34 days to go…. Mass appeal….More on Inclusion Ireland’s advocacy for abortion for Intellectually disabled Irish women.

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34 days to go…. Mass appeal….More on Inclusion Ireland’s advocacy for abortion for Intellectual disabled Irish women.

Over the last few days we’ve examined Inclusion Ireland, a state sponsored advocacy group for the intellectually disabled. At a press conference recently, they launched their repeal campaign so that women who are intellectually disabled can access abortion in Ireland. There was a separate video of Paddy Connolly the C.E.O. calling for the repeal vote so that intellectually disabled women would be equal with their non-disabled counterparts. Yesterday’s post was their submission document,  regarding section 5 of the sexual offences act in 2012 in which Inclusion Ireland advocated for among other things:

  • Removal of presumption of inability / lack of capacity to consent but rather a presumption of capacity to consent to sex by the intellectually disabled.
  • Removal of capacity to consent based on status / diagnosis and replacement with functional assessment on a case by case basis so as not to pigeon hole.
  • Removal of the words vulnerable adult which is deemed to be patronising. Use of mental impairment is considered acceptable.
  • Removal of the suggestion that intellectually disabled adults are entitled to a loving relationship as this is discriminatory and substitution with a sexual relationship of their choosing as those who are not intellectually disabled do not have to prove that their sexual relations are loving.
  • A need to challenge societal norms that showed about a half of Irish people surveyed, were not comfortable with the idea of sexual relations in the intellectually disabled because of concerns about capacity / consent issues.
  • A need to change society to facilitate full integration of teens with intellectual disability to be able to pursue relationships and in those relationships, sexual relations if they so wish. A survey of intellectually disabled teens showed they talked about eventually marrying and living away from home one day, but they did not have boy or girlfriends. Inclusion Ireland felt this was due to the wider difficulties in integration and forming relationships, so that they were left at serious disadvantage in exercising their right to sexual relations.
  • A need to challenge the above discriminatory attitudes in carers in residential institutions who were concerned at intimate relations taking place among the clients they care for and who had contacted the organisation querying should they be stopping sexual activity among clients.
  • A need to update the sexual offences act to include acts short of intercourse and buggery as instances had taken place where this had happened but the culprit who was not disabled, was not prosecuted. Also a need to do away with a vague part of the act which stated that there should be no prosecution of a vulnerable adult on sexual offences grounds unless the DPP o.k.ed it.
  • Inclusion Ireland supports the recommendation there should be a strict liability offence for sexual offences committed by a person who is in a position of trust or authority and recommend that this be extended to offences by volunteers or family members.

There are obviously positive changes that in fairness, Inclusion Ireland have done great fantastic on, in relation to greater protection from sexual assaults that fall short of intercourse and buggery which were not covered in the past, in the areas of work and health and destigmatising intellectual disability.

However, the opening of the intellectually disabled to sex education and validating / facilitating their rights to engage in sex, means crisis pregnancies and abortions will occur and no doubt, non-directive counselling with the added complication of establishing capacity and consent for an abortion. At what stage this capacity and consent is determined by carers / social workers and are family members involved if they are long-term residents?

How influential will attitudes of those surrounding a pregnant intellectually disabled woman be on a decision to keep or abort a baby? In fairness to Inclusion Ireland, they state they wish to advocate for the right of pregnant clients to keep a baby (if she of course chooses to) and to marry and plan family as their ideal in full integration on every front for their client base though the submissions didn’t mention studies on this.

But is it not possible that attitudes of those around her, consciously or unconsciously, will influence a pregnant intellectually disabled woman who even if deemed to have capacity to consent, may very well be at more risk of being swayed?  No doubt Inclusion Ireland would say this is a discriminatory attitude as this could be argued to apply to the general population. Separately what the impact of having sexual relations are on the intellectually disabled population from a purely secular viewpoint, whether in a loving relationship or not is not clear though on their website they state that some of their clients have spoken positively about it.

But ultimately, if sexuality and its expression is God given which we as Christians believe it is, there is zero recognition given to abstinence or chastity, which in fairness the Catholic Church applies to all non-married irrespective of disability or not. Whether an individual with intellectual disability could marry in the Church at least, is another day’s work in terms of establishing capacity and consent.

There is absolutely zero recognition of the humanity or dignity of the unborn and post abortive harm to the mother, is denied across the board whether disabled or not and is unlikely to be studied given the denial of the reality of it in the general population. There is zero recognition that they are facilitating innocent adults entering into sexual relationships that are not of God and may disproportionately harm them more than the general population. On their website is the following re the 8th amendment:

“The 8th amendment has been recognised by the UN as cruel, inhuman and degrading and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Ireland recently ratified, includes a right to decide freely on the number and spacing of children. Access to abortion on an equal basis with others is essential for Ireland’s compliance with the UN Convention. This campaign builds on Inclusion Ireland campaigns on the right of persons with a disability to make decisions, including medical decisions, as well as a right to sexual relationships.”

In another submission from Inclusion Ireland on the Law Reform Commission’s Consultation Paper on Sexual Offences and Capacity to Consent 2011, they acknowledge,

“While we now accept that an expression of sexuality is considered part of everyday life for people, including people with disabilities, there is growing evidence of high rates of sexual abuse involving people with intellectual disabilities.

 “The LRC states that there is a move from large institutions to community living for persons with an intellectual disability. However it should be noted that there are still nearly 4,000 people with an intellectual disability living in congregated settings, i.e. ten or more people (Time to Move on from Congregated Settings, HSE 2011). These people are at a high risk of abuse, be it financial, physical or sexual abuse.”

As Christians we believe all of us are sexual beings, but not all are called to express that in sexual relations. Does sex education and facilitation of sexual relations among the intellectually disabled educate them as much as possible about their bodies / cycles / desires? Is the population prematurely / further sexualized because of policy makers’ ideology which is effectively imposed, even while stating that they are advocating for them?

However well-intentioned in terms of desiring to have clients live as integrated a life as possible, does the introduction of sex ed. and the facilitation of sexual relations in the care system, make abuse more or less likely to happen than before it was enacted?

How often are sexual relations happening in different care homes and is there an ongoing review process? If in residential care they are at high risk of abuse, what are the numbers / the trend in rates of sexual abuse in care and how is it handled?  Is abortion always the outcome to pregnancies resulting from “sexual relationships of their choosing”, the expression of choice by Inclusion Ireland / sexual abuse resulting in pregnancy ? How many pregnancies have resulted and how many have been kept and if any, where are the babies now?

Why is the ideology of Inclusion Ireland / the U.N. the final arbitrator in deciding on what is healthy for the intellectually disabled in terms of sexual activity, family planning and abortion? Other than the absolute absence of sexual relations, (despite high rates of abuse of different types including sexual, according to their own submission) where was the evidence of harm from abstinence or is abstinence, just assumed to be harmful? Is there an element that this is a response to high rates of abuse because it’s perceived that at least consent is established in as many cases as possible?  If from a purely secular viewpoint, they believe this to be best for the intellectually disabled, was there evidence and if so where, if not, have they taken a risk with the intellectually disabled population and is this not a paternalistic attitude of knowing what is best but from a secular viewpoint? Is this not potentially or really an attack on innocence from a Christian one?






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