News Roundup

‘Any taboo has gone’: Netherlands sees rise in demand for euthanasia, recruitment drive for doctors to administer it

The number of people euthanised in the Netherlands this year is set to exceed 7,000 in what has been described by the director of the country’s only specialist clinic as the end of “a taboo” on killing patients who want to die. This year’s figures represent a 67% rise from five years ago when 4,188 people were euthanised by doctors in the country. “If there was any taboo, it has gone,” said Steven Pleiter, director of the only clinic in the Netherlands that specialises in euthanasia. “There is a generation coming up, the postwar generation, which is now coming to the life stage in which they will die, and this generation has a far more clear and expressed opinion about how to shape their own life end. I expect far more growth in the years to come.” The increase in numbers has led the clinic director to recently launch a massive recruitment drive with TV and radio appearances, to direct-mail shots and the placement of adverts in medical journals, to hire doctors to keep up with demand. Specifically, the work involves assessing requests for euthanasia and then, for those whose request is approved, administering intravenously, or in a drink, a drug putting the patient into a coma, and then a second disabling their lungs. Pleiter asks his doctors to work eight to 16 hours a week for this organisation. “A full-time job involved in the death of people is probably a bit too much, and ‘probably’ is a euphemism,” he adds.

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Third pro-life witness withdraws from ‘deeply flawed’ abortion committee

A pro-life group representing both women and unborn children has withdrawn from giving evidence to the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment citing alarm with the direction of the proceedings and a determination to not give any credibility to a biased and deeply flawed process with a pre-determined outcome. Both Lives Matter were due to give expert testimony explaining the methodology and findings of an actuarial study commissioned by them that reported a reasonable probability that 100 thousand people are alive today in Northern Ireland because of the jurisdiction’s strong anti-abortion laws. However, spokesperson for the group Dawn McEvoy wrote to the Committee this week noting with alarm the direction of the proceedings, particularly the decision to change the Eighth Amendment even before all evidence was heard, and said there was a “reasonable questioning of bias” within the committee. “After much consideration we have come to the conclusion that we will not attend in person as, like Professor Casey, ‘we have no desire to add any further credence to this deeply flawed process’,” she said.

“Because Both Lives in existence in every pregnancy Matter we cannot agree that a reform of Ireland’s existing life-affirming law, is necessary for the life, health and wellbeing of women in Ireland. We believe that the removal from law of the current legal status which every unborn human being holds, would be a tragedy, and we wish to have no part in a process which seems to be committed to that pre-determined outcome.”

The group requested that the text of their letter of withdrawal might be read out to the members of the committee during their hearings yesterday, but this was refused by the Chair, Senator Noone. After being criticised by Mr Mullen and Mr McGrath for her refusal, Ms Noone accused them of trying to “undermine” her. Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien added: “I’m losing my temper here.”

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Earlier abortion ‘more respectful’ of unborn life, Oireachtas committee told

Aborting unborn babies earlier in pregnancy is ‘more respectful’ of prenatal life, a legal expert is due to tell the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment in expert testimony today. Senior law lecturer in medical law from the University of London, Ruth Fletcher, will tell the committee that the vast majority of abortions by women in the UK occur at less than 13 weeks into gestation. Irish women, however, are accessing abortion later because they must travel. Such abortions are less respectful of unborn life and so, she advises, introducing a UK-style abortion law here would allow women abort their babies at an earlier stage of pregnancy. “For many people, a law which has the effect of helping to make earlier abortion more likely than later abortion, is, in effect, more respectful of prenatal life if it reduces the rate of later abortion.”

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Expert witness calls abortion committee ‘kangaroo court’, declines invitation to speak

An expert witness due to give testimony to the Oireachtas abortion committee has pulled out calling the process “deeply biased” and a “kangaroo court”. Marty McCaffrey, Professor of Paediatrics at University of Carolina, was asked to appear before the committee following a request from Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin. However, in a letter to members, Mr McCaffrey said he was surprised a decision had already been taken to change the Eighth Amendment and felt that an appearance by him now would be exploited to provide a semblance of balance to the process. “It became clear that the invitation for my testimony, offered only after the vote on repeal had already taken place, was a retrospective effort to attempt to offer some illusion of balance to the Oireachtas hearings. It is with great regret that I must respectfully decline the invitation to offer testimony to the Committee,” he said. “In reviewing the proceedings, testimony and transcripts from records on the Committee website one can only conclude that the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth is a ‘kangaroo court’. It is simply stunning that most Committee members did not see the need for a fair hearing for such a momentous issue as the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but were satisfied with such a prejudiced process.” He concluded: “I hope that the Irish people will not be deceived by such theater.”

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UK poll shows mixed support for Ten Commandments

new YouGov poll in Britain, shows that people still support the biblical commandments that relate to how we treat our neighbours but not the ones that relate to God.

The research found 93 per cent of Britons surveyed believed “thou shalt not kill”, and “thou shalt not steal”, remained important. Not bearing false witness –  lying – came third in importance, valued by 84 per cent of respondents while almost three quarters, 73 per cent, believed not committing adultery was still important. However, only 31pc believed the command not to worship idols was still important, 23pc said it was important not to take the Lord’s name in vain and just 20pc believed that worshipping only God was an important principle to live by.

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Objection to Belgian Euthanasia law lodged with European Court of Human Rights

A case has been filed with the European Court of Human Rights protesting Belgium’s euthanasia laws as a breach of the rights to life and to family life which are both protected under the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was filed on behalf of a Belgian national whose mother was euthanised without his knowledge or any of his siblings while she was suffering severe mental health problems. A spokesperson for ADF International, who filed the case, said international law has never established a so-called ‘right to die.’ On the contrary, it solidly affirms a right to life – particularly for the most vulnerable among us. “We will be judged as a society by how we care for our most vulnerable”, he said. Commenting specifically on Belgium’s law, Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF said “The slippery slope is on full public display in Belgium and we now see the tragic consequences. More than five people per day are euthanized. And that may yet be the tip of the iceberg. Belgium has set itself on a trajectory that – at best – implicitly tells its most vulnerable that their lives are not worth living”.

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Internal disagreement in Sinn Féin over abortion 

The Sinn Féin party will decide its policy on abortion at its upcoming Ard-fheis when delegates vote on a motion tabled by the party’s Executive body to preserve its policy of backing abortion only in some cases, rather than the radical abortion regime sought by Repeal activists and recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly. While the party is committed to repeal of the pro-life amendment from the Constitution, they currently advocate abortion in the case of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality. A number of other abortion motions are also expected to come before the ardfheis, which takes place on the weekend of November 17th and 18th, including one calling for “free, safe and legal” abortion and another asking that members be allowed a vote of conscience on the issue. Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín, an ardent pro-life advocate who lost the party whip when he voted against the 2014 abortion act, says his cumann from Navan, Co Meath, will be tabling a motion calling for a free vote, a motion that is supported by more than cumann from all over the country.
Sinn Féin has faced criticism from pro-choice activists for supporting a rights-based agenda in the Stormont talks in the North, but only extending its support for abortion reform in the cases or rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities in the Republic, prompting criticism from some that it only supports the rights of “worthy women”. Over the weekend, party leader Gerry Adams said his personal view is that it should be a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, but the party’s position is one that cleaves to the views of “wider society”. “Women have to have the right in all of these situations but as a party member I can only support the position which the party has worked out over a very, very long time, which as I say, I think reflects wider society.”
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Director of LGBT advocacy group to chair Govt review of sex-change laws

The Director of the gay and trans youth advocacy group BeLonGTo has been appointed the chairperson of the Government’s review group of the Gender Recognition Act 2015. Moninne Griffith, executive director of BeLonGTo, was appointed to the position by the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty who also named three other people to the group – Sara Phillips, Seamus Byrne and Dr Tanya Ní Mhuirthile. Currently, the Act allows anyone over 18 to designate whether they want to be recognised by the State as male or female while those aged 16 and 17 are required to go through a supervised process. However, trans-advcocacy groups would prefer 16 and 17 year olds to have no limits to changing their legally defined gender, would like a process to enable those younger than 16 to change their gender, and would like those who declare as neither male nor female (non-binary) to be recognised as well. There is no indication from Minister Doherty that she will appoint anyone sceptical of the trans movement from either parents groups or the medical profession or those with philosophical objections to a theory of gender that they see as mired in ideology.
Ireland already has one of the most radical gender recognition laws in the world. It makes a complete separation between a person’s physical sex and the ‘gender’ they claim to be.
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Raft of objections to transgender bill raised in meeting at House of Commons

The granting of rights and privileges of the opposite sex to transgender individuals would infringe on the rights and protections of women, a meeting at the House of Commons has been told. The argument was offered in response to a Government proposal released this summer to allow people to change their official sex to whatever gender they identify with. A previous parliamentary committee had heard only one side of the argument, drawing the bulk of their evidence from transgender activist groups, because, it was said, people with contrary views were bigoted and their opinions had no validity. At this meeting however, it was pointed out that the advance of transgender rights often comes at the expense of women’s rights. Caroline Flint MP, a Labour minister from 2005 to 2009, spoke of the emerging environment of competing rights in which women were on the losing end. Miranda Yardley, herself a transsexual, pointed out: ‘The endowment of rights to males as females compromises the privacy of females . . . and particularly will affect those women who are economically disadvantaged or victims of male violence.’ Women’s group representatives described the chilling effect of trans-activism on women’s organisations who cannot publicise meetings for fear of attack.

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New European survey shows 36pc of Irish still attend church weekly or more

A major new survey shows that in 2016, 36pc of Irish adults still attended a religious service at least once a week. The finding is contained in the European Social Survey (ESS), one of the biggest surveys of social attitudes across Europe. The 2016 figure of 36% is one point down from the last survey, in 2014, but remains one of the highest in Europe and shows the continued resilience of religious practice even in the face of secularising trends and hostile attitudes to Christianity. The 2016 survey also showed that there has been only a tiny increase in the number of Irish adults who say they don’t belong to any particular religion or denomination compared with 2014 when the figure was 25.2pc and last year was 26.3pc. A somewhat bigger drop was recorded in the number of Irish people who say they pray at least once a week from 60pc in 2014 to 55.3pc in 2016.

The Iona Institute said in a statement: “The survey shows Ireland remains one of the most religious countries in Europe, with only Poland registering higher levels of regular church attendance and prayer. The results should also come as a surprise to pundits who peddle the narrative of religion being a dying feature of Irish life.

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