News Roundup

US city recognizes polyamorous unions

A US city has granted polyamorous groups the rights held by spouses in marriage, such as the right to confer health insurance benefits or make hospital visits.

Under a new domestic partnership ordinance, the city of Somerville, Massachusetts, expanded its notion of family to include people who are maintaining consenting relationships with multiple partners.

J.T. Scott, a city councilor who supported the move, said he believed it was the first such municipal ordinance in the country.

“People have been living in families that include more than two adults forever,” Mr. Scott said. “Here in Somerville, families sometimes look like one man and one woman, but sometimes it looks like two people everyone on the block thinks are sisters because they’ve lived together forever, or sometimes it’s an aunt and an uncle, or an aunt and two uncles, raising two kids.”

He said he knew of at least two dozen polyamorous households in Somerville, which has a population of about 80,000.

“This is simply allowing that change, allowing people to say, ‘This is my partner and this is my other partner,’” he said. “It has a legal bearing, so when one of them is sick, they can both go to the hospital.


6,666 abortions carried out in Ireland last year

The number of abortions carried out in Ireland in the first year of the new regime has been described as devastating.

The Department of Health has reported that 6,666 unborn children were aborted here last year.

Added to the 375 Irish women who travelled to England and Wales for abortions, the total figure of over 7000 is the highest ever recorded.
A spokesperson for The Iona Institute said it proved that the 8th amendment saved thousands of lives. The previous year, if you add together the 2,800 women who traveled to England for an abortion to a high estimate of 2,000 who might have used the abortion pill illegally, it means a jump of 40pc to 50pc.

Maeve O’Hanlon of the Pro-Life Campaign said the figures represent a profound injustice:

“Those adopting an attitude to the latest figures of ‘nothing to see here, everything is fine and going to plan’ are downplaying the loss of life caused by the recent introduction of abortion here, as evidenced in today’s numbers.

“It’s the first time in 18 years that there has been an increase in the number of abortions and the first time in our history that thousands of innocent unborn babies have had their lives ended with the full backing of Irish law.


China using forced abortion to suppress Muslim population

The Associated Press is reporting that China is using forced contraception, sterilisation and abortion to suppress a Muslim minority people under its rule.

The report is based on a study by German researcher Adrian Zenz, from the US-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

He spoke to Australia’s ABC News and told them China is engaged in the largest internment of peoples since the Holocaust so as to reduce the population of minority Muslims in the northwest province of Xinjiang.

He said that coercive methods are employed to suppress not only the cultural identity of the Uighur people in Xinjiang province, but also to engineer a reversal of their population growth.

He added that the policies match the United Nations’ definition of ‘genocide’:

The international response to the allegations of genocide, he said, has been wholly inadequate and shameful and added that both the United Nations and National governments have an obligation to investigate the evidence.

Meanwhile, as Ireland takes up a two year seat on the United Nations Security Council, a former vet and one-time chief economist at the Department of Agriculture, Ann Derwin, is to become Ireland’s next ambassador to China.

The appointment is unusual in that Ms Derwin is not a career diplomat and this is her first overseas appointment as an ambassador after moving to the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2017 from the Department of Agriculture where she was assistant secretary.


Archbishop Martin hopes more than 50 will be allowed at masses

Parishes should “manage scrupulously” the safety of people at Masses on Monday morning as public Masses returned yesterday for the first time in over three months, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
The Government had indicated it would permit more than 50 depending on church size, but then reversed that decision.
Dr Martin described the lifting of restrictions on public worship as “a great moment in Church life” after “a difficult time”.

In a letter to priests in Dublin he said he hoped agreement could be reached with authorities to “permit removing the cap of 50” at Masses. There was “a recognition that the needs of the Catholic Church were different to those of smaller denominations where congregations were generally smaller”, he said.


Dr Boylan claims he is blocked from National Maternity Hospital AGM

Former National Maternity Hospital (NMH) Master and pro-choice advocate, Dr Peter Boylan, has claimed he is being “blocked” from physically attending the hospital’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) today.

Dr Boylan has in recent years campaigned publicly against the plan drawn up to move the hospital to a site at St Vincent’s University Hospital on the grounds that it might come under Catholic influence because the site was owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity. He plans to restate his objections, along with his call for the head of the board to resign, at the AGM.

However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, only a small number of the hospital’s 79 governors, along with key staff, are being allowed to attend the meeting.

The hospital organised a draw to select the governors who could attend, held in the offices of its legal advisers. Fourteen governors applied for the five available places.


US Supreme Court strikes down Louisiana law with modest restriction on abortion

The Supreme Court yesterday struck down restrictions on abortion imposed by the state of Louisiana.

The Louisiana law required abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges at a hospital no further than 30 miles from the abortion clinic. In a 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed under George W Bush, sided with liberal justices to declare the law unconstitutional. Pro-life advocates had hoped Roberts would back a pro-life law.

According to plaintiffs in the case, the Louisiana’s restrictions would have allowed just one doctor in the entire state to perform abortions. About 10,000 women per-year currently seek abortion procedures in the state.
Supporters of the law said doctors working at abortion clinics can be of poor quality and if they were registered at a nearby hospital it would ensure higher medical standards at clinics.

Roberts and the group of liberal justices said that the Louisiana law imposed similar restrictions to those of a previous law in Texas, which the Supreme Court had struck down in 2016.

“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike. The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law,” Roberts wrote. “Under principles of stare decisis, I agree with the plurality that the determination in Whole Woman’s Health that Texas’s law imposed a substantial obstacle requires the same determination about Louisiana’s law.”


Government re-imposes 50 person limit at public worship

The Government has reimposed a 50 person limit on the numbers who can attend public worship, which begins again today, regardless of the size of the church.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had announced Thursday night that churches would be exempted, saying that specific protocols would be worked out to take account of the size of churches and other places of worship.

However, The Irish Catholic reported that the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser requested a meeting with Church leaders on Friday afternoon. During the course of the meeting, Mr Fraser said that the Chief Medical Office Dr Tony Holohan had reservations about the decision of the Cabinet to give an exemption for places or worship.

He said that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) was “strongly against” making the exemption.

The hierarchy was informed that the recommendation remains that no more than 50 people should gather for Mass.

A senior bishop told the Irish Catholic newspaper that there was “frustration bordering on exasperation that the Government seems unable to be on the same page on this issue”.

“Many of our churches can hold more than a thousand people,” he said, “and yet the approach seems to be that we must return again to a limit of 50,” he said.


Canon law to have ‘no impact’ on new Maternity hospital 

The holding company being established to run St Vincent’s University Hospital and co-run the new National Maternity Hospital will be bound by Irish law and not canon law, lawyers for St Vincent’s have told the Department of Health. In practice, this means it will not have a pro-life ethos.

The company, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, is being set up as the owners of St Vincent’s, the Sisters of Charity, cease involvement with the hospital.

The constitution and articles of the new company have been approved by the Charities Regulator and the Revenue Commissioners, according to St Vincent’s, which published the documents on its website on Friday.

McCann Fitzgerald, lawyers for St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, wrote to the department late last month in response to a request for confirmation that canon law would have no impact on the holding company once incorporated.

Donal O Raghallaigh, for McCann Fitzgerald, wrote that he had reviewed the constitution of the company, which will be incorporated pursuant to the Companies Act 2014 “shortly”.

“The company and its directors will be bound by Irish law and by the provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution makes no reference to Canon Law and Canon Law shall have no impact on the company,” Mr O Raghallaigh says in the letter.


STI figures down, but fears exist that untested people are spreading disease

A medical expert says people are “running around” with sexually transmitted diseases because sexual health clinics are closed for testing.

Dr Jack Lambert, a consultant in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at the Mater hospital in Dublin, said emergency cases presenting to his team represent the “tip of the iceberg”.

“My assumption, based on the emergency cases we have seen in the last three months, is that there are a lot of people running around with STIs,” he said.

“Anecdotally, I have seen people presenting with syphilis, with gonorrhoea and chlamydia and my team at the Mater hospital have seen emergency patients presenting sick with these infections, mostly men, some women”.

Dr Lambert’s comments follow the release of new figures that show sharp falls in the rate of sexually transmitted infections in the first five months of this year.

Dr Lambert said he thinks the message that STIs are down is not quite accurate because it is more likely explained by the unavailability of sexual health clinics.

Latest statistics from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre recorded that chlamydia infections reduced by 21pc, gonorrhoea by 18pc, genital herpes by 31pc and syphilis by 25pc compared with the same period last year.


Fears raised over surge in teenage ‘sexting’ during lockdown

Youth workers have raised concerns about an increase in young people “sexting” during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) said young people were more likely to have engaged in risky online behaviour during the pandemic because of their heavy reliance on online communication with their peers.

Rachael Treanor, NYCI’s national youth health programme manager, said that online platforms were “almost the sole method of communication” in recent months and that some young people will have sent explicit images or messages and now regret it.

“As restrictions begin to ease over the coming months, and young people begin to resume youth clubs and meet friends, some will experience anxiety due to risky sexual behaviours which they may have engaged in during the Covid-19 restrictions,” she said.

Ms Treanor added that many young people were not aware of the laws surrounding sexting.