Abortion, Intention And Seeking The Truth

Intention is such an important word.

I sometimes think that before any discussion on a situation where abortion is being proffered as the solution, we should ask one simple question:

“What is the intention here?”

It might bring us to that much-misunderstood and muddled fact – what is meant by an abortion.  Because an “abortion” only ever has one intention.

By definition, “abortion” is the direct, intentional targetting of the unborn life in the womb with the sole purpose of bringing about an end to that life.

If there are any other aims in mind, then we are not dealing with abortion at all, but some other type of procedure which must be categorised correctly if this  debate is to progress

Let’s break up that definition a bit further.

The ending of the life in the womb must be the “sole purpose” of the procedure.  If the unborn life is ended as a side-effect of say, medical treatment being given to her mother, then this is not an abortion.  Nobody wanted to end that life – quite the contrary.  The ideal outcome would be that the mother receives the medical treatment she needs, and her baby survives unscathed.   Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen and when the baby dies as a side-effect of that treatment, it is a tragedy for all concerned:-

  • The mother and her partner have lost the baby they were hoping to protect.
  • The doctor has lost one of the two patients whose welfare he was concerned with.
  • The baby has lost her life.

To listen to some of those who advocated the introduction of abortion this week, you might not know it, but in Ireland pregnant women receive excellent medical care.  There is never a case where they are refused treatment for some ailment because they are pregnant.

We have the lowest maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the world.  That’s not a statistic created by any pro-life group.  It was reported by an independent body, the World Health Organisation, in its most recent Report on global maternal mortality in 2010.  Our MMR is much lower than countries like Holland or the UK, where abortion is freely available.

So it is fair to say that Ireland is the safest country in the world in which to be pregnant and give birth.

What is very often overlooked in these debates is the question of intention.

In Ireland, doctors treating a pregnant woman suffering from some illness will usually have a choice of treatments.  When considering which treatment to use, they are obliged to take into account the effect of that treatment on the life of the unborn child that the woman is carrying.  Which treatment will cure the mother’s ailment and have the least effect on the unborn child?  Ideally, a treatment will be available which will achieve the former and have little or no negative effect on the unborn child but of course, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes the treatment is so severe that the unborn child cannot survive and her life is ended.  But this is not an “abortion”.  Thinking back to the definition, there is nothing intentional about the death of the unborn baby in this case.  On the contrary, I think if you suggested to the mother that she intended such an outcome, you’d receive such a violent reaction that you wouldn’t suggest it again!

The point is, babies in these cases are badly wanted.  Their welfare is considered at all stages of the treatment.  It’s the reason why doctors are urged in many cases by the mother herself to hold off from starting any treatment for as long as possible, just to give the baby a few more days or weeks to grow and develop and in this way have the best possible chance of survival.

This type of situation happens every day in Irish hospitals.  Our health system may have its problems, but this is not one of them.

And it’s the reason why any pregnant woman can be assured that she will be given the very best care in Ireland, that her health will be monitored right up to and until after she gives birth – regardless of the health problems that her baby may ultimately have.

This distinction between necessary medical treatment to the mother resulting in the unintentional death of her unborn child, and an abortion, is well recognised internationally.  It’s not something that receives too much focus from those who would like to see abortion introduced into this country, and it certainly didn’t trouble the framers of the Private Member’s Bill debated last week.

I like to think that everyone involved in the abortion debate has the best of intentions – that they are genuine in their concern for the men and women in this country who find themselves in difficult circumstances and while they may advocate abortion as a solution – something I could never do – they do so in good faith.

However, it is difficult to understand why so many facts are roundly ignored by the supporters of abortion:-

  • Why try to discredit our MMR when it has been reported by the WHO which is an independent body, and not directly interested in our laws on abortion?
  • Why refuse to acknowledge how much better our quality of maternal care is when compared to countries which have embraced an abortion culture?
  • Why not take the time to explain in full the Principle of Double Effect so that every member of society is aware of its use, and can consider same when deciding on their opinion of abortion?

The failure to clarify these issues means that the debate struggles on, missing vital pieces of information like an impossible jigsaw puzzle. The most destructive element is the insinuation that women are in some way neglected in this country, that they are denied treatment so that their unborn child can live.

This is misleading and untrue.

From a feminist perspective, it is deeply disingenuous to engender false fears in the heart of any woman who may become pregnant in this country.  She should be reassured at every possible opportunity that Ireland is a world-leader in the field of maternal health.

By all means, let us have the honest and open discussion on abortion that our society deserves.  But any such discussion must first begin with a statement of the facts as they exist in the country at present, and an acknowledgement of the excellent care given to women at all stages of their pregnancy.





International Women’s Day: Reasons to Celebrate

Happy International Womens’ Day 2012!


On days like today, we could all write a list of the many things we need to achieve in society.  It’s an opportunity to reflect on the needs of those women who are dealing with poverty, violence, depression and difficulty on a daily basis.  To say that they need the continued help and support of our society is an understatement.

From a pro-life, pro-woman perspective too, much more remains to be done.  I think today however is a great opportunity to celebrate the many important developments which have made a positive difference to women.  I just want to mention five of them:-


 1.   The growing resistance to Gendercide.

Since the Economist magazine ran their cover story in March 2010, the unease about this practice has been steadily increasing.  Questions are being asked.  Why should cultural beliefs be accepted if they mean an increase in the number of baby girls aborted?  How do we encourage the countries in question to start seeing men and women as equal members of the human race, both entitled to enter society and make their own, unique contribution?  How can governments deal with the problem?  And what pressure can be placed on governments who refuse to address it?

Little by little, a groundswell of support is rising, helped by the growing awareness that while we might have different creeds and nationalities, women should be protected throughout the world regardless of their age, status or stage of development.


2.   Ireland’s excellent maternal mortality rate record.

I think this one is worth celebrating everyday, but today it’s especially important.  To listen to some commentators, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ireland must surely languish at the bottom of international ratings in this area.  Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the most recent Report carried out by the World Health Organisation in 2010, Ireland has the lowest MMR in the world.    Irish doctors give such good care to women while they’re pregnant that their record can barely be improved upon.  It’s worth noting too that the MMR of countries like the UK and Holland is much higher than in Ireland.  These are of course countries where abortion is freely available, so it’s availability is certainly no guarantee that a pregnant woman won’t die.

Just recently we saw the results of the Daily Telegraph’s undercover operation in the UK, showing doctors who were willing to end life because the baby on the way was the “wrong” gender.  They showed a real detachment from  the value of what was at stake.  In Ireland, this simply can’t happen.  Irish doctors don’t just treat the pregnant woman they can see; they treat the hidden patient whose right to life is protected by law.  Bound to consider both patients, they have achieved a record in the area of MMR that is second to none.  We’re a world leader in this area and today is a good day to say Thank You to our doctors for the excellent care they give on a daily basis.


3.   The women who share. 

How does it feel to have an abortion?  Go through the experience – physical and emotional?

One aspect of the debates which is always of concern is the question of whether or not abortion has a negative effect on the woman concerned.  I don’t want to go into the various studies here because it’s not in the nature of this “celebration” post, (and I’ll certainly deal with it in later posts).  What I will say is that if abortion has a negative experience on even one woman, then it’s one woman too many.

Inflict guilt on a woman?  Make her feel depressed, worried, anxious, suicidal, bereft, useless?  These are all feelings reported by post-abortive women at one time or another.  And I have to wonder – why do we as women allow something so destructive to have any place in our society?  The argument is often put that pro-life campaigners invoke these feelings; that the stigma arises due to opposition to abortion.  But that’s just not true.

Abortion is one of the most insidious, destructive forces there is.  It doesn’t need any help from either side of the debate because the most destructive effect of all – guilt – comes from the woman herself.  It only dissipates through compassion from other people, people prepared to make the time and space to help post-abortive women realise that they’re every bit as much a victim of the abortion culture.  It takes people who are willing to listen, accept and validate the feelings of the woman.  Most importantly of all, it takes people who are determined to make her feel that she is not alone and that there is a future for every woman after abortion.  In short, it takes people like the courageous and generous women who set up the WomenHurt group last year.  Regardless of how desperate a woman may be feeling, she can be assured that they will treat her with compassion and respect.

Everyone with an interest in women’s welfare owes them a massive debt and it is only right that they should be highlighted today.


4.   The women who care

For any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy, the future is a scary place.  It’s hard to have your plans disrupted, realise that something life-altering has happened.  Things seem even worse if poverty or a difficult/broken relationship are added to the mix.

The LIFE Pregnancy Care service has been offering help and support to women who find themselves in this situation for the past 30 years.  It is that rare gem in our society – a group which has worked mostly out of the limelight for all that time, providing a priceless service to women and their families at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

All counselling services are free and the LIFE motto is “Life cares for you both”.  Nonetheless, post-abortive counselling is also freely availed of by many women who choose to go ahead and have an abortion.

The Irish Independent ran a feature on LIFE earlier this week (read it here).  In such a changing society, LIFE has truly been a rock of security for many women. It’s only fitting that they should share in the celebrations leading up to today, having helped an unknown number of women throughout the years.


5.   The ongoing debate!

I make no secret of the fact that I’m opposed to abortion.  I don’t think it’s an experience that is ever in the best interests of the woman involved.  I truly believe that women deserve better than the fraudulent “choice” offered by abortion – one that seems to end up all too often in misery and sadness.  For this reason alone, I will always believe that we shouldn’t consider introducing it to our country.  Instead, we should be putting our energies into the things that will genuinely benefit women – dealing with poverty, childcare, maternity leave.  How many abortions take place, not because the woman in question doesn’t want to keep her child, but because she feels unable to do so because of some external pressure?  Isn’t this the real scandal, the real battle?

As feminists, why do we waste so much time on a procedure that doesn’t benefit women but may cause them harm?

Why do we support an industry which acquiesces in the targeting of baby girls on a global basis?

Why don’t we recognise the arguments in support of abortion for what they are – red herrings, trying to deflect us from our duty to ensure that every woman who considers an abortion is fully briefed on the potentially devastating effects that might follow?

Why don’t we just insist that our societies find some other way around the issue of unplanned pregnancies, something that will serve women better in the long run?

In spite of everything though, I’m hopeful about the ongoing debate.  There might be many voices with differing views, but the fact that we’re actually debating this issue can only be a good thing.  Debate leads to information which leads to knowledge.  Women don’t want any of the facts hidden from them.  Good or bad, they have a right to know exactly what abortion might mean for them.  An uninformed choice is no choice at all.

And thankfully too, the old myths surrounding abortion and feminism have long since evaporated.  Thanks to the work of groups like Feminists For Life, it’s becoming more obvious that pro-life is pro-woman.  The earliest feminists recognised abortion for what it was – just another means of placing an unacceptable burden on a woman’s shoulders; something that unjustly ended the life of her unborn child, and a procedure which should never be supported by anyone working towards the equality of women.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s hope that we can continue their great legacy and end the threat of abortion to women everywhere.


Gendercide In The UK – Who Knew?

How do you feel about the Daily Telegraph’s undercover investigation?

In the first video, a female doctor arranges an abortion for a patient who says that she’s pregnant with a baby girl who isn’t wanted due to the fact that the patient already has a girl.  It’s okay, the doctor assures her,  “I don’t ask questions. If you want a termination, you want a termination.”

In the second video, a male doctor expresses surprise that the sex of the baby could be used as a reason.  On hearing the reason for the abortion, he says quite openly, “That’s not fair”, and even goes further, likening the situation to “female infanticide”.  Despite his clear misgivings however, he too signs the paperwork to arrange the abortion – but he writes that the mother is “too young for pregnancy.”

To me, his initial reaction sounds about right – aborting a baby girl simply because she’s a girl isn’t fair, and it’s not something that we hear too much about, not in the First World anyway.

Thanks to an enlightening article by the Economist, published in March 2010, (read it here), we know that Gendercide is sadly alive and well in our world.  Baby girls are particularly at risk due to the fact that they carry far less importance in Asian countries.

China’s infamous one-child policy has added to the problem where families, only allowed to have one child, usually opt for a boy. (Of course, apart from any ethical issues, this practice leads to a host of social ills, not least the difficulties of an unbalanced society where millions of Chinese men will simply be unable to have a family of their own).

Even though a respected publication like the Economist considered Gendercide to be an problem important enough to use as it’s cover story, it’s still seen as a Third World issue and certainly nothing that might trouble the UK abortion industry.

The Feminist Perspective

It doesn’t seem to concern the feminist groups who campaign for abortion in Ireland either.  After a week which saw the launch of Action On X, a group intent on introducing legislation based on the X Case; a public meeting in the Gresham Hotel to discuss the issue; and the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Clare Daly TD, there was little or no reaction when the Daily Telegraph started producing the fruits of its investigation a day or so later.

I’m a feminist who believes that unborn human life deserves protection regardless of his/her sex.  Don’t the Irish feminists who are actively trying to introduce abortion legislation feel the need to condemn this blatant act of sexism against the most vulnerable females among us?  It seems to me that if you’re going to work towards introducing abortion in a country, then you should, at the very least, be prepared to comment on the stories that show the darker side of the debate.

But therein lies the problem, of course. What can a feminist say about the topic of gendercide? Only that it’s wrong. That it discriminates against the unborn on the grounds of gender. That it allows society to pick and choose the number of baby girls who should be allowed enter that society. Forget offices or gender quotas. This is the ultimate glass ceiling, but it’s also the one that the feminists-for-choice won’t dare consider. If they did, then they’d have to condemn an abortion on the grounds of gender and that would allow a leak to emerge in their supposedly watertight case in favour of an all-consuming right to choose.

After all, if abortion is unfair on grounds of gender, then it’s probably unfair on other grounds too – what about disability?   In the UK abortions are legal up to birth in the case of foetal abnormality. Which might sound serious, until you consider that a “foetal abnormality” can be something as minor as a cleft palate.

Leaving It To the Doctors

For myself, I had a different reaction watching these videos. In both cases – perhaps because I was watching them, seeing their reactions – I thought about the doctors involved. Neither seems particularly impressed about the fact that they’re being asked to end a life on the grounds of gender. Yes, I know the female doctor says “no questions asked” but the thing is, she does ask questions. It’s as if that’s her mantra, the part that protects her from getting too involved in what she’s doing. But sometimes actions speak louder than words. Her questions come in the raising of an eyebrow when the “patient” says “It’s the wrong gender”; in the pause, the look that follows her question “you’ve considered your options?” There’s something resigned about the way she turns back to the desk and shuffles her papers.  The male doctor, of course, is even more outspoken in his opposition.  But still not prepared to say no to the abortion.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that these videos emerged in the week marking the anniversary of Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s death. His name was synonymous with abortion for most of his life. He claimed to have been responsible for 75,000 abortions through those he performed himself and those performed by doctors trained by him. His story is perhaps compelling because he became a strong campaigner for the pro-life cause in the 1970s after watching an abortion take place on the newly-developed ultrasound of the time.

I mention him because I don’t think abortion just affects the women and babies involved. It’s effects spread wider like ripples on a pond.

When I saw these videos, I wondered how these doctors felt when they saw themselves, agreeing to something that – like it or not – forms part of the gendercide regime. Falsifying documents. Describing it as “female infanticide” but going ahead anyway. Certainly, if they were looking for support from those feminists who insist on a woman’s right to choose, they’d be waiting some time. Which, by the way, I’m quite happy about. By distancing themselves from this aspect of the debate, the pro-choice campaigners have exposed the shocking hypocrisy of their argument. Abortion is alright, on any grounds, on any circumstances. Just as long as there’s a medical profession who’ll pick up the pieces and feel obliged to go along with the “choice” on offer. The unborn baby girl doesn’t even register on their radar.

Gendercide  - or “Family Balancing”?

They shouldn’t wait for guidance from the industry either.  In the wake of these videos,Dr Paula Franklin, the Medical Director of Marie Stopes International gave an interview where she appeared to condemn gendercide that takes place in cultures where baby boys are more highly valued, but then went on to happily describe a situation that she called “Family Balancing”, where families who have had a few boys decide that they don’t want any more.  She was quick to say that abortion on grounds of gender is illegal.  The law is clear, she said, and doctors who arrange abortions on grounds of gender are breaking the law.

But her own words weren’t very clear.  Is Gendercide wrong, but Family Balancing acceptable?  What’s the difference?  Dr. Franklin seemed to think that it depends on the culture, which is a bit strange when you consider that feminists have been working for years to achieve a situation where females acquire rights regardless of their culture.

My main sympathy in this piece, surprisingly, is with the doctors. Doctors have a vocation to help and heal. When a woman presents with an unplanned pregnancy, their natural instinct is to guide her, support her, and comfort her while they guide her to the further professional help that she needs.

So why do I feel for the doctors? Because the abortion industry in the UK has left them unable to do their job. Instead of saving life, they’re expected to end it. Expected to ignore the questions that their training and their humanity demands of them. Expected to lie and think nothing of it.  Expected to treat abortion as just another service, instead of the ethical quagmire that it represents.  Expected to shore up the knowledge of what they’re really doing until – who knows? One day they crack or perhaps, like the late Dr. Nathanson, they take a closer look at that scan which today comes in 4-D and shows unborn babies yawning, smiling and moving around.

Abortion has been legal in the UK since 1967.  Many doctors practising today don’t know any other culture apart from one that allows them to end unborn human life at the stroke of a pen.  If they listened to Dr. Franklin, they’d think that their only crime was acting in a way that isn’t “appropriate”.  No wonder they don’t know how to react when gendercide presents itself in their office, thousand of miles from the Third World but deserving exactly the same answer – a resounding “No” to the injustice, sexism and extreme unfairness involved.

As usual, abortion demands too much of our doctors.  Just like women, babies, and the whole of society, they deserve better.

Petition Against Gendercide

You can sign the Pro Life Campaign’s online petition against Gendercide here.