westminster that will impose a new abortion regime in Northern Ireland?’

It found that 57 per cent of respondents said they oppose a change to the law, due to come into effect on October 21, which will introduce an even more liberal abortion regime than exists in Britain where there is one abortion for every four live births.

Dawn McAvoy, a spokeswoman for the Both Lives Matter campaign, said the message in Northern Ireland “could not be clearer”.

“The majority of people of Northern Ireland do not want these changes, no Northern Ireland MP voted in favour of the abortion amendment proposing these changes and the majority of councils in Northern Ireland have now voted against these changes,” she said.

“As the 21st October approaches, the public is realising just how bad the law imposed by Westminster is. Northern Ireland will be left without proper regulation for months putting mothers and unborn babies at risk – it is bad for both”.


HSE reveals 9300 calls made to MyOptions abortion helpline in first eight months

More than 9,300 calls were made to the HSE’s unplanned pregnancy helpline in the first eight months of this year.

They include 244 calls from women who had passed the 12-week limit for an abortion on request with no questions asked.

When abortion services became legal on January 1, the HSE set up a support service called My Options. It provides information on continued pregnancy supports and how to access abortion.

In the first eight months of this year, there were 9,319 calls in all made to the helpline.

While nearly 6,300 people discussed pregnancies of less than 12 weeks, 244 people had passed the legal limit for an abortion.

A hundred children contacted the service in the first eight months of this year, along with 88 women over the age of 45.


Guidance on abortion law in Northern Ireland published

A new set of abortion guidelines for medical professionals in Northern Ireland have been published.

The report lays out what will happen in the “interim” period between 21 October, when abortion will be decriminalised if Stormont is not reconvened, and 31 March 2020, when regulations to introduce a very liberal legal framework for abortion have to be brought forward.

Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland political officer, said: “This guidance is truly appalling. It demonstrates just how ruthless the new abortion regime being imposed on Northern Ireland is likely to be.”

Bernadette Smyth, Director of Precious Life, also strongly condemned the guidelines: “This document is not about protecting life at all – it is about ending life. It is a document of death. This guidance is truly appalling. It is evidence of just how cruel and inhumane the new abortion regime being imposed on Northern Ireland will be if Stormont is not reconvened by October 22nd.”


Tens of thousands rally in Paris to defend right to a father

Huge crowds protested in Paris at the weekend against a bill that deliberately removes a father from the life of a child. The bill is aimed at reforming the law around IVF which is currently legally accessible only by infertile opposite-sex couples. The law would extend IVF to single women and female same-sex couples. Many French bishops have spoken against the bill.

Organizers of the protests said the move would weaken the family and thus society, and that it is unjust “to authorise the manufacture of children voluntarily deprived of a father.”

Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris has said that the bill “touches on the most essential foundations on which our human societies are built: filiation, the non-commercialisation of the human body, respect of all life from its conception until its natural death, the best interest of the child, a philanthropic and non-commercial medicine, a human ecology where the body is not an instrument but the place of the edification of the personality.”


Europe’s Bishops urge continent to ‘wake up’ and rediscover Christian roots

Europe’s Catholic bishops urged their citizens to “wake up” and find new hope by rediscovering the continent’s Christian roots.

In a meeting in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, Church leaders from 45 European countries met in the run-up to Britain’s projected departure from the European Union and the inauguration of the new European Union governing commission.

“Europe, rejoice in the goodness of your people, of the many hidden saints who every day contribute in silence to the construction of a more just and humane civil society,” the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) said.

“As morning watchmen, vigilant and ready to point to the new day, we want to give a message of hope to Europe in distress and say forcefully: Wake up, Europe!”

It said Europe faced contradictions from “the desire for God, but at the same time the fragility of Christian life,” and “the desire for universal human rights, but at the same time the loss of respect for human dignity.”

“But existential questions lie deep in the human heart and never disappear, even if sometimes they are obscured by material desires,” the bishops added.


‘Unplanned’ success, movie’s Irish run to be extended due to demand

A pro-life movie released last weekend has been retained in cinemas for another week, and expanded to many new locations due to public demand.

‘Unplanned’ tells the true story of one woman’s change of heart from working in an abortion clinic to becoming an ardent advocate of unborn life.

Commenting on the success of the film in Ireland, Eilís Mulroy of the Pro Life Campaign said cinema goers have been really taken by the narrative: “Abby Johnson’s story is incredibly captivating from being an abortion clinic ‘employee of the year’ to one of America’s leading pro-life voices.

“All week we have been receiving encouraging feedback from people who’ve attended the screenings. The recurring reaction is that it shines a light on an aspect of the abortion debate that has been almost entirely absent in Ireland to date, namely the reality of what it’s like to work in the abortion industry. ‘Unplanned’ is an important ground-breaking movie for the issues it touches on and despite the subject matter, it is a movie that somehow offers lots of hope.”


UCD’s absence from Newman canonisation ‘extraordinarily narrowminded’

A former UCD registrar has described as “extraordinarily narrowminded” the university’s decision to not send a representative to the canonisation of Cardinal Newman in Rome on Sunday.

Newman was UCD’s first president when it was founded as the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854.

Prof John Kelly told the Irish Times that UCD should be proud of its connection to one of the great literary figures of the 19th century.

“I am indeed sorry to say that I believe UCD to be extraordinarily narrow-minded in not recognising this great honour that its being awarded to its founder, with the excuse that as a non-sectarian university, it would be inappropriate that it should.”

He believed “this attitude will both puzzle and reflect badly on it across the international university world”.

By contrast, the University of Oxford will be represented by Neil Mendoza, Provost of Oriel College, where Newman was a fellow and Dame Hilary Boulding, president of Oxford’s Trinity College, where he was an undergraduate.


‘Hundreds’ of young trans people in UK seeking to return to original sex

Hundreds of young transgender people are seeking help to return to their original sex.

Charlie Evans, 28, was born female but identified as male for nearly 10 years before detransitioning.

She went public with her story last year and since then has been stunned by the number of people she discovered in a similar position.

Charlie says she has been contacted by “hundreds” of people seeking to do the same thing.

“I think some of the common characteristics are that they tend to be around their mid-20s, they’re mostly female and mostly same-sex attracted, and often autistic as well.”

“I’m in communication with 19 and 20-year-olds who have had full gender reassignment surgery who wish they hadn’t, and their dysphoria hasn’t been relieved, they don’t feel better for it,” she says.

Charlie is now launching a charity called The Detransition Advocacy Network, with their first meeting set to be held in Manchester at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the HSE’s new gender identity panel has been called a ‘farce’ by an expert on hormone management.

Professor Donal O’Shea, Endocrinologist at Loughlinstown Hospital, told Newstalk Breakfast that the HSE panel does not include any clinicians with experience of treating people with gender dysphoria.

Instead, Minister Simon Harris included an advocate of a ‘sex change on request’ model of treatment that Prof O’Shea said would be dangerous to up to half of patients.