Thursday 21 November 2019

Billy Keane: Ultrasound picture shows a tiny baby, not a foetus or an embryo or a thing

I HAVE been putting off writing this column for weeks now. I was afraid. It is not easy for a man who writes about women's issues. Not easy to play God either.

I am for gay marriage, contraception, women priests, sex between consenting adults, a free press and equal rights for all.

Most of my friends are in the liberal camp. I often have difficulty here in expressing forthright views because of cowardice, the wish to be seen as everyone's friend and also because I have so many skeletons rattling around in my cupboard that there is hardly room to store a tin of beans. There is a very slippery slope attached to the high moral ground.

The baby in the womb is a baby, not a foetus or an embryo or a thing. The idea that a baby is not a baby makes no sense either morally or medically. How is it that, say in England, a baby's life cannot be ended from 24 weeks on but at 23 weeks, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds it can be destroyed? Euphemisms should not be applied to life and death in the womb.

Any one of you who has seen a baby swimming happily in the placenta pool, all hands and legs like an astronaut marionetted by gravity in a spaceship, will probably agree that the ultrasound scan on the screen is the most beautiful movie ever made. For me this was the clinching argument.

I have friends who have had terminations. Decent women who saw no way out. This sounds like a corny line from a bad country song, but it is not easy being a woman.

Please do not categorise me with the extremists who not only cast the first stone but the second too and many more as well. Or with those who have picketed politician's private residences, where their wife and kids live.

I abhor the stance of those so-called Christians who have no empathy for women in a dreadful predicament not of their making.

I feel that if a woman is raped she should be allowed a termination. There is still going to be a death. But if the girl who has been violated stands little chance of recovering from her ordeal without a termination, then it should be her choice. If the mother's life is in danger, then it is the mother's call whether to have a termination or not. Whatever choice she makes is the right one. Jesus himself bleeds for women who have to make such decisions.

But the truth, as I see it, is that the baby in the womb is the underdog. Who is going to protect the little baby? That is what bothers me so much. Who is going to speak up for the boy or girl with no voice?

I have a feeling there are many more men who feel the same way but are unable to properly develop their feelings because of our shared guilt at the way women have been mistreated by men over the years in this country. We feel unworthy.

Last year, 32 girls under 16 travelled to the UK for abortions. Do you think I am going to condemn these kids or their parents? More than likely there is a kid on the plane this morning. Her mammy is probably sitting beside her, holding her hand. Her daughter is scared. Most likely confused. Probably she has been swayed by the adults in her life. Maybe she is suicidal. She is only a kid. Man, but you would wonder how it is that whichever almighty you worship allows such suffering and torture in the world. The baby inside the little girl will not be coming back to Ireland. The little girl will return and her life will be changed for ever. Suffer little children. Mother and child.

All we can do is say a few Hail Marys to the best mother of all.

Maybe more can be done here on Earth. Sex education is the key to stopping teenage terminations. We must be honest and open with teenagers. A mental health professional told me most teenagers do not have a clue about contraception, and most teenagers are having sex.

THERE are no easy answers. The newly passed abortion bill will lead to abortions in Ireland. But very few. The politicians found the easiest way out.

The status quo will remain in practice. No mother will allow her 14-year-old daughter to go before three doctors. It is a lot easier to book a cheap flight to England and present at a clinic where no one knows you. There are no degrees of separation in this country. As usual, only the poor and the most vulnerable will suffer most. Their pro-choice is no choice. The poor will take the option of appearing before three doctors who will decide whether or not the mother is suicidal. But most will somehow find the money for England.

Every now and then, life being what it is, unsolvable cases will come before the courts.

What about the father who does not want to see his child's life terminated? Yes, it is the woman's body that will be invaded. The woman will bear the bulk of the post- and pre-stress of what will be the most traumatic moments of her life, but men have rights too. We are not just some sort of anonymous donors who make deposits at a sperm bank. But it is the woman who will lose out, always, whatever choice she makes.

We are out of our depth. I am, for sure. A terrifying range of conflicting emotions swirl around in the brain. You want the best for the mother. You want the best for the baby. Sometimes the two wants conflict. This is work for God, not man.

Irish Independent

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