O'Doherty: US abortion scandal will cause ripple here too
Published 02/08/2015 | 02:30
It might seem rather odd that a health-care scandal in America could have a direct legislative impact on Ireland, but the Planned Parenthood scandal will undoubtedly play a loud and unwelcome role in our debate over abortion in this country.
For those of you who aren't aware of the story (and the mainstream press has been predictably quiet), Planned Parenthood is a 100-year-old American women's health organisation which is the largest abortion provider in America and receives half-a-billion dollars a year in federal funding.
A long-standing target for pro-life Americans, it's facing renewed calls for its federal funding to be cancelled since undercover video footage emerged last week of Planned Parenthood doctors haggling over the price of organs harvested from aborted foetuses.
There are few civilised countries where abortion is not a hot-button issue, but even ardent pro-choice politicians like Hillary Clinton admitted that they winced when one doctor was caught on camera, drinking wine in a restaurant and boasting: "We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, 'I'm not gonna crush that part'."
The debate has raged thick and fast (with an emphasis on 'thick', it must be said) with both sides so busy slinging mud at each other that they have missed the salient point - abortion is a brutal business, even if the harvested organs are then used for scientific research. But just because something is a brutal business, that doesn't mean it should be illegal. As Steve Chapman argued in Reason.com this week: "Abortion policy is not a matter of right vs wrong. It's a matter of right vs right."
To be more precise, he could have said that it's not so much a matter of right vs right, but right vs rights. In other words, when a woman's perceived right to choose collides with the unborn's perceived right to life, there will always be a bitter and rancorous social schism.
There is obviously a huge degree of hypocrisy in saying that you support abortion and then having a fit of the vapours when you learn that the organs are being harvested, particularly when you could argue that at least some scientific good can come from foetal research. After all, do people think an abortion procedure simply involves a doctor pressing a 'delete' button?
The problem, of course, when it comes to abortion is that neither side could ever be accused of thinking too much about the process. Instead, people prefer to remain fixated on the broader, nebulous issues while accusing the other side of either engaging in a war on women or perpetrating a holocaust against unborn people. How can anyone argue with such implacable, diametrically opposed viewpoints?
Irish campaigners will be unhappy with the Planned Parenthood furore because they know that, regardless of the methods used to get the footage, this will remind swing voters what the procedure involves. That's why so many pro-choicers have been eager to attach this issue to the recent gay marriage referendum - as if they are both inextricably linked. They're not, of course. Gay marriage is essentially a celebration of life; abortion is, by its very nature, dedicated to ending one.
You don't have to be a member of Youth Defence to be opposed to abortion, nor do you have to be religious to have serious misgivings about the procedure.
But this scandal will have concentrated the minds of many Irish people who are genuinely unsure about where they stand on the matter.
You can be pro-choice (as I am) and still remain hugely uncomfortable with abortion. These videos remind us that it's a messy business with no winners - except the organ traffickers, that is.
It happened on Tuesday, then it happened twice on Wednesday. On those occasions I found myself standing at the self-service check out in my local Tesco like a naughty child as a disembodied voice barked at me for placing an incorrect item in the baggage area.
It's the little things in life that make you want to go on a killing spree and obviously mindful of the intense irritation caused by their automated check-outs, the retailer is changing the voice because it's "a source of frustration" and "is a bit shouty".
Well, kinda nearly - but not quite.
The source of frustration is the whole process - not just the voice.
Frankly, it doesn't really matter what sort of voice they use, but I neither want nor need a computer to shout at me for not bagging up the shopping properly.
I have a wife who manages that quite well on her own, thank you very much.