So, Ireland will hold a referendum on whether or not to scrap its constitutional amendment that guarantees the equality of mother and unborn child. The dishonesty has already begun. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says abortion will be “safe, legal and rare”. Rare? That’s what they always say and it never happens. We were promised “safe, legal and rare” in the UK and we have almost 200,000 abortions a year.
The same day the news broke, I was researching a column on Trump and reading about the war in Yemen, where a Saudi coalition is engaged in a proxy fight against Iran. Did you know that an estimated 10,000 people have died? For two-and-a-half years, the Saudis have been effectively blockading a country that relies on imports to live. Famine is predicted. About a million have cholera. We’re talking men, women and children – babies in their mothers’ wombs. Did you know that the UK and US back the coalition? That we sell them arms?
Do you care? I probably don’t care enough. I’ve not marched about it, I’ve not written to an MP about. And even if we did know more about it, we’d probably shrug and say “on balance, it’s better the Saudis win than the Iranians.” On balance. The language of moral ambivalence.
That’s what the abortion referendum is about, that’s what all abortion is about on a societal level. Oh, it’s something very personal to the pregnant woman, of course: which is why I, a man, honestly hate talking about it. And there are many activists who believe offering choice and privacy is a fine moral principle. But for the vast, vast majority of human beings, abortion is – or so they believe it is – “safe, legal and rare”. Which really means out of sight. And nothing to do with us.
A society that practices abortion silently on the scale we do in the UK is a society that is also capable of letting prisoners commit suicide. Or refugees drown at sea. Or dementia patients suffer alone. Or Yemenis starve to death.
“On balance” it’s better that we ignore all of this because to face it means taking choices that might be unpleasant, inconvenient, costly. We might actually have to pay more tax! So – weighing things up, all things considered – it’s best just to let these things happen.
As for Ireland: “Isn’t it time?” “Haven’t we moved on?” “Shouldn’t we just grow up?” Yeah. Maybe. Whatever. It’s a cruel world and one way humans get by is to surrender to its heartless logic.
Or not. Ireland could choose to be different – not only to keep its pro-life amendment but put a genuine pro-life ethic into effect. Care for everyone from cradle to grave – and end the madness of war. Why not do something truly, radically different? Why not make Ireland stand out in the international community not for how high its growth rate is but for how decent its society tries to be?
Pray for Ireland, pray for the world. Pray most of all for the unborn.