Just over a week ago the Supreme Court of the US overturned Roe v Wade, its 1973 court ruling that legalised abortion up to birth across the US. Continually pilloried by large sections of the media, pro-lifers in the US worked tirelessly and painstakingly for many years for a day most people thought would never arrive.
Let’s be clear: the US Supreme Court did not ban abortion. It simply declared there was no constitutional right to abortion and has left it up to the individual states of the US to set their own laws on the issue. Up until the court made its decision, the US was part of a small club of nations such as China and North Korea that allowed abortion on demand past the 20-week point. Now that Roe is overturned, the practice of late-term abortions can be outlawed and legal protection for unborn babies can be introduced at state level. That’s a huge step forward, not backwards, for human rights.
If we can temper the reaction of the extremist fringes, we might be able to calmly reflect on the changes that have occurred in the almost 50 years since Roe v Wade was introduced. We could start by accepting a figure as staggering as 63 million abortions cannot be brushed aside by simply reverting to the rhetoric of ‘choice’.
Advances in biology and science have given us a greater understanding of a baby’s development, we can see on 3D and 4D ultrasounds the remarkable development of the baby at early stages. Groups like Silent No More challenge the spiral of silence surrounding the negative impact of abortion for many women and highlight the pressures women face to go down the road of abortion against their will. Where positive alternatives to abortion exist, the abortion rate decreases. So why is more room not being made in the debate to accommodate views, facts, and experiences that challenge the political consensus to always back abortion without question?
There has been minuscule coverage in this country of the over 60 pro-life centres vandalised across the US in recent weeks. Five of these centres were fire-bombed, causing severe damage. In addition to this, a 26-year-old man from California has been charged with the attempted murder of US Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh. He was arrested close to Kavanaugh’s home, carrying a Glock 17 pistol and several rounds of ammunition.
He admitted to police he intended killing the judge because he was concerned about the way the court was proceeding on the abortion issue.
Instead we watch the spectacle of large American corporations tripping over themselves to declare they’ll pay the travel costs for employees to fly to neighbouring states for abortions, if and when restrictions are introduced.
Paying for you to have an abortion costs a company a lot less than taking time off work to have your baby. Large corporations funding abortions so their employees can remain at work is the opposite of compassion and altruism. It is crass and exploitative, but the groups who claim to speak for women don’t bat an eyelid because all they care about is defending abortion.
This is all part of a culture peddling the lie to women that having a baby is a barrier to your success and happiness. Accepting this narrative will only prevent authentic equality from truly succeeding. Imagine the sea-change that could happen if, instead of pushing abortion, these global corporations set world-class standards in maternity pay, leave and childcare.
Micheál Martin described the overturning of Roe v Wade as “quite shocking” and bemoaned what he described as the politicisation of the court. Perhaps he could explain how the justices handing the decision-making back to the people is somehow political, but taking the decision making away from the people, as happened in 1973, was not.
And while he’s at it, it would be great if the Taoiseach would explain why the pro-life side has been entirely shut out of the Government’s three-year review of the abortion law that’s currently under way. Excluding a third of the electorate from any process has to be more than an oversight. It smacks of the kind of politicisation of things that Mr Martin has been railing against of late. While the US rows back on abortion, we plough forward with no appetite to address Ireland’s spiralling abortion rate.
On both sides of the pond, it’s time for genuine discussions about tackling the root causes that drive women towards abortion, often forcing them to choose between their child and their circumstances.
Surely whatever your view on abortion, demanding better practical supports for women and creating a society where fewer abortions happen is something we can all agree on?