Options now for Ireland’s defenders of human life?

Senator Ronan Mullen

The defenders of children in the womb are still reeling in Ireland today after the majority of their political representatives have clearly abandoned them and are proceeding with legislation which will legalise the killing of the unborn in Ireland for the first time.

They are now looking at what options remain to them to defend those whom they see as the most defenceless, children awaiting birth – those whom the pro-abortion camp refuses to call human at all and insistently and disparagingly refer to as simply “ fetuses”.

The first option is the intensification of lobbying of the members of the Oireachtas (the two houses of the Irish parliament). But other options are also on the agenda. Earlier this year between 25 and 30 thousand pro-life people from all over the island gathered at the parliament building to demand that the majority party in the Coalition Government keep its election promise not to legislate for abortion. That party is now seen as having blatantly has broken that promise. No one doubts that it did so in order stay in power by keeping faith on the deal it made with its socialist partners in Government.

There will be more street demonstrations between now and the time this legislation comes before the two houses for debate. Unless there is a major shift in the balance of support for it within the parties the bill will become law in the summer.

What options exist after that? Well they can launch a major campaign for the repeal of the legislation leading up to the next general election. “Repeal” is a word with enormous historic significance in Irish history. For the decades stretching from the 1830s up to the final violent struggle for Irish independence from the United Kingdom beginning in 1916, repeal of the Act which held that union together was the centrepiece of all Irish politics. No Irish politician would want to be seen facing down a new Repeal Movement of the scale and with the emotional potential which this one would have.

For those for whom this is a matter of faith as well as a matter of moral social policy in purely human terms, people from all over Ireland are gathering for a Vigil for Life in Knock, Co Mayo tomorrow (Saturday, 4th May). It will be the first major demonstration on the issue since the Government’s approval on Tuesday. Knock is the Irish national shrine of the Blessed Virgin and ironically is situated on the home turf of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Not many expect to see him there tomorrow, however.

The language of opposition to this proposed legislation is already gathering momentum and strength. Senator Ronan Mullen, independent of parties, said yesterday that It is clear already that the Taoiseach and his Government are proposing a dangerous and destructive thing – the legalization of abortion on the ground of threatened suicide. There is no credible evidence that abortion is any kind of treatment for suicidal ideation in women. We know the consequences for the unborn child. And we know what this kind of legislation has started elsewhere.

Legislating for abortion on the suicide ground, he explained, is not required by the European Court judgment. This was a Court ruling in 2010 which many see as fig-leaf being disingenuously used by the government to justify the pursuit of this legislation forced by the socialists on the major party as a condition for entering government with them. The European Court simply required that the Irish government would “clarify” the legal situation for women with regard to its abortion laws. We could, Senator Mullen said, provide the necessary clarity by introducing guidelines which would protect women in pregnancy by re-affirming that they receive all necessary life saving treatments in pregnancy and requiring that we also exercise a duty of care towards the unborn.

Ireland has one of the best records in the world when it comes to a question of maternal health.

He also clarified that legislation for abortion on the suicide ground is not required by the X-case. When he was Taoiseach, John Bruton said he would not introduce legislation in line with the X-case because that would have the effect of bringing abortion into Ireland. The Oireachtas has the prerogative of not legislating for a Supreme Court decision if it believes it would be harmful to do so. Mr. Bruton, who was leader of the same party as the current Taoiseach, spoke out last weekend in opposition to this proposed legislation.

Mullen went on to say that this legislation will not be about ‘life-saving’ treatment but, in fact, the opposite. The Government has produced no evidence to show that abortion is ever beneficial in the treatment of the mental health of women. We know from the latest review of the evidence (Fergusson et al.) that abortion is not associated with any mental health benefit for women. In fact, it is associated with a low to moderate increased risk for women’s mental health. And, of course, we know a child always dies. So it is dishonest to pretend that this proposal is about saving life.

That is why over 100 psychiatrists last week signaled their opposition to being involved in certifying women as needing abortion to save their lives because this is not evidence-based medicine. International experience shows that provision for abortion on the mental health ground will be abused. It is hard to see how things could be different in Ireland, given the nature of what is proposed today.

The big question for many is of course who will choose the medical team to assess whether or not an abortion is “warranted”. Everyone in Ireland knows that in Britain two doctors are needed to sign off for abortions and that in many cases this is done without any scrutiny. Last year the Daily Telegraph uncovered widespread and totally unscrupulous ethical behaviour by doctors.

The third path being mulled over by activists defending life is the constitutional one. Ironically just this week a judgement was handed down by the Irish Supreme Court which some think has a bearing on the proposed legislation.

In a case where a woman was seeking confirmation of constitutional right to commit suicide – and be assisted in doing that by her husband – the Supreme Court held that there is no constitutional right to commit suicide or to arrange for the determination of one’s life at a time of one’s choosing. This decision follows from the constitutional obligation to respect life and to refrain from taking away the life of another.

The Court rejected the ‘autonomy’ argument to the contrary, ruling that  “It is also possible to construct a libertarian argument that the State is not entitled to interfere with the decisions made by a person in respect of his or her own life up to and including a decision to terminate it. However, it is not possible to discern support for such a theory in the provisions of the Constitution, without imposing upon it a philosophy and values not detectable from it.”

Pro life legal experts are now suggesting that if the mother of an unborn child does not have a constitutional right to willfully end her own life, a fortiori she can have no constitutional right to take away the life of her unborn child, or to obtain assistance in that regard.

There are some who think that contradictions are inherent here between two Supreme Court rulings and that in this they may find an Achilles’ heel in the proposed legislation to render it null and void should it get into the statute books.

One way or another Ireland is heading into protracted political and constitutional warfare which may wreak havoc on more than a few political careers and reputations. This has even the potential to radically shake up the tired old political landscape, possibly leaving Ireland with a party structure reflecting the real divisions of opinion in the country. “They are all the same” is the helpless cry of many Irish electors going to the polls in recent years – followed by “one is worse than the other but I can’t trust any of them”. Apart from the tragedy of the unborn which this current debacle represents, there is for many the further erosion of all trust in the political class.

On the personal level Enda Kenny is already smarting under his newly earned title as “the abortion Taoiseach”. The long culture war ahead for the life of the unborn in Ireland will only serve to harden it for posterity. For a large segment of Irish people Kenny is now joining Quisling, Petain and some others in history’s Hall of Infamy.

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