Friday 21 October 2016

Repealing the Eighth would quickly lead to abortion on demand

Published 02/10/2015 | 02:30

In the UK, it was the introduction of the 'health' ground for abortion that led to what amounts to abortion on demand there. Irish abortion campaigners want a similar regime here
In the UK, it was the introduction of the 'health' ground for abortion that led to what amounts to abortion on demand there. Irish abortion campaigners want a similar regime here

When the World Meeting of Families, that may or may not include a visit by Pope Francis, takes place in Ireland in 2018, will we by then have repealed the protection that our Constitution gives to the unborn? The way things are going at present, the answer might, just might, be yes.

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What a present for Pope Francis that would be.

Since the passage of the marriage referendum, many of the same groups that campaigned for it have been campaigning full throttle for an abortion referendum.

The same tactics are at play that we saw in the run-up to the marriage referendum. Feed to a compliant media lots of personal stories of women who have had abortions and paint your opponents in the blackest-possible colours, preferably as women-hating fundamentalists.

As in the marriage referendum, the aim is to create a spiral of silence, so that those who favour keeping the pro-life provisions of our Constitution intact dare not say so in public.

On this score, however, there was a significant enough straw in the wind this week, which shows that the spiral of silence has a long way to go before it matches what took hold before the marriage referendum.

Limerick City Council considered a motion calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, that is to say, the pro-life amendment to our Constitution. By a two-to-one majority the councillors voted against the motion.

If Limerick City Council voted by two-to-one against a pro-abortion motion, what would happen in the county councils?

Long before the marriage referendum, the same-sex marriage lobby had the councils well and truly sown up.

Enda Kenny has not promised an abortion referendum and says he would not favour a liberal abortion regime himself.

Then again, he was once opposed to same-sex marriage and before the 2011 election Fine Gael said it would not introduce abortion legislation, then it went ahead and did so in 2013.

Enda, as usual, will go in whatever direction the wind pushes him. He will follow the line of least resistance.

Within his own party, very senior figures, such as Frances Fitzgerald and Leo Varadkar, favour repeal of the Eighth.

Fitzgerald has never supported the Eighth Amendment. Varadkar, on the other hand, once did, but then performed one of his U-turns and now wants it repealed. What does he want it replaced with?

For its part, Labour has become bolder and bolder in its support for a liberal - which is to say permissive - abortion regime.

During the 2011 General Election campaign, I wrote a column for this newspaper in which I said that a vote for Labour was a vote for abortion. That was bluntly put and Michael D Higgins appeared on Newstalk to blast me from a height.

As it turned out, I was absolutely correct - and sooner than I would have imagined. However, I did not anticipate that this Government would introduce our first piece of abortion legislation after only two years in office.

Now Labour wants to go much further. It wants the Eighth Amendment repealed entirely and it has put two campaigners for a permissive abortion law in charge of what should replace it, namely Ivana Bacik and Sinéad Ahern.

Ahern is a member of Choice Ireland. The website of Choice Ireland tells us that one of its aims is "free and legal abortion on demand". Ahern is now head of Labour Women.

Abortion on demand means abortion for any reason whatsoever.

I actually think Labour has made a mistake putting Bacik and Ahern in charge of its abortion policy. Labour can no longer pretend to the electorate that its abortion policy is 'middle of the road'.

A Leo Varadkar-led campaign to repeal the Eighth would be much harder to deal with. He would be better at reassuring the public that whatever would replace the Eighth Amendment would be 'restrictive' in its effects, much more restrictive than what Britain has on its statute books. Pro-life groups would not be able to find any militantly pro-choice quotes from Leo that could be used against him in a campaign.

Writing in this newspaper on Tuesday, Dr Vicky Conway of Dublin City University reassured readers that the repeal of the Eighth Amendment would not create a legal vacuum. Indeed it would not, because what she has in mind for its replacement would be based on a private member's Bill called the 'Access to Abortion Bill'.

She describes this Bill as "lamentably conservative". She would like it to go much further. Look up the Bill. It is online. It goes quite far enough.

It allows for what amounts to abortion on demand up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The drafters of the Bill would vehemently deny this, of course. They would say this is far from abortion on demand because it requires that there be a threat to the health of the mother and this must be authenticated by two doctors.

But in Britain there must also be a 'threat' to the health of the woman and again two doctors must sign off on this. We all know, however, that in practice this has led to de facto abortion on demand.

There are almost 200,000 abortions in the UK each year.

It would be interesting to know what Leo Varadkar thinks of this Bill. He told the Dáil last year that he favours repeal of the Eighth because he believes it does not protect the "long-term health" of women. So there is the health ground again, just as in the UK.

It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that Ireland without a permissive abortion regime is at least as safe a place for women to have a baby as Britain with its permissive regime.

Therefore, we do not need to introduce a 'health' ground for abortion in order to protect pregnant women. But if we do introduce a health ground, de facto abortion on demand is what we will have in short order.

This, then, is the choice that we face. If the Eighth Amendment is repealed, nothing will stand in the way of some future Government liberalising our abortion law in any way it chooses. It would no longer have to refer the matter back to the people.

Those calling for the repeal of the Eighth are admitting that they want to see abortion permitted in Ireland on very wide grounds. They want to see a British-style abortion regime introduced to Ireland.

This is what will be at stake in any future abortion referendum.

There is nothing 'moderate' about that aim.

Irish Independent

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