It is a sad irony that as we are about to mark 40 years since the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in the Roe v Wade decision resulting in the death of 55 million babies in the womb since 1973, the government of Ireland has begun the process to legalize abortion on demand with its Health Minister James O’Reilly promising to ram through legislation by the end of this month. It is worth reflecting how this has come about, how many have been misled into thinking such a move is necessary, and whether this could become Ireland’s Roe v Wade.
Ireland’s 1861 Offences Against the Person Act makes abortion unlawful, and multiple national referenda throughout the 20th and 21st centuries have reaffirmed this. Despite the referenda, through regulation and litigation, exceptions have been granted for women to travel to England for the purposes of procuring an abortion.
In the 2011 election in Ireland, the Fine Gael Party, issued a written pledge to voters that it would not introduce abortion legislation. This promise secured tens of thousands of votes for them and helped the party become the senior partner in the current coalition government along with the rabidly pro-abortion but much smaller Labor Party. Until three months ago, it appeared Ireland would remain a safe harbor.
Alas, much has changed.
On October 28, 2012, Dr. Savita Halappanavar tragically died at University Hospital Galway from multiple organ failure after septicemia set in while miscarrying her baby 17 weeks into her pregnancy. Dr. Halappanavar’s husband claims she was denied an abortion to save her life. Dr. Halappanavar’s miscarriage and illness have been abused in a shameful manner by all who fanatically want abortion on demand legalized in Ireland against the will of the great majority of its people. How did people of so many countries rise up, almost simultaneously in protest over something for which an official inquest has yet to begin? The whole worldwide campaign smacked heavily of orchestration and that prepared in advance. Was it? The official inquest will begin later this month, so more facts will likely be known in the coming weeks. Let us hope the answers come in time to save the lives of many thousands of unborn Irish children.
Unfortunately, Dr. Halappanavar’s death triggered a panicked frenzy among abortion-on-demand activists and politicians desperate to keep their majority governing coalition intact, fueled by the hysterics of the Irish media, in particular the Irish Times. The aforementioned coalition have used this tragedy to create a platform for the abortion-on-demand agenda in Ireland, based on propaganda and lies about the care which women receive in Irish maternity hospitals. In reality, maternity care for women in Ireland is among the best in the world. Such coalitions engaged in similar lies and deception in the United States during Norma Jean McCorvey’s pregnancy in 1973, and certainly when the pro-abortion forces presented her case as Roe v Wade before the Supreme Court.
The whole abortion debate presently underway in Ireland, like the case in the United States 40 years ago, is now driven by a lie created to foster a culture of death on a population that has always voted against abortion in multiple national referenda. In particular, women in Ireland have been falsely led to believe that their maternity hospitals are dangerous places. Of course the hysteria has also caused tremendous damage to Ireland’s reputation abroad with global headlines suggesting that Dr. Halappanavar died because she was denied an abortion in “backward and out-of-touch” Catholic Ireland.
In this debate, the loudest and most prominent voices are those that have hijacked the tragic death of Dr. Halappanavar for their own ends, such as Ireland’s radically pro-abortion National Women’s Council. The likes of the National Women’s Council have gone from insisting on official guidelines from the Irish government for exactly when abortion is permitted to save the mother’s life to allowing abortion in the instances of when a woman threatens suicide, to permitting abortion-inducing pills, to the legalization of abortion on demand. Clearly, they are more interested in advancing their own radical pro-abortion agenda than protecting the lives of women in Ireland.
What is very clear is that public opinion has only shifted in favor of abortion because of Dr. Halappanavar’s case. It is doubtful whether the people of Ireland would have changed had they not been told lies by an pro-abortion agenda-driven media.
To correct the false information it is important to clearly state the following indisputable facts. Ireland remains one of the safest places in the world for a mother to give birth, this has been so consistently over the years. Maternal deaths are rare in Ireland, and Ireland, without abortion, is one of the safest places in the world for a mother to have a baby – a fact praised by the UN. When a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby. Dr. Halappanavar’s death had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she was not given an abortion with even UK doctors acknowledging that had she been given an abortion she would still have died.
The media tsunami also had another objective: to demonize the position of the Catholic Church on abortion and present it as lacking compassion. This is exactly why the initial story suggested that it was the “Catholic ethos” of the hospital that prevented responsible treatment of the mother. This lie was then quickly spread around the globe in the hysterical reporting of the case. The journalists conveniently ignored the fact that the Health Minister ( himself pro-abortion) urged the public not to pre-judge the tragedy and adding that he had absolutely no evidence to suggest that the tragedy had anything to do with “Catholic ethos”. The media also ignored the comments of the local Fine Gael member of parliament who explained that the hospital was not run or managed by any religious order and did not have a “Catholic ethos”. The media also ignored the fact that this was the first case of its kind at the hospital and that the hospital had never had a complaint about maternal care.
Pro-abortion advocates argue there are cases, many tragic cases, where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. Dr. Halappanavar’s tragedy gave brief credence to this assumption. However, international leaders in obstetrics and gynecology, reporting in the recent Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare confirm “…the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women”. While advocates claim that we must legislatively codify into statute the 1992 X-case ruling (which allowed a 14 year old rape victim to travel to England for an abortion) to allow for termination of pregnancy there has been no detailed medical discussion as to when this is actually needed. There is no discussion around the existing medical practices that provide for all necessary treatment that a mother may need, even with the possibility the child may die while treating the mother. However, what is at issue- and what is crucial- is whether, and in what cases- direct killing of the child will be permitted under the new legislation. This will soon be known through a report issued by the Committee on Health and Children, that will serve as the basis for the probably-already-written legislation and regulation whose approval will be rammed through before any thoughtful consideration or input from the people of Ireland.
Unlike the instance of the Roe v Wade fiat in which the Supreme Court in the United States forced abortion on demand on the American people, the people of Ireland have a unique opportunity to yet again defeat the Culture of Death. This latest effort to institute abortion on demand in Ireland can be defeated by organizing the largest-ever public education and lobbying campaign, uniting the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church in the North, pro-life organizations and elected officials, and using cutting edge strategies and tactics. Should legislation and regulation pass despite our best efforts, the same campaign will be initiated in favor of a referendum overturning the actions of the parliament. And in the next national election, an information campaign will be initiated to defeat those members of parliament who supported opening the door to abortion on demand in Ireland.
With the prayers support of those around the world who have valiantly fought to defend unborn children in their own countries, Ireland will continue to protect the lives of children and uphold the dignity of women in Ireland.
Anthony Murphy is the Editor of The Catholic Voice newspaper, based in Dublin, Ireland.