We’ve come to expect a certain level of divisiveness in the abortion debate. It’s an emotive subject simply because it concerns the most fundamental right of all — the right to life.
Ironically, many call for a calm debate one minute, and then revert to accusations of cowardice the next. We saw this in action recently when a group of Fine Gael TDs indicated that they were not prepared to vote for abortion legislation.
But why should they, or anyone who opposes abortion, be accused of cowardice? Surely we’ve wrestled with this issue for long enough to have passed the stage of name-calling? The introduction of abortion to a society has far-reaching effects. As such, everyone living in that society should be free to voice an opinion without fear of being castigated, regardless of where they stand on the issue.
Health Minister James Reilly’s comments and actions over the past few weeks mean it will not come as any great surprise if the expert group on abortion reports back in September with a limited list of options, all of which lead to the introduction of abortion, whether by legislation or regulation. However, if this happens it will be on the basis of a political decision and will have nothing to do with the requirements of either medicine or law.
Women don’t die in Ireland because abortion is illegal here. We have a lower maternal mortality rate than countries such as the Netherlands or the UK, where abortion is legal. This fact is often dismissed by those who would like to see abortion introduced here, but their arguments ignore the fact that pregnant women in Irish hospitals already receive whatever treatment they need for an existing medical condition. The only difference is that doctors here have a duty of care towards the unborn child as he or she is recognised as a separate patient. The same cannot be said of the UK, for example, where abortion is legal up to 24 weeks and up to birth if the baby is suffering from even a minor disability.
Earlier this year, The Daily Telegraph carried out an undercover investigation which revealed systematic abuses in a number of abortion clinics, including the illegal practice of sex-selective abortion. Babies are born alive during “botched abortions” in the UK — and then left to die.
These facts are unpalatable, but it is incumbent on those who advocate the introduction of abortion to explain how we will be any different to countries such as the UK, which introduced abortion on supposedly “limited grounds” and subsequently found it impossible to restrict or control. Legally, there is no obligation on the Government to introduce abortion. The oft-quoted ABC European court decision merely obliged us to state our laws clearly; it did not state what those laws should be but recognised the right of the Irish people to decide this issue.
If, as some have suggested, we legislate on the basis of the X Case, we would be ignoring the fact that the court in X heard no medical evidence. In making its decision, the court set no time limits. Legislation based on X means late-term abortions would be protected in law right up to birth. Since the X Case too, there has been a wealth of peer-reviewed evidence showing that abortion often has negative consequences on the woman involved — a fact exemplified by the testimonies of the women in groups like Women Hurt and this year’s HSE/Crisis Pregnancy Programme Study, which found a marked increase in the level of abortion regret since the last study carried out in 2003. An honest debate accepts that there are negative effects on many women. Their voices must not be drowned out.
In its pre-election commitment to the Pro-Life Campaign, Fine Gael restated its opposition to the legalisation of abortion and research conducted on human embryos. It undertook to bring to the expert group a clear “commitment that women in pregnancy will receive whatever treatments are necessary to safeguard their lives and that the duty of care to preserve the life of the baby will also be upheld”.
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This is the genuine pro-life, pro-woman position that is currently in practice in Irish hospitals and is consistently supported in independent opinion polls. A careful review of the facts has meant several governments have realised abortion is not necessary to safeguard women’s health. On the contrary, it may jeopardise their psychological wellbeing and end the life of a separate human being.
Right now, Dr Reilly has primed the expert group to produce a list of options that would impose an abortion regime on Ireland. This is an affront to human dignity and the right to life and must be opposed.
LifeNews Note: Cora Sherlock is a lawyer and Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign