In all the recent discussion on the tragic High Court case, abortion has been to the forefront – this despite the fact that Mr. Justice Kearns pointed out that the case didn’t have anything to do with abortion. Some prochoice campaigners have even accepted as much. For many though, the last few weeks have been a time when some aspects of the abortion debate are highlighted with the sole aim of forcing a referendum to try and repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.
Cherry-picking the facts
When I say that only certain aspects are highlighted, it’s because when it comes to abortion in Ireland, some issues are always carefully avoided by those who want to see a repeal of the 8th. So we hear about a history of “foetus placards”, with the aim of painting prolife campaigners as extremists. But we don’t hear about the advances in embryology, which offer a virtual “window to the womb” through 4D scans, proving for once and all that unborn human is, in fact, a human being and not the blob of cells that we’ve been told about for so many years.
We’ve been reminded of the facts of the X Case, and the three referenda that resulted in guaranteeing a right to travel and right to information. What isn’t pointed out about the X Case is that the third referendum which failed didn’t offer the public an opportunity to oppose abortion outright so it can’t be used (as it often is) as a reason to show that the public support abortion. Similarly, the 2002 Refererendum which would have overturned the X Case judgment had it passed cannot be claimed as a victory by prochoice campaigners either. The referendum was lost by less than 1% but a poll carried out one month after the vote showed that at least 5% of those who voted “No” (ie, with the prochoice side), did so for prolife reasons.
Commentators who mention Ms. X show a sad disinterest in the case of Ms. C, five years later. In a similar rape case, Ms. C had an abortion but deeply regretted it and recently expressed her intention to seek legal advice over the treatment she received.
I’ve always found it particularly unnerving that the experience of Ms. C doesn’t seem to register on the radar of Irish prochoice campaigners. Much like the women of abortion regret group WomenHurt, who were treated so shamefully by the National Womens’ Council of Ireland, they simply don’t seem to matter. Faced with the prospect that their testimony might highlight the negative side of abortion, it seems easier to leave them out of the debate entirely.
And that’s part of the big problem in the Irish debate – an unwillingness to accept facts. The tragedy of Savita Halappanavar’s death is still being used by prochoice campaigners, even in the last week. Either they don’t know that three independent investigations found that her death was not the result of the abortion ban in this country, or they simply don’t care.
The travesty of 2013
Thanks to the government’s mis-named Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act 2013, we now have a situation where abortion is legal for the full nine months of pregnancy if there is a threat of suicide, this despite the fact that there is no evidence, anywhere in the world, to show that abortion treats suicidality. What this really means is that at a time when we are working so hard in Ireland to support people with mental health issues, pregnant women are at risk thanks to a piece of legislation motivated not by medicine, but by political expediency. This is hardly something to be proud of.
Repeal the 8th – what’s left?
The 8th Amendment has served us well, something else which is overlooked. For the alternative, we only need to look to those countries where no constitutional protection exist. In the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act has meant that it is legal to have an abortion right up to birth if the baby has been diagnosed with any disability. Over 50,000,000 abortions have taken place in the US since the 1973 case of Roe vs Wade. Let’s have some honesty from Irish pro-choice campaigners. Is this the kind of free–for-all they support? Repealing the 8th Amendment would remove all remaining legal protection for the unborn from the Consitution. The whole issue of abortion would be left in the hands of our politicians, and we saw how they dealt with it last year – setting up Oireachtas Hearings and listening to expert evidence only to ignore that evidence and steamroll ahead with abortion legislation regardless.
Prochoice campaigners are fond of claiming their right to abortion as part of a “mature Ireland”. There is nothing mature about ignoring the facts that show abortion to be a life-ending procedure for a vulnerable human being, and one which causes trauma and suffering to many women. I fear we are a long way off from the type of debate that we so badly need in this country – one where the real needs of women and their families can be addressed in such a way that all human lives can be saved and supported, both through our laws and our society.