Today, I am angry.
I am angry because draft legislation for the X Case created by Fine Gael’s Minister for Health, James Reilly, states that a suicidal pregnant woman must be seen by six consultants before she can have an abortion.
This not only shows just how this country treats women and how much it trusts them to take care of their own health, it speaks volumes about how mental health is viewed and reinforces the stigma. As Labour TD Ciara Conway said on RTE Radio One this afternoon, women who need an abortion would be “put on trial” if this legislation were to be passed.
It’s shameful, it’s embarrassing, and it’s sickening.Just as the government looked as if it was finally making headway with regards to abortion legislation after 21 years, it’s clear that some of our legislators (like James Reilly, who drew up the draft bill) are going out of their way to ensure that we make one step forward, but two back.
Forcing women to plead their case to a panel of two obstetricians and four psychiatrists is a completely unworkable process. Even with the low number of psychiatrists in the country (Ireland has three perinatal psychiatrists) how does Minister Reilly expect to find such a panel at short notice? It took me two months to get an appointment with a psychiatrist for, thankfully, a relatively minor complaint and that was a tough enough wait: how can suicidal woman be expected to wait that long when a major factor in their illness is growing inside them?
Why, also, must there be six consultants involved? For any other medical issue, you would meet with one specialist, then others if you needed to. Not six. Just one. Does Minister Reilly believe that six consultants are needed to diagnose severe depression and suicidality? The condition can be diagnosed by one psychiatrist in any other case and it should be no different for a pregnant woman; there is no need for a “jury” of four psychiatrist and two obstetricians.
This attitude to mental health and well-being only promotes and reinforces the massive stigma that still exists in Ireland; the stigma that shames people for being unwell and prevents them opening up to talk about their feelings.
This attitude is dangerous. If a woman is suicidal she will already be emotionally and mentally fraught: does the Minister and Fine Gael really think that she will have the energy to “prove” she’s suicidal to a panel of six people? Does the Minister and Fine Gael really think it’s humane to treat a fellow human being in such a manner?
What conclusions can I take from Minister Reilly’s disgraceful proposition that we need six consultants? It really seems like he using the stigma attached to mental health to try to dodge effective abortion legislation.
Clearly, he does not trust women to make their own choices or to understand their own personal health status, and so must force them to face trial in front of six other people. It’s also evident that by proposing legislation so unworkable he hopes that no woman will actually have to meet the panel during his time in government: when a pregnant woman does eventually die from suicide, it will be another government’s problem and up to them to deal with it. He wants to pass the buck to someone else, just like successive governments have been doing for over two decades.
This is bullshit, and I’m so fucking angry.