News Roundup

Bad housing harms mental health of mothers and children, finds ESRI report

The damaging impact on mothers’ mental health of living in a home that is cold, damp and overcrowded is leading to “much poorer” outcomes for their children, a landmark study published on Thursday finds.

“Mothers experiencing inadequate housing and poor-quality neighbourhoods tend to have higher levels of depression, worse self-rated health, and find parenting more stressful, as well as reporting greater conflict and less closeness with their children,” finds the report from Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

Titled Housing, Health and Happiness: How Inadequate Housing Shapes Child and Parental Wellbeing, the study notes longer time spent in “inadequate housing” leads to “more negative wellbeing outcomes”.

Additionally, it finds low-income households and those headed by lone parents, migrants or disabled people are “more likely” to live “in unsuitable homes, to struggle to heat these homes and to reside in areas characterised by greater disorder and lower levels of social capital”.


Scotland abortion numbers highest ever on record

Scotland had its highest abortion numbers on record with 18,207 abortions taking place in 2023. This compares with 47,000 births in Scotland in 2022.

There has been a 4% increase in the number of abortions where a baby has a disability, from 274 in 2022 to 285 in 2023. 49 of these were abortions where the unborn child had Down’s syndrome.

Regarding total numbers, statistics released by Public Health Scotland reveal an increase of 1,600 abortions or 9.63% in one year, with numbers increasing from 16,607 in 2022 to 18,207 in 2023.

The abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 increased from 16.1 in 2022 to 17.6 in 2023. This represents a 9.32% increase from 2022.

The figures come just a week after the abortion numbers for England and Wales for 2022 were released, which revealed that there were over a quarter of a million abortions in that year.


New study reveals worsening difficulties for teens

Young adolescents have “greater peer problems” and fewer friends than their counterparts a decade ago, with girls especially experiencing “increased emotional difficulties”, a major report finds.

The study from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) says teenage girls’ increased emotional issues are negatively impacting their relations with peers and parents – particularly their mothers – and their engagement with education.

Titled The Changing Social Worlds of 13-Year-Olds, the report finds girls are spending more time online than boys – a reversal of the situation a decade earlier.

Drawing on data from two cohorts of children, born in 1998 and 2008, in the longitudinal Growing Up in Ireland study, the report analyses their lives at age 13 in 2011/12 and 2021/22 respectively. The decade between was one of “considerable social and policy change, including reform of the junior cycle, growing digitalisation and the disruption of the pandemic”, leading to “very significant changes in the lives of 13-year-olds”, it says.


Prayer that ‘judges others’ to run afoul of abortion buffer zones law

A person’s perception that they are being judged may trigger the arrest of someone engaged in silent prayer near an abortion facility, according to the author of an exclusion zone bill in Scotland.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s bill would create buffer zones of 200 metres around such facilities, in a bid to prevent women and staff from being “harassed”.

Controversially, this would even include the act of praying silently.

Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour lodged an amendment to exclude silent prayer from its terms.

He said he himself stands at a bus stop within 200 metres of an abortion clinic in Edinburgh three times a week, and does sometimes pray while waiting there and could therefore be subject to prosecution.

However, Ms Mackay told Mr Balfour: “The offences are not about what you are thinking, but what you are doing and the effect that has on others.

“If someone stands silently praying for a long time, deliberately looking at women accessing an abortion clinic, or for example with a sign, then they maybe committing an offence”.

Ms Mackay said that was “not because of the prayer, it is because of the sense of judgment”.


More than 200 Irish women had abortions in UK in 2022, one third for disabilities

201 Irish women went to the UK for an abortion in 2022, according to the UK Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.

On Thursday, it published statistics on abortion in England and Wales.

Of the 201 Irish women who travelled there for the procedure, 126 did so under what is called “ground C”, which allows for abortions due to physical or mental health concerns up to 24 weeks. In Ireland, abortion is permitted for any reason, but up to 12 weeks.

According to the Department, almost all of the abortions carried out under ground C were reported as being performed because of a ‘risk’ to the woman’s mental health.

In addition, 75 women had abortions performed under ground E – defined as “a substantial risk that, if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”.

This included 37 cases where the unborn child had Down’s syndrome.

Three of the 201 abortions were noted to have had complications. These could be “haemorrhage, uterine perforation, sepsis and/or cervical tear and are those reported up to the time of discharge”.

Births and marriages down in 2023, CSO figures show

Women are waiting longer to have their first child, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The average age of first-time mothers was 31.6 years in 2023. This is an increase of 3.4 years when compared with 2003, when the average age was 28.2 years old.

According to the CSO, there has been a decrease in the number of registered births, from 68,930 in 2013 to 54,678 in 2023. This represents an annual birth rate of 10.4 per 1,000 of population.

The fertility rate was also found to have declined from 2.0 in 2013 to 1.5 in 2023. A value of 2.1 is usually considered to be the level that the population would replace itself in the long run, ignoring migration.

The CSO figures also included marriages in 2023, of which there were 21,159, a decrease compared with the 23,173 registered in 2022.


Wide spectrum opposes euthanasia bill as French parliament opens debate

Some left-wing deputies joined conservative voices in opposing euthanasia as France’s parliament started debating a deeply controversial right-to-die bill backed by President Emmanuel Macron.

The bill is facing stiff opposition from religious leaders as well as many health workers. While most left-leaning deputies and Macron allies back the legislation, some of them said they would be voting against. Communist MP Andre Chassaigne whose brother, suffering from pancreatic cancer, killed himself, has said he could not back a law that allowed “killing.”

All parties’ parliamentary leaders have said that they will not pressure their MPs to follow the party line.

Macron has insisted that any authorization to choose death should be limited to people with incurable illnesses and intense pain. Only people over 18 and able to clearly express their wishes and suffer from a condition that limits their life expectancy to the short or medium term. Psychiatric illnesses are specifically ruled out from the bill, as are neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

One key question is whether patients who are no longer able to trigger the protocol to end their life by themselves can be euthanised by qualified personnel.


Father highlights poor treatment of men in divorce courts

A father has recounted his experience of the family law system as “deeply unfair and deeply biased”. Fathers’ right campaigners have consistently highlighted what they say is the unfairness of family law.

Writing in the Sunday Independent, the man, who did not given his name for the sake of privacy, said his experience is that a mother can decide a marriage is over and “the husband is expected to move out and pay up”.

Then, “if he doesn’t leave his children, a playbook of tactics and allegations is employed to ramp up the pressure”.

He said he lost count at 50 court dates and the countless number of times he walked out of courtrooms feeling the system was determined to “force” him out of his child’s life, “despite all the evidence that exists as to the powerful affirmative role fathers have”.

In particular he questioned the use of Section 47 child welfare reports which can be ordered by a judge hearing a family law case.

The unnamed father said he experienced malpractice with multiple Section 47 practitioners: “incompetence, gender-bias, basic sloppy mistakes, money-grabbing, a lack of compassion and basic bad manners”.

“It is an unregulated, unprofessional Wild West — an abomination which needs to be exposed and replaced. There is no transparency, no accountability and no oversight. All is shrouded in secrecy behind the ‘in-camera’ rule”, he said.


Christian family in Pakistan attacked by angry mob

A Christian family in Pakistan suffered a violent attack at the hands of an angry mob of Muslim fanatics on Saturday, following a false accusation of blasphemy.

According to information gathered by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the false accusation led to a new wave of terror against Christians.

Mr Nazir Gill Masih, who owns a shoe factory in Gillwala Mujahid colony in Sargodha, Punjab, was beaten after a false accusation of having burnt pages of the Quran. Between 7-8am a mob attacked the family, ransacking and burning their factory and home. Although ten members of the family were able to escape, Mr Nazir Gill Masih was badly beaten and critically injured before police arrived and managed to remove him from the mob. He was taken to the hospital for urgent medical care.


Silent prayer outside abortion clinics must be banned, says Scottish MP

A Tory Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) is facing strident opposition for wanting to exempt “silent prayer” from proposed exclusion zones from which all pro-life activism would be banned.

A bill by Green MSP Gillian Mackay would block every kind of pro-life presence within 200m of clinics and hospitals that offer abortion.

Holyrood’s health committee backed the bill, but noted there are different views among MSPs on silent prayer.

Under the Tory MSP’s amendments, a person would not be criminalised if they engaged in silent prayer or if they were not part of a group or organised event.

Mackay rejects this saying: “I will always consider constructive suggestions, but I will not support wrecking amendments or anything that could undermine or weaken protections for service users and staff”.

The Humanist Society Scotland have also said exempting silent prayer would create a loophole for anti-abortion activists.