Help…or Hindrance?

I was going to use this post to write about Colette Browne’s article in Wednesday’s Irish Examiner.  But then I realised – it doesn’t really address the issue of abortion at all.

Instead, we get a roll-call of all the things that irk Ms. Browne.  Politicians who dare to voice an opposing opinion, anyone who questions our obligation to introduce legislation for abortion, Cardinal Sean Brady and the Church in general.  Even the Tea Party gets a mention.

But while Ms. Browne shows herself to be adept in the use of alliteration, I found myself wondering what, if anything, this piece actually contributes to the debate?  After all, what’s wrong with a politician taking the view that it’s only right that our society recognises the humanity of the unborn child, and by extension, seeks to put in place laws that will protect that child?  Don’t the values of care and respect for the most vulnerable, voiceless members of society form part of every politician’s mandate, regardless of their Party preference?

The problem with articles of this nature is that they cloud the real issues at stake here – and in doing so, they perform a massive disservice to women in particular.

Take for example the assertion that the fact that Irish women cannot access abortion means that they are being denied medical treatment.  The implication is that they are somehow more at risk in Ireland as a result.  A simple check of the latest statistics proves that this is not true.  When it comes to maternal mortality, Ireland consistently ranks at the top of the table when the figures for maternal mortality are compiled by the World Health Organisation.  The last figures were compiled in 2010, with the same result.  So why try to worry women?

Of course, Ms. Browne is not the only journalist who uses the misnomer “life-saving abortion”.  Dr. Jacky Jones wrote in the Irish Times this week about how “Ireland is the 15th safest place to give birth among 22 European countries.”

It’s a pity she didn’t clarify exactly what graph she took her statistic from.  It relates to perinatal (foetal) deaths, not maternal deaths. When it comes to maternal health, we consistently rank at the top of the international table – accordingly to the World Health Organisation, no less. So we have a far higher success rate when it comes to saving the life of the mother than the unborn child.

Dr. Jones then compounds her error by stating as a matter of fact that “the rights of a living person and a foetus are, by definition, unequal.”

She will of course be aware that any attempt to base rights on an assertion of “personhood” is a very risky business.  In the past, a denial of the privilege of “personhood” to one group of human beings has led to human rights abuses of the worst kind.  But even leaving that to one side, I have to wonder about her decision to compare a “living person” with a “foetus”.

Is Dr. Jones suggesting that the foetus is, in some way, not “living”?  If so, then is it dead? Making a blank statement like this contributes nothing to the debate.  It consigns the unborn child to the role of person-in-waiting, utterly dependent on whatever rights society deigns to bestow, and ignoring the true humanity which is evident from advanced technology such as this video.

Irish men and women deserve – and need – a proper debate on abortion.  There is no room for name-calling or vitriol.  They contribute nothing but acrimony to what is already an emotive issue.

We know that Ireland, without abortion, ranks at the top of the table in terms of maternal care. We know that the unborn child is a human being, part of the human race to which we all belong.

These are the facts and all the careful camouflage in the world won’t hide them.




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