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ABORTION/ Irreconcilable Positions

(Fotolia) (Fotolia)

It is true that Irish law prohibits abortion, but that it the way a majority of Irish citizens want it. It is also true that these laws are broadly influenced by Catholic theology. But Catholic theology allows for intervention to effect a termination when a woman’s life is in danger. It does not hold that the foetal heartbeat must have ceased.  This, more or less, is also the law in Ireland, but in the final analysis the decision in each individual case is made by a doctor, who intervenes on a commonsense basis to bypass the myriad grey areas which can arise across the range of possible cases.

Left-liberalism seeks to present the Irish position on abortion as obscurantist for reasons relating to blind obedience to the Catholic Church. But this fails fundamentally to understand either religion or abhorrence of abortion. Catholics are people who understand reality in a particular way, not people who have been given a list of things they must believe in. The Catholic position on abortion arises from a moral perspective centred on the dignity of the human person. Catholicism is the expression of this perspective, not its motivation. A majority of Irish people continues to hold to a principled opposition to abortion, and would almost certainly do so even if the Catholic Church withdrew its objections, which is unlikely.

Back in 1983, in anticipation of moves towards achieving legalized abortion, it was a number of Catholic lay groups that persuaded politicians to put forward an amendment to the Irish Constitution, which they said would render legal abortion impossible. The resulting Article 40.3.3 reads: ‘The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right’.

However, this amendment has failed to prove as watertight as it at first appeared, and subsequent Supreme Court interpretations of the phrase ‘the equal right to life of the mother’ have brought us within a whisker of a form of abortion that may embrace cases where health and suicide ideation are deemed to be decisive factors. Left-liberals have for years been looking out for a case with which to tip the balance in their favour.

As elsewhere,  Irish liberals mostly claim not to seek to introduce into Ireland abortion on demand. Instead, they have hidden behind ‘hard cases’ to whip up public sympathy and confound the general opposition in Irish society to the kind of abortion regime that exists in the neighbouring island. Close to 5,000 Irish women are said to travel to the UK every year to procure abortions there, and this is advanced as an argument that Irishwomen’s rights are being  infringed in their own country.