Correction and Apology

In a news story published by this newspaper on November 18th regarding delays in SUSI grant allocations, it was claimed that UCD Registry had extended the deadline for withdrawal from academic programmes, without fee implications, to November 27th. The University Observer has since learned that this is incorrect, and that the deadline extension of November 27th applied to access to student services by students who have not paid fees. The initial extension of the deadline for withdrawal from academic programmes without fee implications had in fact passed several weeks before the article was published.

The inaccuracy arose from an interview conducted by an Observer staff member with UCDSU Education Officer Amy Fox, which indicated that the November 27th deadline applied to withdrawal deadlines. Fox has said that she intended to say that the deadline referred to services access. The deadline had previously been referenced by Fox in a separate interview with the University Observer which said that the deadline referred to student services access, though it did not explicitly say that the deadline did not refer to withdrawal dates. The University Observer had not verified the story with UCD Registry before going to print.

The University Observer wants to apologise to any students affected. Students are encouraged to contact editor@universityobserver.ie with any issues.

Amy Fox has made a statement on the issue:

“Myself and Maeve De Say gave an interview on Friday evening to a staff member of the University Observer, in which we clearly outlined that the 27th of November deadline was in relation to access to student services and not withdrawal  from academic programmes without implications.”

“The error arose when I gave a second interview to a member of the University Observer team on the same day where I failed to clarify the dates and their implications correctly, as I had done previously. I wish to apologise to any students affected by this incident.”

Op-ed: Why We Need to Overhaul Irish Abortion Legislation

This summer, the contentious Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 came under attention following two controversial news stories. The first was the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s criticism of the Act in their fourth periodic report of Ireland. The second was the treatment of a migrant woman who, under the authorization of the Act, was denied an abortion, forcibly hydrated, and had a C-section performed upon her at approximately 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The Act, which came into effect in January 2014, specifies provisions regulating the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution (1983) which equates the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, and in doing so criminalises abortion in all cases except where to continue a pregnancy would result in death. Rather than making a termination more accessible for women with life-threatening medical issues, the stipulations regarding the number and specialty of medical practitioners who must concur that a termination is necessary to prevent a risk of death by the Act, introduced new barriers to accessing legal abortion. The situation for women in Ireland now seems worse than before.

Cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormality and serious risks to the health of the mother are excluded, and the process for determining that a pregnancy does present a “real and substantial risk to the life of the mother” is so complicated that it may be unworkable in medical emergencies. The process a woman must go through to “prove” that her pregnancy is life-threatening requires more medical professionals to be involved to agree an abortion is legal than in any other country.

Where a woman is suicidal, three physicians, an obstetrician, and two psychiatrists, in addition to her general practitioner must concur to permit a termination. The provisions of the Act thus subject persons in a state of severe mental distress to even further disquiet. The exclusion of fatal foetal abnormality from the Act forces women whose pregnancies will inevitably end in tragedy carry out the full pregnancy or travel overseas for terminations. Those who are unable to travel overseas due to financial circumstances or migrant status, and self-administer an abortion pill risk facing up to 14 years imprisonment.

This summer the UN Human Rights Committee criticized “the highly restrictive circumstances under which women can lawfully have an abortion in the State party” citing, among its concerns the criminalization of abortion under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, the excessive degree of scrutiny by medical professionals for pregnant and suicidal women, and the discriminatory impact of the Act on women who are unable to travel abroad to seek abortions. Yet there seems to be little impetus on behalf of the government to amend these infringements on human rights.

I personally was motivated to get involved in the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), a grassroots movement for choice and change in Ireland, by hearing numerous politicians express disinterest in improving upon the “Protection of Life” Act. Declarations that there was “no appetite” for an abortion referendum, and that such a referendum would not happen “within the life of this government”, made apparent to me the complacency of the state regarding the health and rights of women, and the need for Irish people to make their thoughts on the matter heard through other platforms. I went to marches and demonstrations, fundraised, dropped banners, realized my own conviction for every person’s right to bodily autonomy, and heartily encouraged every single person I knew to sign the ARC petition to repeal the 8th Amendment to lobby our unresponsive government to hold another abortion referendum.

The last referendum was held in 1983 and so no woman of childbearing age in Ireland has had the opportunity to vote on their own rights to health and to choice. If we wish to see treatment of pregnant women in Ireland improve, the impetus needs to come from the people first to demonstrate that, contrary to the beliefs of many of our government ministers, there is in fact an appetite for change.

N. Other Angle is a graduate student in UCD’s School of English, Drama, and Film. She is involved in Event Organization and Logistics for the Abortion Rights Campaign.

The 3rd Annual March for Choice will take place September 27th at 2 pm beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin.

To find out more about the Abortion Rights Campaign
e-mail: info@abortionrights.ie
twitter: @freesafelegal
or sign the petition: http://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/repealthe8th/

News Analysis – No honeymoon without engagement

UCD President Andrew Deeks (right) with Prof. Paul Krugman as the Nobel Prize winning economist was presented the James Joyce Award by the L&H (Source: Ryan Kane Photography)

As he wonders what kind of president Professor Deeks will be, Killian Woods writes that it is time UCD students have a figure that engages with them

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