What’s your view on abortion? Be careful to think before your answer.
In Irish society today, there are clearly defined labels for those who speak their minds on the subject. Looking at popular media coverage in the last few months, it’s pretty easy to see where you fit: if you think abortion should be legalised, you’re a right-on, progressive individual. If you’re against it, then you’re a Catholic nutjob who needs to pipe and keep “your rosaries off their ovaries”. You’re “Pro-Life”; an embarrassing term for those who coined it, implying the opposing group is “Pro-Death”.
I’m all for progressive individuals, and progress in general. Let’s just not progress in the wrong direction, namely backwards. Let’s take a hypothetical situation:
A group of girls, aged 16 or 17, heads out one night on the town with her friends. Perhaps they’re not even out for the night, maybe they’re just hanging around town one evening. Suddenly, one of the girls is separated from her friends, and finds herself alone with a number of males. They’re older than her, and they’re drunk. She is raped.
A few weeks later, she realises that she is pregnant. Not being in a relationship, she knows that foetus inside her is that of her rapist. What should she do?
This is supposed to be the litmus test on one’s views on abortion. It’s a situation which is touted about by many “pro-choice” advocates, designed to create a trap for those who are described as “pro-life”. Is that girl entitled to an abortion, or should she be criminalised in our jurisdiction by availing of an abortion?
It’s an awful situation. So awful, that middle-aged politicians and journalists and bloggers can’t even begin to fathom what it would feel like. This girl is a victim, not a criminal, and should be treated as a victim.
She is, however, not the only victim. This girl carried a human foetus who, through no fault of its own, has now become a burden on the life and body of this young woman. Though certain feminist factions used to refer to this foetus as no more than a “tumour” on a woman’s body, that argument has since been side-lined, and with good reason.
When are we allowed to circumnavigate our innate moral reasoning and kill another human being? There are circumstances where it is deemed by somewhat respectable society to do so, in self-defence, perhaps, or even at the behest of a court in the case of capital punishment (thankfully outlawed here in Ireland.)
A pattern emerges in these cases: it seems acceptable to kill another human if that human has committed some crime against us or someone close to us, or is intending to do harm in the near future.
Let us then ask another question, one with much more far-reaching consequences in the context of this argument: when is it OK to kill an innocent human being?
OK, maybe there are a few examples – one can point at euthanasia and reason that in certain circumstances, a person may give consent to have someone end their life. This person is complicit, in other words, with their death.
But a human foetus, alone and (theoretically) safe in the confines of a woman’s womb, has neither the intellect or the means to be complicit in it’s annihilation. It is a human being, entirely dependent on the one who carries it – the mother.
This brings up a phrase which is constantly bandied about by feminists engaging in the current debate: the right to choose.
Clare Daly, a proponent of abortion legislation, says “This is an issue of women’s rights to control their own bodies.” This viewpoint completely ignores the concept of the human foetus being a separate entity, a sovereign body which is taking refuge in the female form until it is ready to be born.
Do women have a right to claim the life of this unborn child as belonging to them until it’s born?
To tentatively suggest that they don’t is not to insult them or accuse them of any wrong-doing. Many of them are extremely vulnerable young women who are in a tragic situation – a REAL tragedy. But consider the tragedy of the young person inside her – did we forget about their choice?
Being opposed to abortion is not a character defect and is not a red sign that labels you out as a sexist, or a misogynist or any other rusty terms being thrown around by hot-headed “free-thinkers”.
Let’s talk about it, let’s hammer this one out. One thing we shouldn’t do is pull down the shutters and insist it is every woman’s right to the end the life of their child.. Because when we flick on the television and see teenage girls casually musing over whether or not to “keep” their baby, we should know something is wrong.
Regulation is a huge issue here. We need to think how regulation of abortion would be implemented by a health service already famed for its lack of regard for the rights of children. In the UK (where there were 4402 abortions in 2010 from women who travelled from Ireland ) more and more incidences of botched abortions are beginning to surface, and we are only now beginning to see the consequences of such blaise, a la carte terminations.
This is not an issue for the blame game. In the vast majority of abortions, and particularly in cases of potential disabilities and health problems, there is no bad guy. Some on this side of the argument are frothing at the mouth to demonise mothers, doctors, courts, politicians, but the reality is abortion is a twist in nature – no one gets a happy ending.
To every rule, you can be sure of an exception. The appearance of three mothers on the Late Late Show, several months ago, giving their personal accounts was a testament to that. Those three incredibly strong women are arguing for what they believe is just: the right for women to end a hopeless pregnancy. Is there a system which could cater for these kind of situations, and yet still maintain a tight control on the performance of terminations? In a civilised society, I’m not ashamed to say that I think there is.
Whatever side of the abortion debate you’re standing on, it’s evident that there is a dire need for legislation in the area. While Fianna Fail governments ignored the issue of the X Case for twenty years, this political football has now transformed into a red hot potato for the Fine Gael/Labour government.
While the Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that abortion could be legal if there was a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the risk of suicide. Twenty years later, we now know that women who have had an abortion are six times more likely to take their own lives. Should this not have a bearing on how we legislate for abortion? The girl at the centre of the C Case, another high-profile abortion battle, succeeded in her fight to have an abortion – she later said she regretted it. If we really care for these girls, let’s actually think about their genuine well-being, and less about expanding our own personal agendas.
One commentator remarked recently that it would be abortion, not fiscal policy, which would bring this government down. Looking the back-and-forth between coalition members in recent weeks, this idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. For now however, we must reluctantly wait on the government’s expert group to report back, and see how the debate develops.
Because it’s certainly not going away.