The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has found that the Ray D’Arcy Show, RTÉ’s afternoon radio programme, was biased in favour of abortion on June 9th of this year when it interviewed Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland.
The BAI upheld a total of 5 complaints against the show, either in full or in part, a significant outcome given that the Authority seems to be reluctant to find against broadcasters. They criticised the Ray D’Arcy show for failing to be fair, impartial or objective, and said that the it was “the view of the Committee that listeners to the programme would have reasonably concluded that the presenter endorsed the views of his interviewee and was articulating a partisan position.
D’Arcy’s partisan position on abortion has been evident since his move to RTÉ, where our taxes pay his enormous salary and give him a platform to relentlessly push an abortion agenda. But the role of the sponsors of the show, Volkswagen Ireland, is also significant.
As the Fair Media campaign has pointed out, surely Volkswagen should be looking for an apology from the Ray D’Arcy show, which has now been found to be openly biased in favour of abortion. If not, then surely the many hundreds of thousands of potential Volkswagen customers who were offended by D’Arcy’s obvious bias, and his promotion of abortion, should wonder why not?
They are encouraging pro-life people to call Volkswagen Ireland on 1850 812761 to ask them to look for an apology from the Ray D’Arcy show in regard to the June 9th interview – a show they sponsor and which has been found to be biased in favour of abortion. They also want Volkswagen to seek reassurances from RTÉ that this bias will not continue.
It’s worth noting that D’Arcy said in the interview that Amnesty’s report on abortion made him ‘very angry’ – because women couldn’t access abortion here – and that having to ‘fight’ the state to have an abortion in Ireland was ‘horrific’.
The transcript of D’Arcy’s interview with Colm O’Gorman (below) is an eye-opener. It reads more like an monologue than an interview, in which every pro-abortion cliché and claim possible is trotted out, including false claims of criminalising women, and the humanity of the baby is completely ignored. There are no hard questions asked of O’Gorman, in fact, there are hardly any questions at all. D’Arcy’s role here seemed to be to nod in agreement, to express his support, and to allow O’Gorman to peddle misinformation and to dismiss well-respected experts as opponents of ‘human rights’ because they did not support abortion – a pretty outrageous claim. It was a solidly sycophantic performance by the Ray D’Arcy Show.
The BAI describes D’Arcy as ‘offering very little in terms of counterpoint’ and that said the views he expressed on the programme were “aligned and supported the interviewee (O’Gorman)” on the abortion issue. Indeed.
At one point, in regard to couples seeking an abortion in the case where a baby has a life-threatening condition, D’Arcy says that “we’ve heard it [a call for abortion in these circumstances] over and over again on this programme”. He is right in that instance. His programme has heard these calls over and over again but they have never given the other side of the story, never interviewed the families who explain that their children’s lives, however short, had meaning and deserved legal protection, and never acknowledged the polls that show that more and more people are having second thoughts about aborting babies with a severe disability.
Clearly D’Arcy is using his position on a tax-payer funded public radio station to push abortion. The BAI have confirmed his bias. It’s now time for Volkswagen to decide if this is acceptable.
Call 1850 812761 (or see your local Volkswagen dealer here: http://app.volkswagen.ie/dcc/en/dealers.html) and ask Volkswagen, as the sponsors of the Ray D’Arcy Show, to look for an apology for the June 9th show and a commitment to end the bias in favour of abortion.
Abortion bias is unacceptable in the media. So is sponsoring abortion bias – and as customers or potential customers, its time the pro-life majority made that clear.
Guest is Colm O’Gorman from Amnesty Ireland.
Ray: 51551 firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, you would have heard on the news with Áine Lawlor that Amnesty International have launched a report today in Dublin – The Impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law “She is not a criminal.” It’s a damning indictment of our abortion laws in this country. Colm O’Gorman, Director of Amnesty International in Ireland is with us in studio. Good afternoon, Colm.
Colm: Hi Ray.
Ray: So just to put this in context, Colm, this is the international wing of Amnesty?
Colm: Yeah. Amnesty International is running a global campaign for the last couple of years called “My Body, My Rights” and it’s a focus on sexual reproductive rights globally. We’re looking at 7 countries generally and in 2 of those countries we’re looking at the impact of restrictive abortion laws. Those two countries are El Salvador and Ireland. Ireland is the only developed world country that’s a focus of this global campaign and the research was carried out not by Amnesty here in Ireland, but by our international movement over the last 8/9 months.
Ray: And would this have been decided at a global level, or did you, as the local sort of office of Amnesty International say to the global organisation “we have a problem here and we want you to do something about it”?
Colm: Well the fact that we have, we’ve a particular problem in Ireland in relation to women’s rights and sexual reproductive rights is pretty well known universally at this stage, so when Amnesty was looking at the countries that it should focus on, a conversation started with our colleagues in the international movement about whether or not Ireland should be a focus and when they did a preliminary look at that and then discussed that with us, it became clear that sadly, regrettably actually, it was critical that Amnesty should do this research in Ireland.
Ray: Ok I read it last night and today. It made me very angry and the thing that came up over and over again was that we’ve been told by numerous human rights organisations that our abortion laws are contravening basic human rights, and yet government after government after government have done nothing about it so why do you think, or do you think that this report is going to change anything?
Colm: Well I think this report is part of what’s needed to change it. And I think first of all, it’s worth saying that when we talk about human rights, Amnesty International or civil society organisations like us didn’t develop international human rights law. International human rights law was developed and written by states, states like Ireland, and countries like Ireland voluntarily signed up to these laws and agreed to be bound by them so when we talk about Ireland being in breach of its obligations, that means that Ireland isn’t respecting the law that it agreed to respect and we’re saying that, at a minimum, it should be doing that. And these are minimum standards that apply at the global level.
Ray, I have to say I think what’s really, really important about this report, beyond obviously the human rights analysis, and it’s very important that this is really objective, solid, legal analysis of the situation in Ireland, the really important part of this report is the evidence that emerges from the testimony of women and girls who have faced really grave human rights violations because of our laws and as we know in Ireland, if we can create a conversation where we sit back and we listen and we honestly listen and engage with and set aside our fears and anxieties or even our deeply held convictions, particularly religious convictions, and if we listen to the impact of how we’re treating each other, that’s where change starts to happen. So what we need to do, and what I’d ask people to do with this report is don’t, don’t react from a place of anger or fear or ideology. Read the report. Listen to the stories and think about whether or not you’re happy to stand over laws in our state, in our country that criminalise women, that violate their human rights that puts their health and their lives at risk in 2015, because that’s the reality.
Ray: What you’re asking for is that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act be repealed, got rid of, and that abortion should be allowed at least and at minimum, I think is the wording used in the report, in rape, and this is the minimum wording in the report, in the case of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.
Colm: Well, risk to life which is already provided for even though frankly that is a bit of a legal and medical nonsense because that doesn’t consider risk to health so in order to comply with its human rights obligations, Ireland needs to ensure safe and legal access to abortion for women and girls at a minimum in the case of a risk to life, risk to health, in cases of pregnancy in rape or incest, or in cases of severe or fatal foetal abnormalities.
Ray: Okay. You – the report writers interviewed 60 people, 26 of them are people who have been affected by our abortion laws directly and there are excerpts from their interviews in the report. So, Gerry for example, his wife went in, got a scan, they were told that the baby was “incompatible with life” so they had to travel to a different jurisdiction and have a termination and they couldn’t bring the remains back. So they agreed that the remains would be cremated and then sent back. And this is, Gerry told Amnesty International: “Joshua’s remains arrived during the day. The estate was empty as people were at work. It was a big Jiffy envelope, and it didn’t dawn on me what it was. Gaye, my wife could see the delivery man and figured it out. Gaye broke down and I was trying to be normal for the delivery man. I just held the envelope that contained our son’s remains. That was our funeral. A f***ing envelope handed over the door. If we had continued in our hospital, we could have been under the same care…our families could have seen him…we could have had a wake for him…he could have had a funeral. We felt alone. There was no one to talk to…no one understood.”
And that’s the situation. We’ve heard it over and over again on this programme. So that’s horrific. That’s fatal feotal abnormality. Only a few months ago we had an email from a woman whose daughter was raped. She was 17, and they decided that the best thing for her was to travel to the UK for an abortion, and in that email she describes – this isn’t in the report, but there are similar ones in the report. “The journey home was horrific. No warm bath…no cosy bed for my daughter. Hours of sitting on cold, plastic, uncomfortable seats in the cold airport. Flight delayed by one-and-a-half hours…feeling helpless. I was frustrated as I held my daughter and watched the silent tears fall down her cheeks. I feel her tremble with emotion she’s afraid to show in such a public space. Her near collapse as we stand for half an hour waiting to board. If it wasn’t for the help of some of the other women who were with us at the clinic, I don’t know how I would have managed. I will never forget their kindness. It almost brought me to tears, actually, but I couldn’t crumble. I had to be strong for my daughter. I lost my beautiful, care-free, happy, child as a result of that horrific crime and from the lack of support by way of abortion services in this country.” Why do you think we’ve got to 2015, and we’re still debating this, and we’re still in the place that is unsatisfactory for a lot of people?
Colm: I think there’s a couple of reasons. I think, first of all, we need to be honest about one thing: We don’t have a good record on women’s rights. I mean, we have a very poor record on reproductive rights in particular, and that was at a time when we pretended – when we found ways to ignore the impacts of those attitudes. So for a very long time, here in Ireland, crisis pregnancies didn’t happen – or we pretended they didn’t. So women and girls were shamed, and hidden away behind high walls. They were sent to other countries to have their babies. Their babies were adopted, or they travelled for abortions, or they did it in other ways. Ann Lovett died in a grotto, because she lived in a society that couldn’t acknowledge the fact that at 15 years of age she was pregnant, and reach out and support her and care for her.
Mother and Baby Homes, Magdalene Laundries…that was the Ireland of then. And the Ireland of now…we’ve moved on from that significantly, but it’s a continuation of it. We’re still in denial. 4,000 women per year travel to England alone for abortions. Today, between 10 and 12 Irish women and girls have left this country to go and access safe, legal abortion in another jurisdiction. And a significant number of those women are doing so because they face a real risk to their health, which could become a risk to their life, and, as Rhona Mahony said this morning: We play medical roulette with women’s lives. Doctors in Ireland are forced to stand by and wait until the woman becomes inevitably ill, and then wait until that illness reaches a stage where there’s a real and substantial risk to her life – whatever that means. Then they can intervene, and hope that they can repair the damage and hope that she survives. That’s horrific.
Ray: So as legislation stands, a risk to a woman’s health it isn’t enough; it has to be a risk to her life.
Colm: It has to be a “real and substantial risk” to her life, and that’s not quantified, by the way, so as Dr Mahony said this morning: What does that mean? Does it mean a 10% risk of dying? 20? 50? 80? What does it mean? And if a doctor gets it wrong, what are the consequences? Well, under the law that we enacted in 2013 – this isn’t old law – in 2013 we enacted a law that says if a doctor gets it wrong, and a court were to find that there wasn’t, in it’s view (and it’s not defined in the legislation what it means particularly) a “real and substantial risk,” the doctor and the woman could go to prison for 14 years. It’s not good enough to say that nobody has been prosecuted and nobody might be prosecuted. You’re in a situation where a doctor isn’t able to treat a patient without having to think about whether or not the force of law is …there just…
Ray: There have been two high profile cases since the…it’s a long one…the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act” was introduced. So there was the Y case, and that was only in the news last night, I saw Caoimhe, and she’s quoted in the report, which is a horrific case of an asylum seeker coming here. There are details in the report that I didn’t know: she had been kidnapped by a paramilitary leader, and he had used her and abused her, raped her and beat her ..
Colm: and her family had been killed.
Ray: Yeah, um and she arrived here looking for an abortion, and that’s all laid out there. The other high profile one was just before Christmas when that lady was dead, and the doctors wanted to keep her alive because she was pregnant. Her dad had to go to the High Court. And all of this happens at a time when people are very vulnerable – traumatic situations – and then they have to fight the state. They have to fight the law of the land, which is horrific.
Colm: Or they have to (if they can) leave.
Colm: and go to another country which might treat them with a bit more respect and a bit more compassion which means they have to leave their families, their support systems, and most importantly, I mean, the reason we called the report “She’s not a criminal” is because, without exception, all of the women and the families that we spoke to talked about returning to Ireland feeling like criminals; feeling like they were criminals regardless of, well remember, they have done something in Ireland, if they if they did it here, they could face a fourteen year prison sentence for, to mitigate against a risk to their health.
Ray: [laughing] I’m not laughing, but then we have enshrined in our Constitution that you have the right to travel. So you have the right to travel to another jurisdiction to do something that is illegal in your own country.
Colm: And that you could go to prison for fourteen years if you did.
Ray: And Peter Boylan says that our Constitution is profoundly hypocritical. It protects women to go abroad for something that is outlawed here. The safety valve of travel, maybe those last words aren’t his but that’s what it is, and is that part of the reason that successive governments haven’t dealt with it is because we are so close to the UK that has more liberal abortion laws so it’s that safety valve.
Colm: Yes, I mean I think that that’s certainly part of it, I mean if the UK didn’t exist if England and access to England health services there didn’t exist we would have emmm just appalling consequences here we would see women dying because of a lack of abortion services.
Ray: But we would have had to deal with it as a country
Colm: But we would have had to deal with it. You see it’s back to that point I was making earlier on about one of the reasons this is happening is because we used to have high walls now we have a pretence that we don’t have a problem and we all have a role to play in this one. This isn’t simply about pointing the finger at politicians. We have thus far failed to assert ourselves in this debate and we have allowed the debate to be highjacked by those who would approach it from a vitriolic ideological position on whichever side of the debate. We have to have a conversation in Ireland about the impact of these laws on the rights of our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our friends, our work colleagues, our wives…
We have to have a conversation about what is happening and then we have to make a decision about how we are going to deal with that… to get together and collectively… and we can’t simply continue to outsource, not just our human rights obligations to countries like England the UK and other countries, but our responsibility of care and compassion. How do we stand over a situation where a bereaved couple have a courier arrive at the door with the remains of their baby. Why weren’t they held and supported and loved by their own society and their own State as they work through that kind of trauma, whatever their choice was. And let’s be clear, for many people in that situation they will choose to continue with a pregnancy because that’s right for them. Similarly on rape grounds we know from figures that the Rape Crisis Network issued today in their annual report that, in 2014, 8% of women and girls over the age of 18 who had presented who had been raped were pregnant as a result of that rape in 2014 and in Ireland by force of law as your listener talked about in the case of her child they are not allowed to access a termination whatever the consequences of impact on their lives and on their health.
Ray: Ok, we are talking to Colm O’Gorman, Director of Amnesty International Ireland and we will just take a break…. we have to go to the studios in RnG for Nuacht. Go raibh maith agat. “She’s Not a Criminal, The impact of Ireland’s Abortion Law” is published today by Amnesty International, and Cora Sherlock who is deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign said, I will address this to you Colm: “Now that Amnesty has become a de-facto campaigning group on one side of the abortion debate, sadly it can no longer act in the role of unbiased and impartial defender of human rights.”
Colm: Yeah, it’s – first of all —it’s hard to even understand what Cora means by that. We are a human rights organisation, so our analysis of these issues is grounded in human rights principals and human rights law. And in that and then I have to imagine that Cora then would also suggest that all of the UN treaty bodies, the expert bodies appointed by states to access and interpret international human rights law who are saying all of the things we are saying about women’s human rights, are also wrong. So we either have a situation where we attack the messenger and we don’t have this conversation, or we believe the only people that are right are right on these issues are Cora and the Pro Life Campaign and I don’t accept that and the reason why I don’t accept that that is because of the testimony we have had from women and girls because of the impact of a of a rigidly uncompassionate oppressive approach to regulating and reducing women to mere vessels at times when they are particularly vulnerable that has to end.
We have to get beyond all of that, and you know to Cora and others. I respect their views, I understand why the question of abortion and the notion of protection for unborn life is a really important principal for many people and I understand and I respect that, but there’s a need to respect that on the basis of that conviction, Cora nor anybody else are not permitted, and should not be permitted by force of law to require women to suffer catastrophic impact on their lives, on their health, and on their families because of what Cora believes. Cora is entitled to her belief but she is not entitled to impose those beliefs on other people no matter what the cost to their lives to their families and to their health. She is not entitled to do that.
Ray: “It’s amazing that that man worries more about how the remains of his child were dealt with rather than the fact how he allowed his child be killed. There are hundreds of people who have allowed their children be born with fatal foetal abnormalities and have cherished even those few moments hours or days they had with their child. I see now that that man now says he is looking for abortion for severe abnormalities. What is severe?” (from a listener.)
Ray: Well, I spoke to I think it was Aideen or Aileen and she decided to go to term and she spoke lovingly about having her child, I think the child lived I can’t remember exactly how long …they brought the child home had a wake sort of and some people choose to do that, but it’s the choice I think is the important thing.
Colm: Well, I do have to respond to that one. I have met Gaye & Gerry the couple that have just been discussed there. I don’t want to be vitriolic, but that kind of comment just really quite frankly enrages me. I mean, how dare you suggest that this couples’ motivations were not grounded in absolute and utter love for the child that they desperately wanted. For them, the right choice for them as a family was to proceed to a place where the pregnancy was terminated and yes terminated by abortion which meant early delivery, and the loss to them wasn’t devastating and heart wrenching.
You have no right –that person has no right– to assert that about that couple. They are a couple of extraordinary dignity and integrity. They would absolutely support the right of other people in those circumstances to continue with the pregnancy to term or to seek a termination by early induction which is a medical abortion in such circumstances and they would have wanted to done so in a situation where they could have cared for Gaye for their family for their child when he was born and yes absolutely waked their child at home. To force a woman to go through a pregnancy, and Gaye speaks about this in the report: she talks about when she got the diagnosis, she had a job that required her to see people all the time. That for her, the daily experience of having complete strangers come up and touch your stomach and ask questions about her baby… to have to go week on week for a scan knowing that every week when you go you are going to see has the baby died yet or will the pregnancy continue all the way to delivery… to know at the end of nine months, you will have gone through that process and your baby will be born and will die very soon afterwards… Nobody has a right to impose a decision on a woman that says she has to continue that pregnancy to term. It’s about supporting women and their choices based on best medical evidence that’s available and allowing women and their doctors to make the right choices for those women in those particular circumstances.
Ray: and so Amnesty International want the 8th amendment repealed and in that amendment the constitution gives equal rights to the unborn child and the mother.
Colm: Yeah again there is no way that Ireland can move to a human rights compliant framework for the provision of abortion in Ireland without repealing the 8th amendment, again as Dr. Mahony said this morning, the constitutional approach is just a question of a health intervention like abortion on the basis of individual rights but you are talking about a situation of a really complex physiology so you are talking about a very complex medical situation where doctors cant approach these issues from the perspective of a balancing of legal rights but from a balancing of risk so they have to be able to make decisions based on all of the available medical information that allows the woman involved to make a decision about the degree of risk that she is prepared to carry in a particular pregnancy and make her own decisions so in order for that to happen we have to repeal the 8th.
I mean, right now in Ireland we are in a situation where as I said earlier on doctors are forced to stand by – can you imagine any other situation where a doctor would have to say to somebody: “The particular situation that you are in will become a real risk to your health but we have to wait until you become desperately ill and where there is then a real and substantial risk to your life before we can intervene, so we are just going to stand back now and wait for you to get desperately ill and then we’ll do something and then well hope that it works.” That s just incredible.
Ray: “I totally agree with your contributor but we need to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution to start again from a place where a woman’s rights are not equated with a foetus,” says Mary.
“Any chance of balance? Amnesty does not recognise rights for the unborn. Can you ask someone to speak in favour of the unborn life? Abortion does not solve the problem and nobody can say when a life will definitely end. I am a man, but I know from my own experience as I have a child who was given very poor diagnosis from a scan. Darragh is now 6 years old.” – Colm in Swords.
“All of our abortion woes from the x case onwards have been a consequence of the 8th amendment it has to be repealed,” says Ed.
So do you think that em Enda Kenny will read this report?
Colm: I hope so. I mean we delivered it yesterday to Joan Burton the Táinste, I met with our global secretary. He is still here today. We handed it to Joan Burton yesterday. We met Leo Varadaker yesterday afternoon and gave it to him as wel,l and this evening we are presenting the report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, and our expectation will be its delivered to Enda Kenny and that he will read it.
Ray: You know the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and people praised its work in the lead up to changing the abortion legislation back in 2012/2013, and yet they didn’t hear from women who had travelled to Liverpool for terminations as a result of fatal foetal abnormalities they didn’t hear any representatives from the 171,000 people, women who have travelled abroad for abortions since 1971 So it was flawed –basically fundamentally flawed.
Colm: It’s important to recognise that that committee and that legislation dealt with the most narrow restrictive (if you want to call it progress) possible so its only function was to look at implementing the supreme court decision made 30 years earlier in the x case, ok, that so one of the of the impetus for movement there was the death of Savita Halappanavar but the legislation as enacted and the hearings of the committee in no way addressed the issues involved in Savita’s death, and I mean one thing we are saying very clearly in this report: If Ireland had a human rights compliant framework for the provision of abortion, its highly likely that Savita would be alive now. Savita died – now I want to be very clear what I am saying here — Savita died because of medical negligence; because of a failure to properly manage an infection that ravaged her body, but that infection was possible because she was refused a termination, and she was a highly educated woman with a medical background, she was a dentist she knew when she was facing an inevitable miscarriage that she needed to end this pregnancy and this was a risk to her health. Had she been given a termination at that point it is highly likely that Savita would be alive. The legislation enacted in 2013 has done nothing to access that risk.
Ray: Of course there is no dissenting voice in this report, like you didn’t speak to Patricia Casey or you know…
Colm: It’s a human rights report but we generally don’t speak to people who would restrict people’s rights and see them violated when we are publishing research into the impact of human rights violations on people so we don’t do that, and the other side –whatever that means– in this debate are perfectly capable of articulating their positions they have done so for decades in this country and I am sure that they will continue to, but our role is to make sure that we are articulate the experience of women and girls whose human rights have been violated because of our laws and that we provide objective rational sound human rights legal analysis of the situation in Ireland and that is what we have done.
Ray: Can people read it on your website?
Colm: They can if they go to amnesty they will be able to download the whole report and, to be clear, this is the start of a global campaign with the focus on Ireland. It’s the first time Ireland has ever been a target country for an amnesty campaign globally that will run for the next year but Amnesty international here in Ireland will remain focused on this issue until we secure human rights compliant abortion frameworks here in Ireland.
Ray: Colm O’Gorman, thank you very much.