Friday, May 10, 2013

Open Letter to Jerry Buttimer, TD

I was overwhelmed by the positive attention I received from yesterday's post, An Open Letter to Lucinda Creighton. Honestly I don't think I've ever received so much praise for anything I've written.

The letter was inspired by the Abortion Rights Campaign's "Tell a Fine Gael TD" campaign. Feel free to play along! All you have to do is write, email, tweet, ring, or stop by the office of the Fine Gael TD of the day and let them know your thoughts on why they should legislate for abortion.

Here's the latest installment in the series.

Open letter to Jerry Buttimer, TD and member of Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

Dear Mr. Buttimer,

In your election video from 2011, you state that you would like to be part of a “government that will bring reform, that will create a more equitable, fairer, just Ireland.” I have to admit, it's refreshing to hear a politician to speak in terms of equity, and I think your life experiences have likely led you towards a deeper understanding of its importance in society.

You also seem to understand the need to recognise the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 as a message to Ireland that its abortion laws are not in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. But more than that, you seem to understand why it matters, not just for Ireland's international image, but for its people. Forty-four of forty-seven EU countries have laws in place to provide legal abortion when a pregnant woman or girl's life or health is at risk. According to the Irish FamilyPlanning Association, “This approach is consistent with the key human right standard of proportionality which requires that laws and policies applied to regulate access to abortion cannot excessively interfere with women's rights to life, health, privacy, freedom from cruel and inhumane treatment and non-discrimination.”

In order for Ireland's people to enjoy your vision of “a fairer, just, equitable society where people matter and where everybody counts, and where the dignity and the importance of people is recognised,” the state must remove the obvious barriers to pregnant women's health that exist. After Savita Halappanavar's death, an elderly Irish woman was heard to say, “Sure, women have been dying that way for years and no one took any notice before.” Don't you think it's time we started caring about the many women who have died quietly without the publicity, who never got an inquest, because they didn't have access to abortion as medical treatment to save them?

I don't live in Cork, but I believe you when you say you feel you've “worked, listened, and acted” on the people's behalf. So I hope you continue to do so. The most recent Red C research poll reported that only 8% of the electorate were against legislating for abortion. If politics “is about representation,” as you claim, then I think you know what you need to do. The majority of the people have demanded legislation, and it's your duty to represent them in your endeavors.

You've also said that you hope for a debate where “all sides can have their voices heard.” So I trust that you will read the Abortion Rights Campaign's recommendations for changes to the proposed Bill that were submitted for your consideration. If your goal is truly to save women's lives and save them from cruel and inhumane treatment and non-discrimination, these changes are necessary.

Finally, you've remarked on the value of a sense of place and “how important home is.” But for thousands of women in Ireland, the laws of their home put them into terrible danger. It's up to you to follow through on your commitment to the people of Ireland by protecting pregnant women's health under the laws of the land.

Angela Coraccio

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