The left and the Eighth

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My religious views are my own private affair. Indeed they are so private that I don’t know them myself most days! But I’m a born-again secularist in terms of how a state should function. We cannot condemn theocracies or fundamentalist rule in other lands, while expecting preferential treatment for a particular religious or moral opinion at home. While one’s faith and upbringing can colour our attitude to abortion, that is the intentional destruction of the human foetus, the two are I believe separate and independent matters. The state has a duty to protect her citizens, especially those unable to do so themselves. Our laws should strive to ensure the best possible outcomes for the greatest number of people. When a woman is pregnant, two separate lives exist. We can rail against the biology, but we can’t change it. The Eighth Amendment gives constitutional protection to the unborn, without discriminating on grounds of wantedness, wealth or state of health, while in all cases protecting the mother’s life and wellbeing. Politicians cannot be entrusted with such important issues.

Many of those who were enthusiastic supporters of the 1967 act in England did not ever anticipate that it would essentially be abortion on demand in implementation, and that somewhere in the region of 200,000 abortions would be performed annually, of which over 95% are for non-medical reasons. In Ireland, our leaders want to introduce a regime which is even more extreme than this, that is abortion on demand, for any reason up till three months gestation, at which time the baby is fully formed and just requires to grow and mature.

It is important to be clear that in this country today, where it is deemed medically necessary to end the life of the unborn child in order to preserve the mother’s life, as for example in the case of an ectopic pregnancy or gynaecological malignancy, such action is legal and appropriate. These procedures are routine in all of our hospitals. Ireland’s maternal mortality rate is significantly lower than that in Britain, and among the lowest in Europe, although the politicians and media don’t seem to know this.

Many of those who once held different views now concede that abortion harms not only the unborn child, but mothers, fathers, families and wider society. While there are certainly women who have found that abortion seemed to be the correct option for them, I know of many other women who deeply regret their choice to end a pregnancy, and find it difficult to forgive themselves. Robust scientific studies have confirmed significantly worse mental health outcomes for women who have undergone an abortion, including one Finnish study which shows six times higher rate of completed suicide, as compared to those who carried their babies to term.

Fathers have no say, and are often left bereaved and traumatised by a decision they have no control over. The notion of fatherhood, with all that entails, is reduced to mere sperm donation. The ensuing baby is “part of the woman’s body” and the father is no longer relevant.

I’ve frequently spoken to women who were adamant that they could not continue with a crisis pregnancy, but then found the strength and support to carry on. Not one has ever come back to say that she regretted her decision. In every household in every street in this town, live people whose being may not have been “planned” or “wanted”, but who are valued and valuable members of our communities. It has been confirmed that in the six counties, our laws have saved 100,000 lives since the introduction of the 1967 act in England.

The nub of the matter is what constitutes a human person, and what protections should be afforded to that person? Is the right to life predicated on another person’s requirements, or have we intrinsic rights by virtue of our being? What is a person? Is there a point, either before or after birth at which we become autonomous, or a line which divides those who have personhood from those who haven’t? In the same way as we have laws for gun control, or to forbid drunk driving, should a state intervene to protect its members from harm? These are not simple questions, and we need respectful and inclusive debate to try and reach the best outcomes by which we can arrange our society.

I think most people shudder when we see images of dismembered bodies, so obviously human, the products of mid-term or late abortions, or see the recordings of abortion clinic staff casually haggling over the price of foetal parts for sale to pharmaceutical companies or research facilities. But if the human foetus is merely a part of his or her mother’s body, and has no autonomy, then the logical conclusion is that this is perfectly acceptable. Why so coy?

It is true that the majority of “terminations” happen at a much earlier stage, when the foetus is not in so recognisably human form. But once there is an established pregnancy there is no point in time, no dividing line which demarcates the human person from merely “tissue”. The process is a continuum, an amazing mixture of two parents’ DNA coming together to create a genetically, biologically and actually autonomous unique individual. The unborn child is not part of a woman’s body, but a separate life, albeit dependant on its mother for nutrition and shelter.

Abortion discriminates on the grounds of disability, no matter what Michael Martin tells you. Those babies who are found to suffer physical or intellectual challenges, those who might not fit our society’s definition of successful or useful will not make it! In countries with abortion, women come under tremendous pressure to terminate babies who are going to be a “burden”. But a burden on whom? We know that disabled people have a huge amount to contribute to our society, and are capable of giving and receiving love in a sometimes very special way. I find it incomprehensible that while we mouth platitudes about the courage and fortitude of those with, for example, Down’s syndrome in the Special Olympics, over 95% of such children are aborted in countries where it is legal, their lives deemed not worthy of living. Surely we can do better.

In the case of what have now become known as “fatal foetal abnormality” that is those babies suffering from rare conditions which are unlikely to be compatible with independent existence outside the womb, current law allows a clinical decision between the parent/s and their physician as to how to proceed. Treatment should ensure the best outcome for the mother, in whatever form that might take. Again, the evidence is growing that mothers do better long-term if they are supported in delivering their baby and the new specialty of perinatal hospice care provides an environment where parents can nurse their child in a supported and loving way, for his or her short life. I’ve personally seen this working in our community, where the little girl lived for three weeks, surrounded and cared for at home by her family and neighbours. She left special memories for all those who were privileged to meet her. Parents who chose other ways of dealing with these rare and heart-breaking situations should be supported in whatever way they choose. The law allows intervention when it is required. There will be no prosecutions where doctors act in the best interests of patients. To claim otherwise is patently false.

Of course the commonest “fatal foetal abnormality” worldwide is that of being female. There are over one hundred million females missing because of sex –selective foeticide. But you won’t hear the sisters talking about that.

There is a wider context to this discussion. In my work as a GP in a socioeconomically deprived area, with 60% child poverty. I regularly see children of thirteen or fourteen in the surgery looking for contraception. They often are sexually active without any consideration of the alternatives, or awareness of what healthy age-appropriate relationship look like. There are other women who may be abusive or violent relationships, at risk of STDs, unplanned pregnancies and worse. Even with free accessible contraceptive including post-coital contraception available round the clock, 365 days a year, unplanned pregnancies occur. Something is wrong with a society where if abortion is available one in five pregnancies is deliberately destroyed.

Choice for our young needs to start much earlier than the choice which abortion offers. Sexual health and contraceptive services must be accessible, non-judgmental and free at the point of use. Women and men should be empowered to look after one another and their families. It is incomprehensible to me that some men absolve themselves of responsibility by insisting that abortion is a woman’s choice only, and has nothing to do with their actions.

We live in a society which manifestly does not value women. Apart from the obvious things like pay disparity and the casual sexism to which all women have been at times subjected, we accept the objectification and casual abuse of women in a million ways every day. I regard the use of images of photo- shopped anorexic girls in a permanent pre-orgasmic state to sell stuff, and often violent and abusive pornography to which our children are daily exposed now as essentially the same thing. They vary in degree, but not in principle. That there is somehow a difference between a “high class prostitute” and a trafficked and pimped sex slave is nonsense.

The virtue posturing around the “me too” campaign is nauseating-they all knew it was as much a part of the glitz of Hollywood as the gross frocks! Wasn’t it Madonna who said forty years ago that losing her virginity wasn’t so much a sexual encounter as a career-move. No-one batted an eyelid.

The Left in Ireland haven’t even tried to produce a class-based analysis of the pro-life position. Abortion disproportionately affects the poor, those from ethnic minorities, females, and the disabled. But the vocal and well funded militant feminists and erstwhile human rights bodies have climbed the high moral mountain and proclaimed “choice” as the only morality. They scream abuse at anyone who dares question the basis of their thesis. The left are cowed and cowardly, led by narcissistic ideologues, hidebound by dead dogmas. They don’t do facts, only rhetoric.

Of course we need houses, a health service worth the name, social care, jobs and hope. But do you think billionaire venture capitalists are going to finance any of that? The likes of Soros and there are many others, want a cull on the poor, the untermenshen, those who can’t or won’t feed their money machine. They even get tax breaks for using their dirty money to shape the world to serve their needs! But there’s not a word of challenge from those on the left who should be defending the values which they claim to assert. And the less said about those elected to promote those values the better.

The Proclamation is a blueprint which for many of us still describes the Ireland we will work to achieve. We should reject the failed solutions imposed by those who do not have the interests of the people at heart. We must Cherish All the Children Equally if we are to achieve freedom.

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Anne McCloskey

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Dr Anne McCloskey is a GP based in Derry. "If we have an idea that we need to 'cherish all the children of the nation equally' then that is what it should actually mean."
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