The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on Ireland to amend its abortion laws. Citing the 2011 case of a woman who failed to procure an abortion here following a diagnosis of congenital defects in her unborn child, the Committee has insisted that Ireland should end its constitutional protection for the unborn to protect patients and health workers from criminal sanction on terminations. The Committee also stated that the woman also suffered “inhuman” treatment in not being able to access abortion information as an option in her case.
All Presbyterian wedding ceremonies in Ireland must now include a statement that marriage is only between one man and one woman following a decision taken by the church’s general assembly in Belfast. The decision was reached following a resolution that stated: “Since the beginning of creation God, in his gracious purpose, provided marriage as the accepted way in which a man and a woman may come together as husband and wife. This is the only basis on which marriage can take place within the Presbyterian church in Ireland.”
Ireland has one of the highest rates of young people engaging in so-called ‘sexting’ of graphic messages to one another. In a study conducted by Dr Sheri Bauman, a professor of counselling at the University of Arizona, USA, Irish teens were fourth highest for explicit messages, images or video sent by mobile phone. The study found that sexting was more frequent among 14-17 year olds and that over 25% of students, from a survey of 300 post-primary Irish schools, acknowledged sending the graphic messages. The research found 4.4% of boys and 1.6% of girls aged 11-16 engaged in the behaviour.
A New York state legislator has risked controversy in calling abortion in his state an “African American genocide” due to the dramatically higher numbers of that cohort seeking abortion. State Assemblyman Ron Castorina Jr’s comment, made during a debate on broadening the availability of abortion in New York, drew fierce criticism, but he remained unrepentant, telling media afterwards: “This chamber likes to look at things through the prism of race and gender all the time, but when it’s inconvenient, when I brought up an issue through the prism of race, that’s insulting?” Figures for abortions in 2013 in New York reveal that for every 1,000 black babies born alive, 1,223 were aborted, significantly higher than for Hispanics or white Americans.
Britain’s former chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, has warned that the West will collapse unless it reverses both its moral decline and collapsing birth rate. During a speech as he accepted the 2016 Templeton Prize for his contributions to religious understanding, Lord Sacks said: “Civilisations begin to die when they lose the moral passion that brought them into being in the first place. It happened to Greece and Rome, and it can happen to the West. The sure signs are these: a falling birth rate, moral decay, self-indulgence on the part of the rich, hopelessness on the part of the poor, unintegrated minorities, a failure to make sacrifices in the present for the sake of the future.”
Junior Minister John Halligan has called for the Dáil to prioritise laws for terminally ill people to access assisted suicide and for religious beliefs to be left out of any debate on the issue. The Minister, who introduced the Dying with Dignity Bill in December, said he intends to push for such a debate as soon as possible. “Dáil Éireann needs to enter this debate and, when we do, we need to do leave religious dogma at the door,” he stressed. Minister Halligan’s comments came in the wake of revelations that a leading right-to-die campaigner, Tom Curran, had assisted people in making plans for assisted suicide.
Partnership plans for the speedy divestment of Catholic schools laid out by Education Minister Richard Bruton have been criticised as they do not seek to strip Catholic schools of the right to prioritise Catholic students for admission. Minister Bruton’s decision not to affect the so-called ‘baptism rule’ was described as “desperately disappointing” by Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin who lamented that it “flies in the face of all the progressive measures” his party had attempted to take. Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy attacked the decision as “outrageous”. However, the Minister’s approach has been backed by Dr Kevin Williams, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Evaluation, Quality and Inspection, School of Education, Dublin City University.
A group of football supporters in Co. Galway has vowed to boycott their club unless a fan is afforded the right to hold a ‘Repeal the 8th’ banner during games. Galway United ejected the fan from its home ground after his banner calling for an end to the constitutional protection for the unborn was deemed to be a breach of the terms of a tenancy agreement which proscribes any display of political messages. Fans say they will stay away from games and will launch a petition in support of the ejected fan.
New York City has launched America’s first government-sponsored ad campaign encouraging citizens to use the toilet facilities of their self-selected gender. Poster ads which read, “Use the restroom consistent with who you are. Look past pink and blue”, are set to appear at bus stops, phone booths and on the subway among other locations across the city. “Every New Yorker has the legal right to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity, no questions asked,” Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted.
‘Right-to-die’ campaigner, Tom Curran, has revealed that he has helped some 200 people, in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, to plan their suicides, many of whom opt to use drugs that are banned in the European Union and therefore must be illegally imported. Mr Curran appealed to the Government to legislate for assisted suicide.