Soon, an abortion Bill will travel through the Oireachtas, the two houses that together make up Ireland’s government. Our prime minister, Enda Kenny, wants legal grounds for an abortion if the baby’s mother is suicidal. He’s arguing that this will not, in everyday clinical practice, become “abortion on demand”. For most people, pro-life or pro-abortion, Kenny lacks credibility. This is the same politician who, prior to being elected in 2011, made a “promise” not to legislate for abortion, after which his party, Fine Gael, won by a landslide. Is his new pledge that allowing abortion in hard cases will not become “abortion on demand” as good as his pre-election promise of no abortion whatsoever?
With that in mind, approximately 25,000 people marched in Dublin’s city centre for the Unite for Life vigil on January 19. The most vocal chant was “Enda, keep your pro-life promise!” This phenomenally successful vigil was the fruit of a positive development that has occurred out of the glare of the mainstream media. Interpersonal difficulties between pro-lifers have been endemic in Ireland. But, during the Christmas just passed, I received news from friends telling me that they were putting aside their differences so that they could work with people of varying pro-life shades. That’s not to say that old injuries have healed, and that agreement has been reached on thorny issues such as which side you took in the 2002 referendum. But decades-old grudges have been dropped and people who were not on speaking terms are making plans with each other. Stopping abortion on demand is more important than sustaining quarrels. They know that if they don’t work together, abortion could be legalised and they risk living with regret that they did not mend relations. For this reason alone, they are a good example to British pro-lifers.
Greater unity has occurred in the pro-life camp, while there are signs of mutiny in Kenny’s own party. The older generation of Fine Gael party faithful are scandalised. Many of them would have grown up in the Archbishop McQuaid era, and would have learned by rote that abortion is a mortal sin. They may not have been able to brace the freezing winter chill and take part in the January 19 vigil, but they are shaken by the crude way Kenny dismisses the life of the unborn, and to his peril Kenny would want to realise that these voters (for the first time in their lives) may not vote Fine Gael and could unseat him in the next election.
And it’s not just the older “fuddy-duddy” Fine Gael voters. One of the bright young Fine Gael stars, 33-year-old Lucinda Creighton, an attractive and glamorous lady and steely politician, has a few more pro-life sympathies than her party’s leader. She worries that the provision of suicide as grounds for an abortion will “open the floodgates”, or mean “abortion on demand” as Kenny calls it. Let’s be clear that Creighton, a young politician, has stuck her neck out by defying her boss. Rather than see abortion on demand, she is putting her own political career in jeopardy.
Lest we forget, Kenny is pressing ahead for abortion for suicidal mothers, while ignoring the evidence presented at his government’s own public hearings, when every psychiatrist present testified before the Irish parliament that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal ideation or the condition of suicidality.
Would Kenny be more accurate were he to word the legislation as “abortion as an attempt to treat panic”?
It has to be said that a woman in a crisis pregnancy is often in such a frenzied panic that it’s easy for others to mistake or label her as suicidal. This was something that I witnessed first hand as a teenager when I had peers who were having crisis pregnancies and they would say, “I feel like I could die”, and “my parents will kill me” and “I’d feel better if I was dying”. Some of their pregnancies ended in abortion, but this only made the symptoms of anxiety, disquiet and self-harm worse.
It’s time to turn the tables on Kenny. If he’s so sure about legalising abortion for suicide, would he be able to locate Irish psychiatrists who are willing to testify that abortion solves suicidal tendencies or that it treats mental illness? Or why does he not invite women who have had abortions to testify whether an abortion improved their mental state?
You see, Kenny may well have misjudged the level of support for this legislation. It bears repeating that 25,000 people came to the pro-life rally – 125 times the number of pro-choice campaigners who came to a counter demonstration (they numbered only 200). Kenny’s plan of allowing for abortions in select cases will not placate these militant pro-abortionists. And pro-lifers will never trust him again. But now, if voters forsake him, and if more members of his own party revolt against the proposed legislation, then he and his proposed legislation could be stuck between a rock and a hard place.