Ireland are finally going to legislate on abortion but what does this mean for Irish citizens? The Daily Shift’s Shane Burke tells us more…
In Ireland there is probably no more a contentious issue than abortion. From the time of the foundation of the state until recent days the Irish public have refrained from really discussing the issue. Reasons as to why the Irish people have been so mute on discussing the issue are various. However the main reason if a reason is to be given is it is hard to decide when a right to life begins and ends. With the death of thirty one year old Savita Halappanavar who sadly passed away from blood poisoning when the foetus she was carrying died, we may actually be beginning to realize we can be silent no longer.
With the country shocked and outraged since Savita’s death and passions inflamed from both the pro-choice and pro-life sides the task the government faces is bound to be costly. In an issue like this there is bound to be some political dynamite waiting to explode in the faces of both Fine Gael and Labour. All the government has to work with is article 40.3.3 which states:
”The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right…”
Despite the attempt by the previous governments to allow for the preservation of life on both sides, the unborn, and the mother of the unborn there is a vagueness to the section in the constitution. With such a lack of clarity, the medical profession have been acting in a shroud of darkness. Unable to see what to do in cases like Savita Halappanavar it is not surprising tragedy would strike. The fact it took the death of a young woman whom arguably could have been saved with an abortion is perhaps a shocking reflection on the political cowardice of previous governments. In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights, pleaded with the Fianna Fail lead government to clarify the law.
In response what can only be described as more dereliction of duty and stonewalling was carried out when a commission was set up on the issue. This commission came back with nothing new and was probably a waste of money when they decreed a woman could still only have an abortion when her life was in danger. It is probably shocking that the government of the day needed a commission to know the law lacked clarity. As far back as 1992 it was clear that legislation was needed and Ireland could not sleep walk as if abortion was not an issue. The infamous X case when a fourteen year old whom was raped needed clarification from the supreme court which ruled: ”A woman could have an abortion when her life was in danger including suicide”.
Moving away from the history surrounding this issue the current coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour has said on upcoming legislation.
“The legislation should provide the clarity and certainty in relation to the process of deciding when a termination of pregnancy is permissible, that is where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the woman.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is said to want a vote on the issue meaning anybody voting against the bill would be kicked out of the party. Already it looks like danger lies ahead for the government with prominent TD Lucinda Creighton having her doubts. As of now the governments intentions on the issue are not clear but, if we were to look at what the government could propose things could be interesting. Nobody is in denial that abortion is a sensitive issue that is tragic and certain ethical areas need to be examined. Lets investigate one option full on demand abortion which would mean abortion without a waiting period, without having to prove special circumstances such as rape, without having to travel to another state or country and without a prohibitive cost.
Looking at not including a waiting period would not be particularly a bad idea as how can you say after you have done all you can to preserve the life of both mother and child a pregnancy should continue even if it means the death of the mother? Straight away picking one over the other, the world is a loser either way as one child only replaces the mother unless it is twins or triplets. If looking at things mathematically is cold lets look at the issue of a waiting period differently how can you tell somebody whom has a history in the world, who is known and loved that they have no right to save themselves beyond a certain time?
The sad truth is you really cannot, of course a child’s death is no case for joy, it will haunt expectant parents and extended family for as long as they live. Parents and family have already probably imagined how proud this child will make them, the first steps, college etc. granny has probably already bought clothes for the expected newborn. However it is arguable and it’s a graver sin to take away somebody with whom people know is a good person who is known to contribute to society, a wife that lights up her husbands day.
As heartbreaking as abortion is, a fetus/child has no identity and is only a blank canvas of parental expectations before a picture of how they grow up in later years is drawn. Consequently it can be argued we should let the mother save her life regardless of term in the pregnancy because her death will be felt more strongly by wider society. The calculations for saving her would be her emotional as well as monetary contribution to society. To avoid charges of social Darwinism it should be stated nobody knows what the truth is when it comes to this issue and many of us will evolve on this issue over the years. A quote by Socrates is perhaps appropriate: ”I know I am the smartest man in the world because I know I am the stupidest man in the world”.
Moving on to the issue of having to provide no circumstances for an abortion straightaway it can be argued this should not be allowed, as the law stated no circumstances should be provided, women could have an abortion over just not liking the look of the scan of the child prior to pregnancy. This itself would be state sanctioned murder and a law of haphazardness.
When deciding if abortions should happen in the Irish Republic on a broader scale the answer must be yes because a holistic approach to health is desirable and making a tragic procedure less stressful is a positive for women’s health. However if the law is haphazard perhaps abortion should not be carried out in Ireland. On the issue of cost should tax payers money fund things they find morally objective?
Ideally no would be the answer and tax payers should have greater choice where their money goes but that is for another discussion. Funding should perhaps only come from those whom favor abortion. Whatever the law is, all the public know is whoever drafts this law will offend someone and some flaw will become visible over time, and all we can really hope is to find an acceptable abortion bill the majority of citizens support. To end this discussion on abortion it should be noted that any philosophical debate will raise more questions than answers and most of us citizens hope the government have the right answers.