Fr Lucie-Smith asks in a recent blog whether anything new can be said about abortion; in the sense of the Book of Ecclesiastes, that “there is nothing new under the sun”, the answer is “No.” But one can still lament the passing of an Act by the Irish parliament in favour of abortion through all the nine months of pregnancy where the life of the mother is at risk. This risk, according to a report here by Thaddeus Baklinski from LifeSiteNews, includes “if the mother threatens suicide.”
I was away at the seaside last Friday, July 12th, when this law, entitled ironically, as the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy” Bill, was passed, by 127 votes to 31, so I came home to consider what effect this will have on a country, formally Catholic, which has always stood out proudly in the past for its resistance to abortion.
Certain thoughts occur to me: that this new law will be even worse than the current abortion law here in the UK, where there is a time limit of 24 weeks, after which abortion is only allowed in cases of severe foetal abnormality. Only disabled babies can be aborted up to birth in the UK; that is bad enough – but in Ireland any baby, healthy or otherwise, will in future be vulnerable if its mother’s mental state is considered to be at risk. To threaten “I’ll kill myself if I have to continue with this pregnancy” is a very serious matter. But surely this signals that the mother needs skilful psychiatric intervention – not the deliberate killing of her unborn child? If she is suicidal, how will abortion help her? She is pleading for help, not death.
Abortion is known to cause all kinds of psychiatric problems, often surfacing years after the event. What kind of medical intervention is it that responds to a desperate woman’s threat with the words, “In that case, we’ll kill your baby”. An article by Joseph Meaney in Crisis Magazine, comments that, statistically speaking, women in general and pregnant mothers in particular, are the social group with the least risk of suicide.” He adds that scientific evidence is mounting “that having an abortion, rather than being denied one, is a major risk factor in a woman committing suicide.”
Further, in the UK voting on a matter like abortion is always seen as an issue of conscience. Yet in Ireland Enda Kenny, the Prime Minister (Taoiseach) chose to use the parliamentary whip to deny a free vote. The five brave legislators from his own party who did follow their consciences and who voted against the Bill will not be allowed to stand for re-election as Fine Gael candidates. What kind of bullying tactics are these: to introduce an abortion law so vaguely worded that it will be routinely abused, and then forbid the members of your party from registering their protest?
Yesterday the Bill went to the Irish Senate. Again, senators voted 41-15 to reject an amendment that would have stopped the Bill from becoming law. Fidelma Healy-Eames, one of the senators who have now lost their seats for opposing the Bill, commented that “the legislation will have a profound impact on our culture. There is absolutely nothing consoling or hopeful in the Bill. It sanctions the ending human lives rather than trying to do everything possible to safeguard life and in the process it deceives the expectant mother…So with a heavy heart and aware of what it means for my future in Fine Gael…I cannot support the Bill as it stands.”
Baklinski’s article points out that abuse of the loophole in the law “was demonstrated last year in Northern Ireland where abortions performed “to save the mother’s life” are rampant. Recently released data show that there were more abortions sanctioned to save a mother’s life in Northern Ireland in the past two years, than in England and Wales combined over a 40-year period.” So much for the clause of threatening suicide.
Fidelma Healy-Eames is right; there is nothing consoling or hopeful in this Bill, so hugely mis-titled. It is a sad day for Ireland and, as in the UK its consequences for the general culture will be dire.