If I were an alien that had just arrived on earth from another planet and read the Talking Politics article in last week’s Galway Advertiser entitled “Repealing the Eighth and the right to autonomy over ones’ own body,” I’m sure I would be marching on the Dáil in an effort to repeal the “draconian laws” you describe in this article. However I am not and I would like to point out a number of flaws in the article.
Firstly I find it very strange that the word “unborn baby” is not even mentioned once in the article. This article is consistent with the majority of pro choice thinking that is prevalent at the moment, ie, a failure to recognise the humanity of unborn life, many pro choice people preferring to talk about a “clump of cells.” Do we say a woman is expecting a “foetus?” In fact as Gaeilge the reality of the situation is beautifully expressed in the phrase “ag iompar leanbh.”
The article mentions the Bill that the Anti Austerity Alliance will be bringing before the Dáil shortly calling for the outright repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Yet there is no public demand for this as a recent Irish Times opinion poll found that just 19 per cent of people want a UK style abortion regime in this country. While that poll did find a majority of people would like to see abortion in limited circumstances; rape of the mother and life limiting conditions of the unborn child, there is no such thing as restrictive abortion. International experience shows that when you look at other countries which have tried to introduce restrictive abortion, it doesn’t work. We need to be honest about this - introducing abortion is really an all or nothing proposal.
There is an attempt to confuse matters in stating the hypothesis that life begins at conception is a religious belief. This is a rather disingenuous attempt to deny a scientific reality. When I attended school I learned in biology that the sperm fertilizes the egg and this zygote contained all of the necessary genetic information from which a future human being forms. This is the beginning of human life. For people who would prefer to dismiss this “clump of cells” as just being that and not capable of independent existence, they are right in one regard. However it is a step along the way, exactly as a new born baby is another step. Would you say a new born baby is capable of surviving on its own? You certainly would not.
At the core of Pro Choice thinking is the notion of “bodily autonomy”. However this ignores two realities. Firstly from a scientific point of view, the unborn child is a separate entity to the mother containing in equal measure the genetic information from both father and mother. It is not just another part of the woman’s body. Secondly while a woman cannot get pregnant without the sperm of a man, this fact is conveniently ignored and it seems the man has no say in whether a woman decides to have an abortion or not. Another phrase emphasising this is “my body, my choice.”
I do agree with one sentence in the article but for very different reasons to the author. “It is vital for any country serious about equality to remove barriers that prevent such equality coming about.” At the heart of this debate is equality and the equal right to life of both mother and unborn baby, rather than “draconian laws.” Without constitutional protection for the unborn, unborn life just becomes a commodity that can be disposed of at will. Do we want a situation here in Ireland like in Iceland where 100 per cent of unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted? What would that say about us as a society?
The abortion debate has much greater repercussions than at first appears. We may be asked in the next couple of years to vote on this issue. It is important there is reasoned debate and fundamentally it will ask us what kind of society we want to live in? We led the world in the marriage equality referendum and now we have the chance to do likewise in protecting unborn life.