Government should reconsider Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill

Is the following is one of the issues which needs to be addressed by our government prior to the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill coming on the statute books?

One way to test a piece of legislation is to present a specific case. In the matter of Section 9 of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy bill, dealing with risk of loss of life from suicide, we can ask how it would apply in the following case.

A woman is told, “You’re having a little girl. Isn’t that wonderful?” She replies, “Wonderful! My family will be delighted!” But the truth is that her husband/family/extended family most certainly will not be delighted; nor she herself.

This is no trivial matter. “Son preference” is deeply engrained in some cultures, where the natural ratio of about 105 boys for every 100 girls is skewed by “gendercide”. (This preference for sons is often passed on to the next generation by women.) There are over 100 million “missing” women in the world due to “son preference”. It is a serious anti-woman factor in abortion in our world.

What if a woman in this situation in Ireland presents, threatening suicide, because she simply cannot give birth to another girl? The pressure may not be external, but may be interiorised by the woman. This is not a pretence for the purpose of terminating the pregnancy: it is very real. Medical practitioners would have to recognise the real and substantial risk of suicide in such a case.

Section 9 of the legislation as it stands permits a medical procedure in which an unborn human life is ended where three medical practitioners certify that there is a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman’s life by way of suicide, and, in their reasonable opinion, that risk can only be averted by carrying out that medical procedure. There is no reference in the Bill to the source of the threat of suicide. It just has to be real and substantial. There may simply be no way to neutralise the factors leading to the threat of suicide.

The gender of an unborn child can be determined from about 6 weeks. Abortion for the purpose of gender selection is illegal in England and Wales, but there are reports of it under other headings; others simply go abroad to where it can be carried out. It may seem a remote matter for Ireland, but in our multicultural society, we too must face this. In the EU, the services we offer could perhaps be open to any EU citizen. Even some very pro-abortion activists realise this is a problem.

Do we need to consider placing restrictions on this and other possible applications of Section 9 before it becomes law? Would it even be possible to place any restriction under Section 9 as it now stands? Can we afford to ignore this?

A 2012 EU study, “Gendercide: The Missing Women” is available on

Male / Female Birth statistics in Ireland
Data from Central Statistics Office

Births: Male births /Female births / = Ratio

  • 2012: 8791 / 8,178 = 1.07
    2012: 37,210 /35,015 = 1.06
    2011: 38,223 /36,427 = 1.05
    2010 38,395 /36,779 = 1.04
    2009 38,082 /36,196 = 1.05
    (2008 38,593 /36,472 = 1.06) (Stats later corrected)
    2005 31,369 /29,673 = 1.06
    2004 31,817 /29,867 = 1.07
    2003 31,414 /30,103 = 1.04
    2002 31,001 /29,520 = 1.05
    2001 29,753 /28,129 = 1.06
    2000 27,896 /26,343 = 1.06
    1999 27,508 /25,846 = 1.06
    1998 27,580 /25,971 = 1.06
    1997 26,855 /25,456 = 1.05

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  1. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh says:

    The threat of suicide is a definite risk to the life of both the mother and her unborn child. To those church leaders and others who want to minimize the risk of suicide, I believe that they lack respect for the needs of women and two lives will be lost instead of one.

  2. Eddie Finnegan says:

    I am constantly irked by just how predictable Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh and one or two others are in their responses to even the most carefully presented specific case relating to, say, child abuse, cover-up thereof, stepping down of priests . . . or latterly the whole question of abortion, suicide risk, suicidal ideation in the context of that most oxymoronically titled Bill/Act of the Oireachtas “Protection of Life During Pregnancy”.
    Pádraig McCarthy is one of a small number of contributors (priests and lay writers) to this site who take pains to present the case they are making on matters of Church & State, Social Justice etc. Since so few of us ever respond to these thoughtful articles, the least we could do is engage with what is actually being said.
    It is so much easier to bundle Fr McCarthy, however carefully he delineates the specific case, with “those church leaders and others who want to minimize the risk of suicide”. Far from showing lack of respect for the needs of women, Pádraig has chosen to highlight the plight of the youngest women of all, those who through pseudo-cultural, pseudo-economic, pseudo-lifestyle “reasoning” are destined to swell the invisible ranks of the ‘100million missing women’.
    In an increasingly multi-cultural society, shouldn’t all women (including women doctors, psychiatrists etc) be (wo)manning the barricades against the prevalence of “Son-Preference Gendercide” at least as actively as they inveigh against other cultural ‘choices’ such as FGM (female genital mutilation), SRGBV (school-related gender-based violence), MOF40F (men-only facilities at the 40-Foot) or GCPM (gender cleansing policies at Muirfield)?
    With these considerations in mind, I suggest Dr McHugh reads Pádraig’s article once more.

  3. Thanks, Dr Rosemary.
    I have not come across any church leader who minimises the risk of suicide. It is a significant problem in Ireland.
    What you write seems not to address the situation I outlined in the article.

  4. If we use abortion as a treatment for suicidality during pregnancy, what do we offer these women after their abortions if they again present with suicidal thoughts? Abortion is not a cure/remedy for suicidal thoughts. Let’s be genuinely pro-life and pro-woman and establish real, practical help and support for these woman who find themselves in such despair. These woman need genuine support and deserve better than to be used as pawns in the Labour-lead pro-abortion agenda.

  5. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh says:

    “There is no reference in the Bill to the source of the threat of suicide. It just has to be real and substantial. There may simply be no way to neutralise the factors leading to the threat of suicide.”
    I have reread Padraig’s article, as was suggested. From the above quote that showed concern that there was “no reference to the source of the threat of suicide”, I felt that the author was giving too narrow a focus on the source of the threat of suicide by his story of gender-based abortions. I did not believe that it was wise to hash out any of the possibilities of why there was a threat of suicide, when the bottom line was that the government was trying to establish a basic protection for the life of the mother in any at-risk pregnancy in general. Such a law is needed for women in Ireland and everywhere around the world. The threat must be “real and substantial” and needs to include the risk of suicide.
    When Brendan writes: “Abortion is not a cure/remedy for suicidal thoughts.” This is not universally true in my experience as a physician, who has cared for many pregnant women. None of us can presume to know the conscience of another. For some women, having an abortion can be a cure/remedy for suicidal thoughts in an unwanted pregnancy.
    It is natural to assume that others have the same value system. Priests have every right to put forward the Christian value system, with the understanding that the value system of others must also be respected as much as possible.
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA

  6. I can’t think of any other situation where we give somebody what they want just because they threaten suicide. ”I want this job or I will kill myself!” ”I want ice cream or I will kill myself!” Why would you let a woman kill her unborn child just to get what she wants? Any woman who acts this way ought to be dealt with in the same way we’d deal with any other person threatening suicide – treat them for mental health issues, and if necessary, section them under the mental health act for their own protection and that of the wee baby. How on earth abortion – killing the baby – is seen as treatment for suicidal threat is quite beyond me. Give the woman the mental health care she needs, not the death penalty for the child which will achieve nothing good, but simply the death of the innocent and the damage of the soul and conscience of the woman.

  7. Soline Humbert says:

    “I want ice cream or I will kill myself”
    In my view a trivialising and unhelpful comparison with
    suicide ideation in pregnancy.

  8. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Rarely do I find myself so completely at one with Fr Vincent Twomey, but I found his Opinion piece in yesterday’s Irish Times, “Conscience, a last bulwark against totalitarianism”, an honest response to the Coalition Government’s refusal of a free vote, respecting conscience, on the “Abortion Bill” [Vincent refuses to use the Bill’s oxymoronic official title].
    Of course Vincent has his sights targeted on others outside the Coalition: possibly every Maynooth moral theologian other than Vincent of the past half-century, and the silence or neutrality of leadership and others in the ACP – illustrative of “the moral quagmire caused by this kind of fundamental moral theology.” Vincent may also be a Fianna Fáil man of the Jack Lynch persuasion – I don’t know.
    An honest counter-response by ACP Leadership would be to reproduce Vincent Twomey’s article on this site, respond to it and invite further responses from the 1,000 members – even if it’s a bit late trying to slam the stable door after the abortion mare has bolted.

  9. ray mc intyre says:

    @Soline, perhaps this real life scenario may prove to be thought provoking:
    Tomorrow morning if I went into my bank manager’s office and plainly said the following….
    (I am speaking from intimate first hand experience of the burden of unsustainable debt and believe me nine months is nothing to 20 years of pain, sleepless nights, stress,broken relationships etc etc…. Men suffer in this world too..)

    The dialogue goes like this….”I owe your bank 5 million euro, I cannot ever afford to repay it, I will spend the rest of my life paying off the the interest never mind the principal, my life will be consumned by this one overwhelming burden, my family life will be destroyed, my ability to sustain my marriage will be severely inhibited, my ability to provide for my children’s education will be severely hampered….my family would be better off without me…if you as my bank manager do not absolve me of the debt of five million euro within 24 hours I will commit suicide!”
    Before the bank manager calls the psychiatric health professionals and the Gardai he says to me….”Raymond I am really sorry for your predciament but do you not realise that your four million euro debt was only entered into teo months ago and there will be an automatic and total write off of all of the five million euro debt within the next sevenmonths and if you push us this could happen within the next 5 months…can you not wait for five months, if you decide to wait, people will help you and your family cope, the bank will help you cope..please don’t follow through on your suicide threat”.
    ”Ok I will think about it”.
    If that dialogue was carried out between a female business owner and her bank manager, would my scenario elicit any more sympathy?

    The facts are stark regarding abortion on the grounds of the threat of suicide; It is true that the number of expectant mothers who commit suicide are extremely small (possibly one in 500,000) and that some of these cases may not even be linked to the pregnancy. It is true that the number of expectent mothers who commit suicide is considerably less than the general suicide rate among women in general (pregnancy may confer protective factors versus suicidal ideation). However no medical professional can predict who will or who will not commit suicide among the cadre of people who threaten suicide = A Fact
    And there are no scientific clinical markers for suicidal ideation moving towards actually committing to carrying out a sucessful suicide= A Fact
    So for every one case where the mother is intent on suicde (for reasons maybe unconnected to the pregnancy) there will be thousands of false positives as the psychiatric profession cannot apply any scientific determination whatsoever to filtering out thousands of mere threats to commit suicide from the actual isolated and statistically insignificant case of a real commited decision and planned course of action to commit suicide.

    Thus to ”protect” the notional ”one pregnant woman in 500,000” thousands upon thousands of threats to commit suicide will have to be taken seriously and abortions certified because all the psychiatirc profession have to work on is mere guess work and gut feelings.
    Apart from the fact that for psychiatrists who favour abortion from a ideological point of view this exercise will merely be one of a woman exercising ”choice” and the rubber stamps will be working overtime, sadly for everyone involved.

  10. Soline Humbert says:

    “I want an ice cream or I’ll kill myself” would be, again in my view, an equally inappropriate comparison in the case of a man(or woman) under crushing financial pressure and feeling suicidal.
    What I objected to is what I considered the trivialisation of the suffering of people who are so distressed they are suicidal (in this case pregnant women) and being treated as if they were having a temper tantrum.
    That’s all I was trying to say, no more.

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