Civil partnerships in the UK, which are currently available only to gay couples, could be opened up to straight couples for the first time thanks to a new bill which will soon be debated in Parliament. The move would remedy an inequality in the law and also make it easier for straight couples to commit to each other without having to go as far as getting married.
Justine Greening, the Education Secretary and minister for equalities, recently said the same rules should apply to all couples, straight or gay. One straight couple, Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, have taken the Government to court after they were blocked from getting a civil partnership. Their case will reach the Supreme Court next year after they argued denying them the right to enter a civil partnership violated their human rights. They objected to marriage as a patriarchal institution which they refused to enter on ideological grounds, but said they would enter a civil partnership.
Other supporters of the proposed change argue that civil partnerships are a cheap and easy way for couples to guarantee that their relationship will be recognised in the eyes of the law. The proposed changes would help stabilise families with unmarried parents. Despite only accounting for a fifth of couples, more than half of family breakdown occur in unmarried families.
A question asking children whether they feel comfortable in their gender will be removed by the National Health Service (NHS) from primary school questionnaires after it was criticised by parents and MPs. On the questionnaire, children were asked whether they “feel the same inside” as the gender they were born with, the Daily Telegraph revealed on Monday. Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said the question, which was on a survey filled out by 10 and 11-year-olds, would no longer be routinely asked of all students. A spokesman for the Trust said that the question was introduced “following input from sexual health specialists, the charity Lancashire LGBT and primary schools, who confirmed that they were seeing a steady increase in requests for advice and support relating to school age children.” The trend is part of a national increase in children questioning their assigned gender. Charities and gender identity clinics have reported significant rises in families looking for support for children who say they have been born in the wrong body.
One in three of 48.1 million pregnancies in India ended in an abortion, according to a large-scale study on abortions and unintended pregnancies for the year 2015. The study published in the medical journal, The Lancet, reported there were around 15.6 million abortions that year. The study also reported that close to half, or 48%, of pregnancies were unintended and 0.8 million women used unsafe methods for an abortion, putting their health and lives at risk.
Using abortion pills was the most popular method, which made up 12.7 million or 81% of all abortions, followed by 2.2 million surgical terminations of pregnancy. Around 22% or 3.4 million abortions were done in public health facilities. But 11.5 million or 73% were medication abortions done outside health facilities and 0.8 million were conducted by informal providers.
The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) have ordered Amnesty Ireland to return foreign funds for its pro-abortion political campaign for having breached statutory laws. Amnesty however have defied the order calling the law on which it is based a ‘violation’ of human rights.
Ireland’s campaign finance laws entirely prohibit foreign funding for political purposes, as well as requiring placing a strict cap on domestic donations. Amnesty, however, received €137,000 from the Hungarian-American billionaire, George Soros’, Open Society Foundation expressly for the purpose of its Repeal the Eighth Campaign. SIPOC has deemed that funding in breach of statutory law and has written to Amnesty instructing them to return the donation. Amnesty have refused. Their chief executive, Colm O’Gorman, told The Irish Times: “We’re being asked to comply with a law that violates human rights, and we can’t do that.”
Commenting on the news, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said: “Today’s statement from Amnesty is nothing more than a public relations exercise to disguise the fact that they have been receiving vast sums of money from abroad to fund their campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment. Amnesty are behaving like they are above the law and are hiding behind the term ‘human rights’ as a justification for everything they do”.
Ms Sherlock said: “It is important to recall that the Open Society Foundation stated when giving the money to Amnesty that it was to assist the coordination of groups in Ireland with a view to repealing the 8th Amendment and taking away legal protection for the baby in the womb. The involvement of this US based organisation in the Irish abortion debate represents a gross interference in our democracy and in safeguarding the right to life. Amnesty should immediately return the money and stop trying to portray itself as a victim in all of this.”
Three Fianna Fáil members of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment have called for unrestricted abortion for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the period in which about 90pc of abortions take place. Their move comes just weeks after the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis passed a motion to preserve the Eighth Amendment in full so as to protect unborn life. In a joint submission to the committee, Senator Ned O’Sullivan and TDs Billy Kelleher and Lisa Chambers outline their belief that terminations should be accessible when the life and the health of a mother is at risk. There should be no distinction between the mental or physical health of the mother, they add.
Their submission brings to ten the number of members of the 21 person committee, a near majority, who have called for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks. In contrast to the Fianna Fáil members, three Sinn Fein members of the committee say they will not vote in favour of the 12 week unrestricted abortion proposal as they have no mandate from their party’s Ard Fheis for doing so.
The latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll has found a majority favour lifting some restrictions on abortion. However, they were not asked what kind of law they would like to see replace it. Asked about the prospect of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment next year, 62 per cent said they would vote in favour of changing the Constitution to allow the Oireachtas to legislate for greater access to abortion, the poll finds. More than a quarter of voters (26 per cent) said they would vote against the move, while 13 per cent offered no opinion.
Minister Katherine Zappone wants abortion to be available for any reason in at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. She wants the Eighth amendment repealed entirely. This is likely to be the recommendation of the Oireachtas abortion committee examining the matter, though it will then be up to the Government to decide whether a referendum should simply repeal the Eighth or amend it to allow abortion in certain specified circumstances. Speaking at Dublin City University, Ms Zappone made clear she will be a voice at the cabinet pushing for full repeal, saying that the Pro-Life Amendment to the Constitution must be removed in full and should not be replaced with any other constitutional wording. She also said that legislation should follow “under which abortion is safe, legal and available to all who need it”. In this context “availability” means abortion services that are subsidised by Government and accessible in locations all across the country.
She said it was her belief that abortion should be available upon request up to 12 weeks, though later term abortions should also be facilitated without the mother needing to “prove” her case.
The last three remaining CASA abortion clinics in the Netherlands closed their doors for good this week. The abortion chain which operated seven clinics in the Netherlands was revealed to be involved in extensive fraud in a landmark investigation earlier this year. CASA clinics, which are responsible for nearly half of the 31,000 abortions carried out in the Netherlands each year, are alleged to have committed fraud worth a massive €15 million to date. The clinics have been accused of irregular billing practices for public subsidies, including claims for deep sedation and overall anesthesia that were never performed.
The bankruptcy of the abortion chain means women are having to wait longer and travel longer distances for an abortion. Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Maastricht no longer have a specialist unit. Women are now travelling to Roermond, Utrecht and Groningen for the operation as waiting lists double to up to two weeks in places.
The UK Parliament is set to pass a law that will enable single people become the legal parent of a child born through surrogacy. The right of a child to a mother and father will not be considered. The practice of surrogacy in the UK is legal but there are some restrictions. Surrogacy contracts cannot be enforced, so in the UK, as also in Ireland, the woman bearing the child is the legal mother at birth (and her partner the father, if she is married or in a civil partnership) and remains so unless and until she signs away all rights over the child. This occurs when those who contracted the surrogacy apply to a court for a parental order which requires the consent of the birth mother. If the Court grants the order, the parental rights of the birth mother are extinguished, legal parenthood is transferred, the existing birth cert destroyed and a new birth certificate, reflecting the new legal parents, is drawn up. Currently, however, only couples may apply for parental orders, so even though single men or single women could arrange a private surrogacy, they may be denied legal parentage after the fact. This happened to a single man in 2016, who was refused a parental order because he was single, but the High Court decided that this law was discriminatory and in breach of the European Convention on human rights. In a comment that entirely overlooked the child’s natural parentage, Sir James Munby, president of the family division, explained the importance of having the correct legal parent(s): “Section 54 goes to the most fundamental aspects of status and, transcending even status, to the very identity of the child as a human being: who he is and who his parents are… A parental order has an effect extending far beyond the merely legal. It has the most profound personal, emotional, psychological, social and, it may be in some cases, cultural and religious, consequences.”
In response to that judgement, parliament is now set to give single people equal rights as couples in claiming legal parentage of the children they have acquired through their private surrogacy contracts.
The Irish Catholic Bishops have expressed their concern about repealing the pro-life amendment from the Constitution as its removal would have “no effect other than to expose unborn children to greater risk”. In a statement released after their winter meeting, the bishops appealed to each member of the Oireachtas to consider “how society can best respond to the personal needs of women within a legal and constitutional framework which acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, together with the equal right to life of the mother”. The Bishops affirmed that “Article 40.3.3 has a particular vision based on respect for the life of every person and that its removal can have no effect other than to expose unborn children to greater risk”. The bishops said that every human life has sanctity and innate dignity from conception to natural death and this is a value that is rooted in reason as well as faith and should be capable of being embraced by all in society.