If you haven't realised by now, trust me, you are a marked man/woman. The undecideds are the golden nuggets to be mined by the small army of volunteers pounding the streets in the last few weeks of this critical referendum. This document then is one person's attempt to understand the thought process of those that remain unclear about how they will vote in this referendum, and to hopefully persuade some that a No vote is the logical answer to the issues raised.
Abortion already occurs in Ireland
It is a much talked about fact that some Irish mothers are using abortion pills already, hence we currently have abortion and if we vote No we will still have it? And also many people are availing of the right to travel to the UK to have an abortion there and that will not change either with a No vote.
But somewhat obviously a lot of laws are breached in Ireland some of the time, maybe all or nearly all of them, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be enacted or repealed if they are there? Clearly we have a fair number of murders committed in modern times in Ireland for example, but its rare to hear anybody extrapolate from that the necessity to repeal the laws against murder that are on the statute book? Of course its a pity people are breaking these laws on murder but clearly there would be a lot more of them if the law allowed it, both because the threat of incarceration would be lifted and also because if we did that it would signal societies acceptance of murder.
Much the same applies with respect to the UK, we obviously cannot change their laws, and it would be impractical to meaningfully restrict travel there, so yes some abortions occur this way but lifting our prohibition would clearly greatly increase the number of abortions, for the same two reasons listed above with respect to murder.
It therefore isn't much of a counter argument this one, it seems to be designed to appeal to a sense of hopelessness or despair in this country's ability to tackle any question.
Hard cases make bad law
You must have heard that phrase umpteen times during this referendum and before it, but what does it mean exactly? It means that normally one doesn't frame laws to take into account hard cases, rather you deal with the substance of the issue, the vast majority of the cases that will come under the law. The exceptional cases are dealt with in the discretion built into the administration of the law, that is you can make your case, if you feel you have broken the law for some exceptional reason, to a Garda who has stopped you, or a judge or indeed a jury.
You can see this with respect to nearly all laws if you think about it. We have serious laws against speeding for example, but we don't introduce into the law get out clauses for every available exception. Probably there are a fair few people caught speeding who were heading for a hospital or because of some other just cause but in that case you would explain the situation to a Garda etc. Unfortunately there are probably quite a few people who feel suicidal as a result of some letter from the tax authorities - the same exception that is often talked about in the case of abortion of course -, but exceptions like this we don't add into the tax code, we just hope that inspectors and judges will take them into account in the event of future court proceedings. An exception like this isn't added to this law because if it was there you can be sure a large number of people would suddenly classify themselves as suicidal, and would have all the documentation you want to prove it. It would be impossible to administer most laws if they had to chase up every possible exception and add it into the text. Also every evidence to date is that the law on abortion in Ireland is administered very humanely - some would say laxly -, for example no doctor or mother at all has been prosecuted under the 8th amendment, or under the relevant legislation, since its enactment in 1983.
In this referendum then we see a huge emphasis on the exceptional cases, the yes side hardly ever want to talk about the practical reality that the vast vast majority of abortions that will be performed in Ireland will be on healthy babies in healthy mothers, if it trends anything like the experiences of other countries. So the question arises are you focused on the bigger, more realistic, overall picture then or has the Yes side sidelined you into these elaborate - sometimes hypothetical - exceptional cases, and if so maybe you should realign your thoughts on the matter?
Is the unborn foetus/baby a human life worthy of protection?
I guess that gets to the heart of the issue. Maybe if you are still undecided it means you still struggle to fall either side of this conundrum, and so possibly it might help to halve this question, as it were. Instead of facing the full question of whether the abortion is killing the unborn, and whether that is wrong or right if you accept it is a killing, then why not ask yourself what attitude you would take to some step less than killing. Say, for the sake of argument, that either a mother or a doctor or whoever decides to injure the unborn by blinding him/her. With the advancement of medical science with its scanning and drugs and what have you, its probably not impossible to deliberately injure an unborn child, if you wanted to, short of killing him/her. Then a few years later you bump into that person on the street, using a cane to get around.
Do you think that step of blinding that person was wrong? Do you think that person should have had legal protection when they were unborn and do you think those that injured him/her should be punished? If your answer is yes then obviously you should vote No to retain legal protection for the unborn. And clearly to kill that person, an abortion, is a more serious step that to cause injury, you couldn't treat that more leniently than the blinding?
Another element that might inform your view of whether or not the unborn is a person worthy of legal protection, is to take on board the curious consensus that has grown up around this referendum. To date the debate has been dominated by emotional outpourings, to a degree by both sides. The Yes side has highlighted a large number of cases where mothers went to the UK to have an abortion and how difficult it was for them taking home the ashes or body of their baby, how emotionally wrenching they felt it to be as they tried to organise proper funeral arrangements etc. Meanwhile the No side has highlighted the stories of people who survived abortions, or greatly regretted them etc. In any case the strange thing is that both sides here are accepting the humanity of the unborn, the Yes side are surprisingly happy to highlight all these cases where people have mourned the death of the unborn. But isn't that itself a sign of the unborn's humanity, you don't mourn the loss of just some part of a woman's body like this? Internationally an interesting example comes from Mikhail Gorbachev. In 2014 he gave an interview where he became emotional talking about the great trauma he, and his wife Raisa, always suffered as a result of an abortion of their first baby way back in 1953, 61 years before.(1)
Surely these stories themselves show you at least how important the unborn child is, that their lives are worthy of some sort of legal protection?
Time honoured law
Abortion has been illegal, allowing for some very minor ups and downs and complications, on the entire island of Ireland for approximately one and a half millennia. It is mentioned in negative terms in the Brehon Laws, condemned also in Irish ecclesiastical law of that early date, then forbidden according to English Common Law which was in force in Ireland from the Norman invasion. This abortion prohibition in the Common Law, as articulated by the great authorities like Bracton and Fleta, was administered from c.1200-1600 in the Ecclesiastical Courts, which then handled that crime and a number of related ones like infanticide, and from c.1600-1803 this law was administered in the secular courts. In 1803 you get the first of the statute laws forbidding abortion, at all stages and for any reason, Lord Ellenborough's Act, and this was later further codified in the famous 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.(2) The latter act then brings you down almost to the present day in both jurisdictions in Ireland.
The relevance of this is that there is a concept of 'time honoured law', where the merit of a law can sometimes be seen in the way that it endures over the ages. It is seen from that, at least with respect to some law, that it sits easy with the conscience and customs of a nation, and in that respect we have a virtually unique history, especially considering the prohibition on abortion has endured north of the border too, despite its very different history to the south over the last 100 years or so.
The relatively modern legalisation of abortion on the other hand, does not appear set to endure in those countries that have adopted it. The pro-life movement has never been stronger in the United States, for example, and even in the UK they are introducing new laws to prohibit prayers and leafleting outside abortion clinics, which seems to show a nervousness on the part of some to the permanence of their laws. In Europe abortion was championed first by the fascists under Hitler, at least for 'inferior races', and also by the Communists in Eastern Europe. Hitler's abortion and eugenics programs thankfully fell with that regime and the Communist's enthusiasm for abortion has not endured among those countries that have thrown off that yoke in recent decades, admittedly with some exceptions but certainly so in the case of Poland, East Germany, and the former Yugoslavia.
Hence you might like to consider this when voting on the 25th, at least you should think very very carefully before overturning such an established law among the Irish over all those centuries.
What is the abortion procedure exactly?
Bearing in mind the great importance of your vote would it be imposing on you too much to suggest that you watch an 11 minute video that describes what exactly an abortion entails? This video: "Abortion Procedures: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Trimesters" by Dr Anthony Levatino, does not contain any blood soaked disturbing images, it uses cartoon like graphics to illustrate the techniques involved, and is presented in very unemotional terms by a gynaecologist who has performed many abortions. You don't want to be like Nell McCafferty who campaigned for the legalisation of abortion in Ireland for decades, and still does, but has admitted that until recently she did not know what it actually involved:
"She recalled the 1983 abortion referendum campaign, when “the pro-lifers were going around showing videos and telling us all that babies are being dismembered in the womb through abortion.
“I thought, ‘Nonsense.’”
She said she recently googled what a pregnancy looks like at 12 weeks. “They [the babies] suck their wee thumbs and they have toenails, fingernails and arms and legs.”
She said that in an abortion “they scrape the contents of the womb. The pro-lifers are right. Out come the wee arms and legs, and I thought: ‘Oh God, is this what I am advocating?’”(3)
The Supreme Court recently found no constitutional protection for unborn life in the Irish constitution, except the 8th amendment, which if repealed leaves the fate of the unwanted unborn entirely in the hands of the Oireachtas. But all the evidence of the last few months has laid bare to what extent our masters in Leinster House have no stomach to impose any meaningful restrictions on the practice of abortion. Also going into the future consider that of the 19 registered political parties in the Republic of Ireland whose policies can be determined, one, the very small Renua party, is campaigning for a No vote, and one is split, Fianna Fáil, all the other parties are campaigning for a Yes vote whether of the right, left or centre. Hence whatever shuffling of the pack occurs at the next general election will not alter the strong abortion liberal tendencies of the Oireachtas. In fact one TD from Cork observed:
In any case the government has also given some indications of what kind of Bill they propose to introduce if a Yes vote is carried on May 25th i.e. they haven't published a precise copy of the proposed bill but released a number of documents which describe it. One such document outlines how for the first 12 weeks no reason need be given for an abortion and for the rest of the pregnancy:"I had spoken to some of the liberal TDs who I saw as being pro-choice, and some said they wouldn’t stop at 12 weeks, so red flags were raised there, and I was very perturbed by the mention of 30 weeks."(4)
The Yes side is trying to assert that this somehow does not mean there will be late abortions even though this change from the 'life' to the 'health' - including mental health - of the mother as the grounds for an abortion is well recognised worldwide as in practice leading to abortion on demand. A recent statement signed by two retired High Court judges, backed by some 175 other Irish lawyers, also confirmed that these proposals mean no bar to abortion for 12 weeks and then a UK style abortion regime after that until 6 months:"- Terminations to be provided on the grounds of risk to health, which includes the risk to life, of pregnant women;
- No distinction will be made between physical and mental health;
- Gestational limits will not apply in cases of a foetal condition or on grounds of risk to health;"(5)
So in short this means that your decision in the coming weeks is an all or nothing one, if you don't like the idea of bringing in arguably the most liberal abortion regime in Europe then its up to you now to vote No. Nothing but your vote now will prevent it. Its a very clear cut, binary, decision that the government, for whatever reason, has presented you with."our conclusion is that the Government proposals provide for abortion for any reason up until 12 weeks and for abortion up until viability (that is, where a mother has carried her child for up to 6 months) for reasons so similar to the legislation in Great Britain that there is no rational basis for thinking that they would operate differently."(6)
Learning from recent history
And finally I will leave you with one other concept. That is the simple one that those who don't know their history are condemned to repeat it. It might help to learn from the recent experiences of other countries and try to avoid the mistakes they made.
The USA legalised abortion under the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 and the circumstances behind that decision were progressively revealed in after years. The mother in this case, Roe, was actually Norma Leah McCorvey Nelson who revealed later that she lied when she stated that the baby she bore was conceived in rape.
Another person who came forward with information later on about this key pro-choice victory was Dr Bernard Nathanson, the chief medical adviser to the main pro-choice organisation in the US at the time and one of the key figures involved in legalising abortion there in the late 60s early 70s. He changed his mind on abortion as the 70s progressed, based largely on the new appreciation he had of unborn life from the advent of ultrasound technology:
So I will leave you now with this long quote from him on the kind of tactics that the abortion lobby had used to achieve legalisation, in the hope again that Irish people now will be able to learn from this history:"“For the first time, we could really see the human fetus, measure it, observe it, watch it, and indeed bond with it and love it. I began to do that.”
“On a gut, emotional level, I still favored abortion,” he told New York magazine in 1987. “It represented all the things we had fought for and won. It seemed eminently more civilized than the carnage that had gone on before.”
But, he added, “it was making less and less sense to me intellectually.”"(7)
"I was one of the founders of the National Association for the Repeal of the Abortion Laws in the U.S. in 1968. A truthful poll of opinion then would have found that most Americans were against permissive abortion. Yet within five years we had convinced the Supreme Court to issue the decision which legalized abortion throughout America in 1973 and produced virtual abortion on demand up to birth.
How did we do this? It is important to understand the tactics involved because these tactics have been used throughout the western world with one permutation or another, in order to change abortion law.
The First Key Tactic was to capture the media
We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal enlightened, sophisticated one. Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority.
We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000. Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law. Another myth we fed to the public through the media was that legalizing abortion would only mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done legally. In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1500% since legalization.
The Second Key Tactic was to Play the Catholic Card
We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its "socially backward ideas" and picked on the Catholic hierarchy as the villain in opposing abortion. This theme was played endlessly...And the media drum-fired all this into the American people, persuading them that anyone opposing permissive abortion must be under the influence of the Catholic hierarchy and that Catholics in favour of abortion are enlightened and forward-looking. An inference of this tactic was that there were no non-Catholic groups opposing abortion. The fact that other Christian as well as non-Christian religions were (and still are) monolithically opposed to abortion was constantly suppressed, along with pro-life atheists' opinions.
The Third Key Tactic was the Denigration and Suppression of all Scientific Evidence that Life Begins at Conception
I am often asked what made me change my mind. How did I change from prominent abortionist to pro-life advocate? In 1973, I became director of obstetrics of a large hospital in New York City and had to set up a perinatal research unit, just at the start of a great new technology which we now use every day to study the fetus in the womb. A favorite pro-abortion tactic is to insist that the definition of when life begins is impossible; that the question is a theological or moral or philosophical one, anything but a scientific one. Fetology makes it undeniably evident that life begins at conception and requires all the protection and safeguards that any of us enjoy.
Why, you may well ask, do some American doctors who are privy to the findings of fetology, discredit themselves by carrying out abortions? Simple arithmetic: at $300.00 a time 1.55 million abortions means an industry generating $500,000,000 annually, of which most goes into the pocket of the physician doing the abortion. It is clear that permissive abortion is purposeful destruction of what is undeniably human life. It is an impermissible act of deadly violence. One must concede that unplanned pregnancy is a wrenchingly difficult dilemma. But to look for its solution in a deliberate act of destruction is to trash the vast resourcefulness of human ingenuity, and to surrender the public weal to the classic utilitarian answer to social problems.
As a scientist I know, not believe, know that human life begins at conception. Although I am not a formal religionist, I believe with all my heart that there is a divinity of existence which commands us to declare a final and irreversible halt to this infinitely sad and shameful crime against humanity."(8)
1. Daily Express 17/9/14, https://www.express.co.uk/news/world...e-Son-Abortion .
2. A notable authority on the early history of abortion law is Joseph W Dellapenna, in whose book, Dispelling the Myths of abortion history (2006), and earlier article, The History of Abortion, Technology, Morality, and Law, 40 University of Pittsburgh Law Review, p.359 (1979), a fuller description of this history can be read.
3. The Irish Times 21/4/2018, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/irel...ings-1.3469975 .
4. Margaret Murphy O'Mahony TD from Bandon Co. Cork, http://www.southernstar.ie/news/roun...edium=facebook .
5. The Irish Times 9/3/2018, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/soci...20433?mode=amp .
6. MORE INFO – Guide to Referendum 2018 , a group of 175 Irish legal practitioners/experts including Iarfhlaith O'Neill and Aindrias Ó Caoimh, both former High Court judges.
7. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/us/22nathanson.html .
8. https://www.catholiceducation.org/en...ortionist.html .