David Quinn – Pro-choice side has shut down abortion debate

The Sunday Times – 30/5/21


As liberals clamour to relax the law further, we should remind ourselves of the tragic stories that increasingly go unheard.


James Geoghegan, Fine Gael’s candidate in the Dublin Bay South election, has been burnishing his Pro-choice credentials. Geoghegan was once a member of Renua, the party led by Lucinda Creighton, who famously voted against the abortion law passed in 2013 after the death of Savita Halappanavar. Creighton lost the Fine Gael whip as a result, and subsequently her seat in the Dail.


Is Geoghegan also pro-life? In a constituency as socially liberal as Dublin Bay South that could harm his electoral prospects. But no, he assures us. He voted Yes in the abortion referendum, the third anniversary of which fell last Tuesday. In a tweet on the same day, Geoghegan congratulated those who campaigned for the repeal of the eighth amendment.


That may still not be good enough. for some voters, however. The Fine Gael candidate is up against Labour’s Ivana Bacik and Fianna Fail’s Deirdre Conroy, who campaigned against the eighth amendment over many years and whose pro-choice credentials are far clearer than his.


Then again, it maynot matter at all. Few campaigned more energetically against the eighth than Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell, and she lost her seat in last year’s general election. Even on Dublin’s liberal south side, eaten bread is soon forgotten.


Now that the…anniversary is past, it’s time for the government’s promised third year review of the operation of the Regulation ofTermination of Pregnancy Act. The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has already produced a report setting out how it would like the abortion law further liberalised. The council wants to scrap the three-day waiting time between a woman asking for a termination and receiving one. It also says that abortion should be completely decriminalised.


One.of the biggest issues in.the 2018 campaign was fatal foetal abnormalities. It struck many people as unfair that a woman was required to carry a pregnancy to term when the baby seemed doomed to die at or soon after birth. The present abortion law allows for a foetus with a “fatal abnormality” to be terminated if doctors believe that it will die within 28 days of delivery. The NWCI wants this time limit dropped, and to leave the matter to the “professional judgment” of the woman’s medical team.


However, this means a foetus could be terminated even when it might have had months, or even years of life, ahead of it. Is this what Irish voters believed they were authorising three years ago?


Essentially, the NWCI wants almost no limits on abortion in Ireland. At present, a woman can have a termination for any reason within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and after that on “health” grounds or if the baby has a potentially fatal condition. The council wants the 12-week limit extended into the second trimester, which me up to 24 weeks, and seeks to have “health” so broadly defined as to be almost· meaningless. If we decriminalise abortion line with this recommendation, Ireland will have gone further than the UK.


A more constructive approach is offered by a group of 11 pro’-life TDs, including Carol Nolan. They want a bill passed.that would require doctors to provide pain relief to the foetus during abortion after the 20-week mark. Surely pro-choice TDs would accede to this? In fact, no, the proposal is likely to be rejected.


When an attempt was made to insert a similar provision into the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act in late 2018 Simon Harris, then the health minister, rejected it on the ground that such a matter was for doctors, not law. But the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requires vets to give animals an “appropriate anaesthetic or analgesic” before operating. It is not left up to vets to decide. An unborn human seems to have fewer rights than your pet cat.


In 2019, the first full year of abortion, 6,666 terminations, an average of 18 a day, took place in Ireland. Is that not more than we expected? Abortion is now discussed on terms overwhelmingly favourable to the pro-choice side. The likes of RTÉ have evidently decided that the matter is settled. In a Six One News report on Tuesday, only pro-choice voices were heard.


The third of the electorate that voted No in 2018 are.no longer represented on the airwaves. This was not the view taken in 1983, after the passage of the eighth amendment by a two-to-one margin. Pro-choice views were not de-platformed.


Now, it seems, anything inconvenient to the pro-abortion viewpoint is downplayed or ignored. For example, we hear very little about the couple who were wrongly told by doctors at the National Maternity Hospital in early 2019 that their baby had a fatal condition. They proceeded to have a termination and it later emerged that the foetus was, in fact, totally healthy.


Whereas hard cases that cast1the eighth amendment in a bad light were constantly highlighted, tragic stories that tell against the present abortion law are left on the side.


We are not told either about evidence that some babies appear to be born-alive after late-term abortions, and are then left to die. This emerged from a study published last year based on interviews with ten doctors who perform terminations in Irish hospitals. The medics spoke about “begging” for help in providing palliative care for these babies.


In the same study; the doctors said that they sometimes killed the unborn by “stabbing them in the heart” with a lethal injection before removing the baby from the womb. That way they are not born alive, which can happen if a foetus is developed enough.


They said that feticide was “brutal”, “awful”, and “emotionally difficult”. Two medics described themselves mordantly as “Doctor Death”. If abortion is as morally neutral as pro-choice advocates suggest, if it’s just a “medical service”, why do some doctors performing surgical terminations feel this way?


Today we like to berate our forebears for some of the terrible things they chose to ignore, or hid away in institutions. Now, those who control public debate have decided that abortion should only be discussed on pro-choice terms.


Nothing must be allowed to prick our consciences lest we have second thoughts about the present law, and question the need to liberalise it further.