Ireland moves towards equity on reproductive health measures

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I write to you as an Irish-trained doctor working in women’s health in Australia. I write to celebrate the wonderfully progressive step the Government has taken in the recent budget by providing free contraception to women aged 17 to 25.

This is to contrast the overwhelmingly negative reviews that appeared online and found their way across the globe.

Our recent history in this space is significant to the contrary: the iconic “contraception train” movement occurred in only 1971, contraception was decriminalised in 1980 and finally approved for sale in 1985. Now, a generation later, we can provide it for free to young (and very likely unmarried) women.

To address a few points I saw repeated raised by opposing parties/ twitterers/ commenters, etc:

1. “Limiting” contraception to women aged 17-25: Women in this age group are more likely to be in part-time employment or unemployed, or in full time education and not have financial independence. The consequences of an unplanned pregnancy can be detrimental at any age, but there is clear evidence that within this group, an unplanned pregnancy significantly changes the trajectory of a woman’s education and employment status. Women are more likely to not complete their education, nor obtain full time employment and consequently forced down a path they would not otherwise have chosen; often relying on state financial support to provide for themselves and their family. It is therefore very logical and justified to prioritise this group.

2. “Giving the message that contraception is the sole responsibility of women”: It is women who end up being responsible
for the unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. It is women who carry the burden of risk associated with a termination of pregnancy, with
continuing a pregnancy and the side effects of said contraception.
It is therefore entirely appropriate for women to be prioritised. It is
remarkable that women are being given the ability to advocate for themselves and to take ownership over their reproductive health. This should be encouraged, celebrated, and continued.

Were the budget measures perfect? No. Do we need more? Absolutely. Should both males and females be educated on contraception? Of course.

As a society, we should always strive for improvement, strive for progress and strive for change. However, given our history and the advances we have made in a relatively short time; we should pause, take a moment and celebrate this change and progressive move towards equity in reproductive health. 

Let us shine a positive light on the health services available to the young women of Ireland.

Dr Siobhan Walsh

Melbourne

Global development efforts undermined

Over the past 18 months, Covid has taught us, more than ever before, about the importance of public sector services. Yet, across the globe, blunt and ineffective public sector wage cuts are damaging the very sectors governments claim to want to protect.

This week — October 11-17 — , the 2021 annual meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are taking place in Washington, where austerity and further public sector wage cuts will remain very much on the cards.

A new report — The Public versus Austerity: Why Public Sector Wage Bill Constraints Must End — by ActionAid, Public Services International, and Education International shows that IMF advice to cut government spending in 15 developing countries has wiped nearly $10bn (€8.6bn) from public sector wage budgets. 

This is the equivalent of cutting more than 3m jobs, including doctors, nurses, and teachers at the height of the pandemic. This has undermined progress on health and education and other sustainable development goals and women’s human rights.

The World Health Organization estimates there is a shortage of 5.9m nurses, with almost 90% of those shortages being in low and middle-income countries. 

Meanwhile Unesco estimates that 69m more teachers need to be recruited in the next 10 years to achieve the sustainable development goal of universal access to primary and secondary education by 2030.

The impact of this undermines global development efforts in very real ways in the very countries that Ireland is supporting in bilateral aid. Ireland needs to use its voice and influence globally to ensure that the global economic architecture does not undermine the very things we support. 

In addition, tax dodging costs developing countries an estimated $300bn (€259bn) every year in lost revenues. Ireland has played a role in this, by acting as an entry point to Europe for big multinationals, allowing them to avoid paying tax in the poorest countries through loopholes, tax treaties, and tax structures.

Neoliberalism has been oversold for 40 years and has stifled the very growth and development it was supposed to value. It is time for a fundamental overhaul — for a system change focused on economic justice.

Karol Balfe

CEO, ActionAid Ireland

Ó Riada and origins of The Chieftans

There seems to be a lot of misinformation about the origin of The Chieftans. Ceoltóirí Chualann was an Irish traditional band formed and led by Seán Ó Riada. 

The Chieftans pictured in 2006. Pic: Marc O’Sullivan

When Ó Riada disbanded Ceoltóirí Chualann Paddy Maloney just took over where Ó Riada left off and called it The Chieftans.

Ó Riada was the genius who saved our musical heritage, and with the film Mise Eire, he broke new ground in producing musical scores for the film by using the sound of splintering glass shards to echo the bullets piercing the windows of the GPO during the 1916 Rising.

With no disrespect to Paddy, I think he would understand where I’m comming from. Rest in Peace to them both.

Ian Hester

Ballymacurley

Co Roscommon

Reopening country next week is in doubt

If this country is not opened up on October 22 as promised, and all but guaranteed, by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin some time ago, can we expect him to resign if we cannot take him at his word?

Robert Sullivan

Bantry

Co Cork

Bezos’ tourist rocket is a waste of space

The penile-shaped tourist rocket that launched into space for 10 minutes on Wednesday added exactly what value to the world? Does Jeff Bezos’ venture with an actor (who was very good at acting ‘being in space’) into space add value?

Does releasing tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere during the rocket’s burn add value?

If Bezos had to bring someone on the ride to get the media’s attention why didn’t he bring one of Yuri Gagarin’s daughters? Yelena Yurievna Gagarina or Galina Yurievna Gagarina would, I am sure, have welcomed the invitation to celebrate the 60 years since their father became the first human being to travel to outer space in his capsule, Vostok 1, completing one orbit of Earth on April 12, 1961.

But then, oh dear, Vladimir Putin might have had to be included in the guest list.

We need to solve some real problems. Come back to Earth, Jeff. Beam yourself back down.

Alison Hackett

Dun Laoghaire

Co Dublin

Captain Kirk sows further seeds of doubt

After watching 90-year-old Captain Kirk trying to clamber into Jeff Bezos’ rocket, I find myself having some sympathy with those who doubt that the moon landings ever took place.

Liam Power

Dundalk

Co Louth

Fantastic future with prospect of extra fiver

With the prospect of an extra fiver come January, I will now scan the “yachts for sale” ads.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont

Dublin 9



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