Irish Times publishes false “abortion” story

Paper admits “abortion” did not happen

No explanation offered for fabricated “news”

Sean Murphy*

The controversy surrounding Ireland’s new abortion law has been further inflamed by a story by Irish Times Health reporter Paul Cullen.  The story first appeared on 23 August, 2013.  Its accuracy was immediately disputed, and the paper had to add note stating that the article was erroneous in claiming that an “abortion” had occurred at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin “under the provisions of the new abortion legislation,” which had not yet come into effect. Nonetheless, in an interview the following day, Cullen continued to insist that the reported “abortion” had occurred at the hospital, and that the public had a “right to know” about it.

The Irish Times has now been forced to remove the article from its website because it was found to be false.  Despite Mr. Cullen’s concern about the public’s “right to know,” the paper has offered no explanation to account for the fabrication of the story and the failure of editorial oversight that permitted its publication.

A significant issue raised by the incident is a dispute about what constitutes an “abortion.”  A protest outside the Irish Times organized by Irish pro-life organizations Youth Defence and Life Institute included statements and signs to the effect that premature delivery of a baby (presumably resulting in death) is not an “abortion,” but “medical treatment” intended to save the life of the mother.  It is by no means clear that the Irish Times or those favouring legalization of abortion accept this distinction.  Differences on this point are likely to complicate the exercise of freedom of conscience by health care workers who do not wish to participate in abortion.

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