Sunday 21 December 2014

Legislating for X Case is just beginning of this saga

Published 12/07/2013 | 05:00

The final Dail debate on the abortion bill has taken place. Soon it will become law. The X Case will have been legislated for and we will be told that it is a further sign that we have 'matured' as a nation.

The Taoiseach will continue to emphasise the 'restrictive' nature of the bill, as though that is the point. The point is that the bill will allow doctors to kill children in the womb if a woman is deemed suicidal even though there is no medical evidence that a single woman will be saved as a result, something that is accepted by the Master of the Rotunda, Sam Coulter-Smith, a Protestant.

It's important to point out he is a Protestant lest his views be automatically dismissed for one of the great sins in the catechism of political correctness, being a Catholic. Let us never forget that the modern liberal in his anti-Catholicism is the direct moral descendant of the one-eyed nationalist of old.

The Taoiseach will also continue to emphasise that his book is the Constitution as though that is the end of it, as though that absolves him of the duty of deciding for himself what is right and what is wrong and acting accordingly.

How did we get to this point? How it is that we are now on the point of legislating for the X Case?

Reason number one, I believe, is the widespread misunderstanding of what happened in the Savita Halappanavar case. From day one we were led to believe that she died because our Catholic-influenced law on abortion stood in the way of the doctors who wanted to save her life.

A few days ago Justice Minister Alan Shatter perpetuated the myth. He said that Savita might well have been saved had the law been like the one they are about to pass.

But I would like to know what law would have caused Savita's medical team to spot the signs of sepsis on time?

None, of course. If her medical team had spotted the infection in time they could have acted to end her pregnancy, with or without a foetal heartbeat. That is a fact and she would probably be alive today had they spotted in good time that she had sepsis.

An additional factor is that doctors like Peter Boylan were given the run of the airwaves to back the abortion bill.

He gave his sincere opinion. But he was treated like the Voice of Medicine itself. Other doctors, with different opinions, were given far less unchallenged airtime and were treated with far less deference.

It was the same with psychiatrist, Dr Anthony McCarthy who also backs this law. He, too, was treated as the Voice of Medicine. He, too, was rarely asked a challenging question. Supreme authority was conferred on him just as it was conferred on Peter Boylan.

The chief villain here was RTE. I believe the interventions of McCarthy, and even more so Boylan, had a huge effect on public opinion. The station could just as easily have made senior medical personnel opposed to the bill the Voices of Medicine instead.

Another important factor was the intense bullying of Fine Gael TDs by the party hierarchy. Enda Kenny has behaved like a poor man's Henry VIII, and his 'courtiers' like two-bit Thomas Cromwells as they browbeat and coerced party members into signing Enda's 'Oath of Supremacy' by supporting the abortion bill.

The 'death penalty' hung over the heads of possible party rebels was excommunication from the party, plus deselection as candidates at the next election. This kept the number of conscientious objectors to five in the Dail and an as-yet-to-be-determined number in the Seanad.

Another factor must be added, namely that not enough priests raised their voices against the bill and, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, some offered it their support even contacting wavering politicians to say it was permissible for a Catholic to vote for the legislation.

Would priests have reached the general public if more of them had spoken out more strongly? No, but they would have mobilised more of the million-plus adults who still go to Mass each week.

So the path to this sorry pass has been paved with cowardice, indifference, apathy and shameless bullying.

But the Fine Gael leadership has damaged their party nonetheless. Fianna Fail is likely to gain pro-life voters at its expense because so many of its TDs voted against the bill. It would attract more if Micheal Martin hadn't been so anxious to defer to RTE and 'The Irish Times' by supporting it.

The re-energised pro-life movement is not going to forget what has happened and right up to the next election it will remind its supporters and others that Fine Gael broke its promise not to legislate for the X Case.

Meanwhile, Lucinda Creighton and the other conscientious objectors have shown what it means to be conviction politicians. The Taoiseach, by contrast, looks like a man who bullies those he can bully and gives in to those he cannot bully. In other words, he looks weak and fearful, the very thing he seems to dread.

But he may soon have something more to dread, namely a new party, possibly led by Lucinda Creighton, that will reach out to voters disaffected by Fine Gael's mishandling of the abortion issue and its inability to revive the economy.

In other words, the imminent passage of the abortion bill isn't the end of this saga by any means.

Irish Independent

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