help serif;”>Look around: Germany has ‘don’t mention the war’, see Harry Potter has ‘He who must not be named’ and we, rx the Irish, have ‘Don’t utter the “A-word”.’ It is a sad reality that, in the year 2012, it is illegal for women on this island to end their pregnancy. It is illegal for a woman to stop something growing in her own body and people do not seem to want to talk about it. If a woman is raped, it is accepted and common practice to offer all levels of care and support to the victim, but terminate the pregnancy? Oh no, no, no, there’s always adoption! Under Irish logic, rape victims should carry that child until it is born, because every life is precious, God cherishes all life and everyone is a part of God’s Plan. So answer me this, is misery a part of the Almighty’s Plan too?
The issue of disability and abortion is incredibly difficult and could possibly be the most divisive topic in the whole issue. If a pregnant woman discovers that the baby she is carrying has severe disabilities and whose life will be spent on machines and in pain, should she not have the option to end the pregnancy? Or should the mother be forced to bring the child into the world, knowing the child will never have the opportunity to fully live and always be dependent upon machines? Opponents claim that the termination of a pregnancy due to a disability is plain wrong and under no circumstances should a pregnancy be terminated. Every life is precious and miracle, so everyone should have a chance at life. A number of extremist oppositionists claim that the termination of pregnancies owing to their disability is eugenics, and is reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s quest for The Übermensch. Accusations such as this are incredibly offensive to the women and couples who make the incredibly difficult decision to end their pregnancy.
The debate surrounding what stage of pregnancy is the beginning of life is controversial and incredibly difficult, with both sides putting valid arguments forward, separating the fine line, many believe, between abortion and murder. Many, including people with religious beliefs, believe that life begins at the moment of conception and that surely anything growing inside you must be considered life. While this seems like a valid point for life to begin -at the moment of conception- we are merely talking about two cells. Considering there are millions of cells in the human body, surely one cannot consider conception beginning of life?
Many believe life truly begins from the moment of the beginning of brain function or when the foetus can survive independent from the mother. These are two of the most compelling arguments, brain function shows a level of awareness and human state, yet the ability to survive independent of the mother is more interesting. The ability of the foetus/baby to adequately provide all the core body functions needed to survive must be a clear sign of humanity. Despite all this, I am not in a position to state when an abortion is right or wrong, that is for you all to individually decide.
Opponents of abortion do make up a sizeable chunk of the Irish Population and a large number of them are part of the older generations, those who still feel a part of, and guided by, organized religion. Even though I consider myself to be agnostic, I respect everybody’s freedom and human right to believe in whatever they like and the safety to practice said belief. Religion can be a wonderful thing. The feeling of belonging and the idea of an after-life can be a comfort for many, as does the idea that a superior being is behind unexplainable events. However, religion should never play a role in government decisions and State affairs. A country built on religious values can be beneficial; national laws can be roughly based on moral values, such as the taking of life and treating everyone as equal. However, it is when these religious values restrict someone’s human rights or influence democratic process that the line of Church and State has been crossed.
I feel I should admit that I was put up for adoption when I was born. A woman out there decided that she would never be able to give this baby the life and opportunities it deserved and made the decision to put me up for adoption. Should this not make me Pro-Life and Pro-Adoption? Well, I am Pro-Adoption – it’s a wonderful institution, one that gives couples which cannot naturally have children the opportunity to give a child in need a loving home. Did religion influence her decision? I may never know, but what I do know is that when faced with the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy, my birth mother chose what she felt was best and did not get the boat to England. She made the difficult decision to carry the baby to term and to painfully separate from her child. I can never imagine the strength this must have taken. In the end, she made a decision and used her basic human right to decide what would happen with her body. Countless women throughout the world never have this decision. Women should always have that choice.
So do we face any progress in the next coming years? Politicians harp on about the Constitutional Convention and how abortion must be addressed. This Convention, composed of random citizens and politicians, will discuss and suggest changes to the Constitution that will suit a twenty-first century Ireland. After the infamous 1992 X-Case, The European Court of Human Rights insists that Ireland must enact laws around abortion or they are breaching basic Human Rights. The most likely outcome from the Constitutional Convention abortion debate is enacting a system for permitted abortion when the mother’s life is at risk. I do feel that if this is enacted, it would be an enormous step forward for Ireland, but it does go far enough? Allowing some level of abortion on this island will get the ball rolling and eventually we will have full access to treatment for women. It may take another generation, but it is decisions we face now as a people which will define us. Let’s finally take a step forward into the 21st Century.
Darragh Ó Tuathail