Sunday 18 February 2018

Legislate now, or be damned

Vincent Browne put it very crudely – and correctly – speaking on his own programme on TV3 last Thursday night. "Nobody is pro-abortion," he said. There are many things about which nobody is "pro" which take place, within the confines of the law, in our society every day. Out of necessity. Of course, nobody is "pro" abortion. But in a civilised society, nobody should have the right to deny half the population the right to make a decision, always agonising , always in extremis, always in an area of imperfect judgement, which they consider absolutely necessary.

In five short days, parliament and people have been convulsed by the abortion issue. And once more, as in 1982 and 1992, we have the spectacle of men, old and young, dancing on the head of a fallopian tube. Is legislating for the X Case opening the door to abortion on demand? Is legislating for the X Case enough – is it the doctors' right to choose by any other name? And while legislators might like it, is this a fair choice to put on doctors?

In 1986, speaking ahead of the ill-fated divorce referendum, one of the last of the Fine Gael public intellectuals, John Kelly, engaged in a crie de couer over a government that ''should even think of ... indulging in a year-long cat-fight about divorce''. Nothing epitomises the endemic adolescence of an Irish political system, which seems resolute only in a collective refusal to grow up, more than the relevance of Kelly's analysis to the consequences of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar. It is, hopefully, still not too late for this debilitated State to avoid another dispiriting cat-fight over our ongoing inability to deal in a mature fashion with such 'moral issues'.

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