Monday, April 16, 2007

Mother & Child rights

Aine Lawlor has been filling Marian Finucane’s RTE Radio 1 chair for the past two Saturdays. Last Saturday, one of the topics under discussion was the Natalie Evans/Howard Johnston case regarding the use of frozen embryos, recently decided by the European Court of Human Rights in favour of Mr Johnston’s request that the embryos be destroyed rather than implanted in Ms Evans.

In the course of the discussion Aine Lawlor made what seemed like an impassioned plea on behalf of Ms Evans. She talked of the natural yearning for a child of women in their mid-30s whose biological clock is ticking but who haven’t found any Mr Right as a long-term partner. Surely these women could be allowed to “adopt” those frozen embryos and give birth themselves?

Then, in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Brenda Power argued that the court decision is tantamount to allowing a man insist on an abortion where he has changed his mind about becoming a father. She clearly believes that Johnston should not have the right to prevent the implantation of the embryos by Ms Evans, allowing her the chance to become a single parent.

The case of Ms Evans is a particularly tough one, as she has made sterile by radiation treatment for cancer and will be unable to reproduce with another partner at a later stage.

However, in the whole media debate on this, I haven’t heard anyone question the automatic right of single women to bring children into the world without any sign of a long-term partner as father for the child. The assumption is that this is an unquestionable “woman’s right to choose”. What about the rights of the child?

The Government proposes to amend the constitution to specifically express the rights of the child. How will these rights intersect with “a woman’s right to choose” to have a baby in any circumstances that suit herself? In these politically times, who will represent the rights of the child in such debates?

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