The Right to Life of the Unborn v The Right to Terminate in circumstances of Fatal Foetal Abnormality

Four CourtsThe Right to Life of the Unborn v The Right to Terminate in circumstances of Fatal Foetal Abnormality

The Right to Life of the Unborn is a right protected by Art.40.3.3 of the Constitution which provides;

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable,by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”  

The above passage has been interpreted as meaning that the court, in determining a matter before it, will endeavour to strike a balance between the right to life of the unborn child and the right to life of the mother.

However, earlier case law in this area demonstrates that this was not always achieved, as seen in the cases of Attorney General (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Ireland) Ltd v Open Door Counselling [1988] and Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Ireland) Ltd v Grogan [1989] wherein SPUC successfully sought interlocutory injunctions restraining the defendants from distributing information about abortion services and facilities in the UK to women resident in Ireland. These decisions were later overturned under EU law and the Freedom to Provide Services under Art 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, however they remain reflective of the approach that was taken to abortion at that time; that it is prohibited in Ireland, and that it should not be encouraged or advertised within the State by agents outside of this jurisdiction.

The well-known case of Attorney General v X [1992] brought the issue of permissibility of abortion to the forefront, where the right to life of the mother was undoubtedly given more consideration. In this case, the right to life of the mother was given due weight under circumstances where it was shown that there was a real and substantive risk that the mother would commit suicide given the circumstances under which she had fallen pregnant. The Supreme Court in this case ruled that the threat posed to the mother’s life was enough to necessitate the need for an abortion to be permitted in this instance, and that the mother should be allowed to travel to the UK to obtain an abortion. This case therefore demonstrates that the termination of a pregnancy is permitted in Irish law where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.  The 1992 Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution now prevent Art.40.3.3 to be relied upon to stop a mother travelling to another jurisdiction to receive an abortion, and indeed from availing of information relating to such services, demonstrating a development in this area of the law in more recent years. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 has since been enacted to give statutory effect to the above ruling.

However, a question arises as to whether a mother should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy under circumstances where they have been advised that their unborn child is suffering fatal abnormalities, rendering their chances of survival outside of the womb as non-viable. This issue was addressed in the case of D v The Health Service Executive [2007] wherein the mother’s first ante-natal scan tragically confirmed that the foetus suffered from anencephaly, a condition that resulted in the child being unable to survive upon birth. It was held in this case that the mother had the right to travel to the UK for the purposes of having an abortion. However, the law remains that abortion cannot be carried out in Ireland, merely providing the possibility for women to travel to another jurisdiction to have same carried out.

As it stands, a mother carrying a child with a diagnosis that their child is suffering from a condition or illness that renders them unable to survive outside of the womb will be assisted in delivering stillbirth, however will be unable to terminate the pregnancy prior to reaching this distressing stage.

It appears that little has been done to change this area of the law, as demonstrated by the recent defeat of the Fatal Abnormalities Bill in the Dáil this month. The Bill proposed to permit the termination of pregnancies where fatal abnormalities had been detected in Ireland, however this was rejected by 95 votes to 45.

Woman Resolves Claim for a Supermarket Car Park Slip and Fall Accident

A woman´s claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident has been resolved during a hearing to determine liability at the High Court.

On 29 November 2011, seventy-two year old Mary Parnell was visiting her local Superquinn supermarket (now known as SuperValu), when she slipped and fell while making her way across the car park from her car to the supermarket entrance. Mary dislocated her shoulder in the accident – an injury that still has an impact on her day-to-day living and that prevented her from holding her grandchildren or swimming in her son´s pool on a recent visit to Australia.

Despite the weather being particularly inclement on the day of her accident, Mary attributed her slip and fall to the surface of the car park having recently been painted. After seeking legal advice, Mary made a claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident against Superquinn and the two companies responsible for the repainting work in the car park.

All three parties denied their liability for Mary´s injury and refused to give their consent for the Injuries Board to carry out an assessment of Mary´s claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident. Mary was subsequently issued with an authorisation to pursue her injury compensation claim through the courts system, and the hearing to determine liability took place last week at the High Court.

At the hearing, Mr Justice Michael Hanna was informed that there had been an alleged failure by the defendants to erect a sign warning of the danger of slipping or cordon off the recently painted area. The judge was told that, had a warning sign been present or that area of the car park been inaccessible, Mary would have taken an alternative route from her car to the entrance of the supermarket.

Representatives of the defendants told Judge Hanna that Mary´s injury was not due to their negligence, but to Mary´s lack of care when walking across a very wet car park surface. The judge temporarily adjourned the hearing in order that the two parties could have settlement negotiations. On their return to the court, Judge Hanna was told that Mary´s claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident had been resolved and the case could be struck out.

LIFE STORIES: The Special Needs of Education from a female teacher’s perspective

The Special Needs of Education from a female teacher’s perspective

Sitting in Careers class in an all girls’ school some 15 years ago now, you would hear the usual career choices being bandied about….law, nursing, teaching, the occasional scientist, geologist and one dedicated airline pilot in the mix of 16 year old determined young women… I must admit there were three careers that had always rested at the forefront of my mind as I was growing up…

  1. Solicitor
  2. Teacher
  3. Paediatric nurse

A spectrum of career choices you might say, but one common theme runs through each of these career options… each were centred upon the provision of help to others. By a process of elimination I ruled out becoming a solicitor (highly competitive entrance requirements, and limited opportunity for employment at the end of your three year undergraduate programme at the time I was filling out my applications). So, I was down to two choices. Paediatric nursing – I always had a love for children (I still do) but the thought of seeing a child sick or helpless was going to be something too difficult for me to overcome, so therefore, one path remained, the vocation of teaching.

One thing I have learned in life (not to make this piece about life lessons but a relevant statement nonetheless) is for opportunities to happen, you must create them. A pessimistic careers teacher told me there was such demand for places on a teacher training course, with limited possibility of employment afterwards that I should perhaps reconsider my options. I didn’t see this as an obstacle, but an opportunity to tackle and achieve. I sent away my UCAS (CAO form) with fingers crossed and luckily got accepted to attend interview at my college of choice. The usual questions came up at interview? Why teaching?  How would you challenge inappropriate behaviour? If you could adapt the current curriculum what changes would you make? My answers to those questions still resonate in my head today.

Why teaching? –  As sugar-coated as it may sound, to inspire, to lead and to innovate. I would lead students to develop skills to prepare them for the global market, not just rote learning of facts and figures, but coping mechanisms, inter-personal skills, mindfulness of others and indeed themselves. I would inspire them to pursue each and every ambition no matter how inconceivable it may seem.

After four years of hard work I was ready to head out into the working world and was able to secure a maternity post for the coming year. I continued with temporary contracts for the next three years, but longer term prospects seemed further and further out of reach (perhaps the predictions of that careers teacher weren’t so misguided after all.) What to do next? I would have to upskill in some way, so the most logical next step for me was to broaden my pedagogical skill set.

My final mainstream teaching setting was in a classroom of 30 students with a young girl who was at pre-diagnosis stage of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Her areas of challenge silenced her voice, masked her expressionism, her ability to articulate her thoughts and feelings. My job was to enable her to have a voice, to be a catalyst to allow her to achieve.

I always held the belief that if a child is not learning, we should look to the teaching style not to the child, and change the way we approach our teaching. I didn’t possess the requisite skills to assist this young person, therefore it was time for me to return to college to complete a Masters in ASD. I resigned myself to the fact that substitute work was the best I could aim for while completing my Masters degree. However a chance phone-call from a special school in Dublin set me towards the path I am on today. I was being offered a year long post to set up an autism unit, a mammoth task but one I wanted to tackle head on.

One thing I have learned throughout my career is that adaptability is key. And when offered a principalship of a special needs school after three years teaching in that environment, this mantra became all the more evident.

A once male dominated rung on the ladder, principalship brought many new challenges, but at the same time brought great experience and tools to foster and develop into my own managerial style. I have come to realise that I thrive on challenge and look forward to whatever new adventure comes along.

– C.R.  2016