The great and the good internationally have a big interest in the outcome of Ireland’s looming abortion referendum, planned for next year. They want Irish voters to erase from their constitution the so-called Eighth Amendment, which gives the unborn child the same right to life as every other human being.
Abortion is only permitted in Ireland when the life of the mother is at real and substantial risk. This amendment was inserted into the constitution following a referendum in 1983 which passed by a two-to-one margin.
Ever since then secular liberal opinion has been bent upon overturning that referendum. When liberals lose a referendum, they do not take no for an answer and Irish liberals have found plenty of allies abroad in their quest for change.
Among those allies is the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, various United Nations committees, including the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture (yes, torture), in addition to the billionaire George Soros.
Through his Open Society Foundations, the Hungarian-born Soros has already provided three pro-abortion groups in Ireland, including Amnesty International’s Irish branch, with a combined total of around $400,000 (£295,000). The other two groups are the Irish Family Planning Association and the Abortion Rights Campaign.
A leaked document from the Open Society Foundations revealed the reasons behind the funding. It said it was so that the three groups could “work collectively on a campaign to repeal Ireland’s constitutional amendment granting equal rights to an implanted embryo as the pregnant woman”.
It continued: “With one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, a win there could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places.”
That pro-abortion groups in Ireland are receiving foreign funding has received very little media coverage and almost no political reaction. This is despite journalists and politicians showing a permanent interest in alleged foreign funding of Irish pro-life organisations. The lack of curiosity in foreign funding of pro-choice outfits says a lot about the double standards of the Irish media and many politicians.
In any event, the reason the Open Society Foundations gives for providing the funding – namely that turning a once strongly pro-life country into a pro-abortion country would serve as an example to other countries – is also the reason why Justin Trudeau and the UN see fit to comment on our pro-life law.
When Trudeau met the new Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, in Canada recently, he brought up the Eighth Amendment and indicated that Ireland should repeal it in the name of “human rights”. There is no indication that he met with any resistance from Varadkar or that the Taoiseach criticised Canada’s extremely permissive law, which allows abortion for any reason right up to birth and gives scant conscience protections to doctors and nurses.
Varadkar describes himself as “pro-life” but favours repeal of the Eighth Amendment where a woman’s health is considered to be at risk. This ground will be very familiar to British readers who know it has led to abortion on demand in their country and almost 200,000 terminations per annum.
The UN has regularly been putting its oar in, encouraged by Irish pro-abortion groups. Ireland, like Britain, is a signatory to numerous UN treaties, and again like Britain, must periodically appear before this or that UN committee to report on how well it is implementing various treaties.
Again and again we are told that we must permit abortion. These UN committees are very ideologically biased. They have long since been co-opted by the pro-abortion Left and they are more than happy to dance to whatever tune Irish abortion groups choose to play. The committees never consider the rights of the unborn child. They pretend that whatever UN treaty or convention they are charged with overseeing permits abortion. This is despite abortion getting no mention in any UN treaty or convention. These same committees then give the false impression that their opinions carry a legal weight they simply do not have.
Depressingly, Irish governments tend to tip the hat to these committees and treat them with a wholly undeserved deference. This suits the present government, of course, because it wants to see our pro-life law overturned. It is therefore convenient for it to pretend to the Irish people that “we are letting ourselves down” in the eyes of the international community, led by the UN, and that the UN is somehow the unbiased and objective arbiter of morality. In fact, the UN acts as a sort of Magisterium to those of a secular liberal persuasion. It cannot be questioned. The UN has spoken, the matter is closed.
Why are these international figures really so determined to see us change our abortion law? The charitable explanation is that they genuinely believe in the right to abortion and that the child in the womb has few if any rights. Many do obviously believe this.
But the less charitable explanation is that they know that Ireland’s law, and Ireland’s still reasonably strong pro-life culture, is a standing rebuke to the abortion laws and the pro-choice culture that exists in practically every other Western country, including Britain.
In the UK, one pregnancy in every five ends in abortion. In Sweden, it is one in four. The Irish rate is about one in 18 pregnancies, even allowing for the roughly 3,500 Irish women who travel to Britain each year to have an abortion. In other words, Ireland shows that when a country has a highly restrictive abortion law, far fewer abortions take place even when a near neighbour permits abortion and women can easily travel there.
But surely, some say, our abortion law means that more women die in pregnancy? This is not the case. The Irish maternal death rate is somewhat lower than the British one.
Against this, you may have read about the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar who died in an Irish hospital in 2012 after being refused an abortion. But it transpired that she died of sepsis and the hospital had not spotted the deadly infection until it was too late. If it had known she had sepsis, it could have ended the pregnancy, which was miscarrying in any case. In British hospitals pregnant women also die from sepsis on rare occasions. Britain’s very permissive abortion law does not save them.
Given that the Irish law is such a challenge to the abortion regime in most Western countries, you can see why big international players want Ireland to change its law. The Irish law has saved the lives of countless unborn babies while also protecting the lives of pregnant women. That is a win-win. Ireland should be proud of its law. Other countries should be ashamed.
Will we be able to resist internal and external pressure to change our pro-life culture? We are likely to know by next summer because the referendum will have taken place by then.
David Quinn is a columnist with The Sunday Times and The Irish Catholic. He is the founder and director of The Iona Institute (ionainstitute.ie)
This article first appeared in the September 29 2017 issue of the Catholic Herald. To read the magazine in full, from anywhere in the world, go here