Ireland Votes in Historic Abortion Referendum — But Is Life Disposable?

By William J. Furney

It has become unfashionable to say you support the life of the unborn that’s gestating in the womb. If the potential mother, or father, or both, decide, for whatever reason — though primarily it seems to be about convenience and finances — that they can’t be bothered to let the fetus grow and be born, then let’s get rid of it. The ultimate inconvenient truth, banished by a medic in a country that permits such termination of nascent life.

The same people, surely, are horrified by the prospect of a life outside the uterus that is cut down by nefarious means. Inside the womb, no matter how early, life is also growing and thriving and having the potential to be something outside. Yet to call ordinary abortions “murder” is somehow to invite scorn, ridicule — and be cast as some kind of religious nut-job.

Terminations of fetuses where the mother’s life is in danger or where there is no prospect of carrying the unborn to full term because of genetic or other circumstances should certainly be allowed. In Ireland, home to one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, change, it appears, is in the air. The tiny country of just several million people that was once deeply rooted in its Catholic faith — until unending priestly sex scandals caused many to turn away — holds a referendum on abortion later this month to see if the public is in favour of overturning the current abortion legislation.

Voters will be asked if they would agree to new legislation allowing for “the regulation of termination of pregnancies” — and according to polling, which of course may not be accurate at all (Brexit, US elections), the majority will vote yes. Over 3,000 women in Ireland travel every year to the UK, where abortion is legal apart from in Northern Ireland, to have terminations. Are they all trauma or fetal abnormality cases?

People, who have the gift of life, are all too willing to deny it to those who are just emerging into it. They say such vacuous things as: “If you were never born, you’d never know it”, as though human life were as throwaway as a Starbucks coffee cup.

Solid Views Shaken by a Rape

Jayne Smith (not her real name), an American living with her family in Mexico, describes herself as conservative, Catholic and Italian. When she was 21 she was leaving a bar one night and couldn’t get a taxi, so she started walking home. On the way she was raped, beaten and “left naked in mud”, she told me, and it was the kindness of passing strangers who got her to hospital.

“That was the night that broke me. Me and my rock-solid views. All I could think about was: What if a baby came from this? What if life was created from this monster? What would this conservative Catholic do?” she recounted.

“I knew exactly what I would do: I would have an abortion. There was no other, even possible, option for me. But by the grace of God, I was not pregnant,” she said.

Several years on and Jayne was married and pregnant, and at 35 weeks’ gestation her son had a stroke. “When he was born, we had no idea what life had in store for him. We did not know if he would walk, talk, be able to care for himself. We did every therapy imaginable and he was a happy little boy and a blessing in our lives,” she says.

A second pregnancy soon followed but scans showed the developing fetus had a number of problems, including the congenital condition cystic hygroma. Doctors recommended an abortion because the child would not survive the pregnancy. “Here I was — married, secure, happy — and I was being told, in a Catholic hospital, that it was recommended for me to abort my very planned and very wanted and loved baby. I did not think my heart would survive this,” Jayne said. She set about getting second, third and fourth opinions, but the fetus died before anything could be done.

“I don’t know what my choice would have been but I know I wanted to make that choice for myself, either way,” said Jayne.

“I am a believer in life but I think I believe in a quality of life. Children are a blessing, not a burden. They do not ask to come into this world and if we choose to bring them, we need to love them, want them and care for them. I think we all need to step out of our own black-and-white views and see that there are so many different stories and reasons that people have for doing what they do. I hate the idea of abortion. I also hate dentists, but I still go there.”

‘Putting Trust in Women’

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s young prime minister, or taoiseach, who is a doctor, and whose partner, Matthew Barrett, is also a medic, says abortion should primarily be for women to decide on.

“It’s about trusting women to decide, in the early weeks of their pregnancy, what’s right for them and their families. And it’s about trusting our doctors to decide when continuing with a pregnancy is a risk to the life or health of a woman,” he said.

Blogger and social media expert Keith Falvey is an Irishman living in Washington DC, and he agrees with the taoiseach. “A woman deserves the right to make her own decision about what happens to her body, and to her life,” he told me. “As a man, I believe the only option is to give the women of Ireland the right to make that decision themselves,” he said.

Keith says abortion is also about the mental health implications of forcing a woman to continue with a pregnancy when perhaps she feels she might not be able to look after the baby when it’s born, or have the money to do so.

How many newly pregnant couples feel the same way, though — a rising panic that they won’t be able to cope and don’t have the finances to provide for a baby? If we all terminated for these reasons, the human race would quickly die out. In the end it all, or mostly, works out.

Adds Keith: “What about women who are raped or are in abusive relationships? What impact will keeping a baby have on her life and the future child? … For anyone concerned about the rights of embryos, I’d say just don’t have an abortion.”

I’m concerned about the rights of the unborn child, and that of the mother — and I’m concerned about our increasingly throwaway culture that also includes precious human life. Allow abortion in some, but certainly not all, cases — and don’t throw the baby out with the Irish vote.

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