As Americans hotly debate the state of Alabama’s abortion ban, as well as infanticide laws in New York and Virginia, it’s worth looking to a country which has “sorted out” all these questions.
Last May the Irish people repealed their country’s eighth amendment which gave human beings in the womb the same rights as their mothers and fathers, effectively banning abortion. By a landslide, in one fell swoop, the Irish people reversed their “outdated” 19th century abortion ban. Though the majority would never use these words to describe their “victory,” they won the legal right to stop a fetal heartbeat.
Ireland did not reverse their abortion ban by way of judges and courts, as will most likely happen with Alabama’s law. It was done democratically, through a legitimate referendum. The people voted, just like the Alabama legislature voted. A whole vulnerable class of human beings lost their right to exist because people campaigned, and whipped votes, and got them.
With the legality of abortion secure, Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris proudly proposed that abortions should be provided free, up to 23 weeks, as “part of an integrated health service.” That Orwellian doublespeak, akin to “abortion saves lives”, is something the errant conscience almost requires. Once the people have voted to deny any rights to the most vulnerable, once they have denied to even recognize the humanity of preborn persons, it follows that those same people should be perfectly willing to cover the cost of everyone’s elective abortion because “pregnancy kills and abortion saves lives,” or “frees women.”
Of course, all this doublespeak is a sign that the people have been gripped by propaganda. When they say “health,” they mean death.
The Alabama law must become a token of something “oppressive” in this Orwellian world. What is just must be called unjust. Those old 19th century bans on abortion once held sacrosanct in England, and until last year, Ireland, must be revealed as but shackles upon human freedom. Northern Ireland still maintains it’s 19th century ban, but the news of Alabama’s law energized activists who want to overturn their own “draconian” ban.
A certain linguistic indoctrination is necessary to sell the conscience on these ideas. If you want to stop a human heartbeat, and call it saving a life, you must attend to language. The late-term abortion doctor, or the Planned Parenthood executive will be particularly adept at the doublespeak. But anybody can do it.
Like all indoctrination, abortion doublespeak can be learned, usually by repetition of formulas designed to turn the meaning of words upside down.
The question is whether it can be unlearned. The Alabama law, as well as the several fetal heartbeat bills in other southern states, suggests that the doublespeak can be unlearned. Whatever the fate of those state laws, the very fact that they have been proposed is evidence that the doublespeak can be broken. These laws show that it is possible for the conscience to see reality right-side up again, it is possible for people to see the truth that abortion never saves life, but always kills a human being whose worth is beyond measure.
C C Pecknold is Associate Professor of Theology, and a Fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology, at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC
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