There are very few laws it can be said with certainty save lives. The 8th Amendment is one:
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right”.
The 8th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland recognized the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. It was approved by referendum on 7 September 1983, by 67%.
The 13th Amendment, permitting travel to obtain abortion in another jurisdiction, was approved by 62%. The 14th Amendment, permitting information about services in other countries, was approved by 60%.
THE 8TH AMENDMENT GIVES TIME TO THINK THINGS THROUGH
Mary Kenny’s story represents the experiences of countless families in Ireland today. There are so many stories of mothers and parents who contemplated abortion only to change their minds at the last minute. Many people openly say they owe the life of their child to the 8th Amendment.
Having to travel to England meant a few extra days planning and gave them the time to think things through a bit more and decide against abortion. Today, they cannot believe they ever entertained the idea of ending the life of the son or daughter who now means the world to them.
Ireland’s life-saving 8th Amendment doesn’t deserve the criticism and ridicule it receives in certain quarters. It has served as a beacon at a time when other countries legalised abortion in wide-ranging circumstances. Ireland has shown it’s possible to prohibit abortion and still be a world leader in protecting the lives of pregnant women.
No country is perfect but we have every reason to be immensely proud of our pro-life laws. As a society, instead of dismantling the 8th Amendment, we should be pooling our energies. We need to work together to create a more welcoming and life-affirming environment for expectant mothers and their unborn babies.
100,000 LIVES SAVED BY THE 8th AMENDMENT
A recent independently produced actuarial report compared the number of Irish women who travel abroad to avail of abortion, to abortion rates in other EU countries. It concluded that the 8th Amendment has saved at least 100,000 lives in the last two decades. That’s 1 in every 50 people in Ireland or the population of Co. Kilkenny.
When examined closely, the call for repeal of the 8th Amendment is an extremely radical proposal. Usually referendums add protection to human rights. Repeal of the 8th Amendment, however, would strip the unborn child of all meaningful protections.
LAWS SHAPE OUR BEHAVIOR
Every abortion-on-demand regime began as “restrictive” but once the door to legalised abortion was unlocked it was only a matter of time until the grounds for abortion were widened. Over time, abortion becomes normalised. Laws shape our behavior. We’ve all seen how attitudes to smoking and wearing safety belts have shifted after changes to the law.
The same would happen in Ireland if the 8th Amendment were removed. 1 in 5 pregnancies are aborted in England and Wales, France and Spain – this is 300% more than the Irish rate. Other countries have learned there is no such thing as “restrictive” abortion. Let’s not make the same mistake.
The statistics from the British Department of Health are eye-opening: 1 in every 5 pregnancies in England end in abortion. This figure does not include women who live outside England. The figure for women living in Ireland is listed separately: it is 1 in 19 pregnancies ending in abortion.
No less than 191,014 abortions were carried out in England and Wales in 2015. Of these, a staggering 98% were performed for social reasons and 37% were performed on women who had at least one previous abortion.
90% OF BABIES DIAGNOSED WITH DOWN SYNDROME IN BRITAIN ARE ABORTED
In Britain, 90% of babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted. Abortion is legal in Britain for any detectable disability through all nine months of pregnancy. In Denmark there is a goal to make it a Down syndrome free country by 2030. In Iceland, shockingly, they have already reached that target.
Once the right to life itself is surrendered, not surprisingly, the most vulnerable and dependent human lives are the first to be discriminated against.
In Ireland, we have a culture of equality and inclusion that we can be proud of. This is particularly evident in the work of the Special Olympics. With over 9,000 athletes and a network of 25,000 volunteers, it is now one of the largest and most successful voluntary organisations in Ireland.
Let’s continue to improve outcomes and quality of life for people with disabilities. This is a much more inclusive approach.
BETRAYAL OF WOMEN
Women contemplating abortion are told that their unborn child is nothing more than a “clump of cells”. They are encouraged not to look at the ultrasound monitor when receiving counseling before the abortion. That is the accepted routine practice of those who facilitate abortion.
Women do not hear how in some cases their unborn child will be dismembered or have his/her life ended with an injection into the heart. If abortion is such an acceptable procedure, why the suppression of such basic information?
In truth, the only way the case for abortion can be sustained is through deep denial and euphemisms like “choice” that conceal what it actually involves. It is a significant human rights abuse of women systematically to withhold from them vital information about the development and humanity of their unborn child. It is also wrong to conceal from them the possible adverse mental health after effects of the abortion on them. This gives the lie to the pro-choice mantra about “trusting women” to make an “informed” decision on whether or not to proceed with an abortion.
IMPACT OF ABORTION ON WOMEN’S MENTAL HEALTH
Medical research, far from confirming that abortion protects women’s mental health, has failed to find any benefit to women from abortion. Although there are hundreds of thousands of abortions performed annually on mental health grounds in Britain, there is no evidence that abortion improves the mental health of women.
Many peer-reviewed studies however, confirm the testimony of post-abortive women that abortion itself heightens the risk of future mental health problems. And there is comprehensive longitudinal research showing that women who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide compared to all women of reproductive age.
At the core of the campaign for repeal of the 8th Amendment is a systemic denialism about the extent and strength of the peer-reviewed research. This reluctance extends to suppressing the voices of groups like Women Hurt, which brings together women who regret their abortions.
A BABY’S HEART BEATS JUST 21 DAYS AFTER
In 1967, when the abortion law was introduced in Britain, people could have pleaded ignorance about the humanity of the unborn child. Today, we don’t have this excuse. Most of us have seen the amazing ultrasound pictures of our own children or those of family members.
Moreover, the scans, pioneered by Professor Stuart Campbell at London’s Create Health Clinic, are much more detailed than conventional ultrasound. Professor Campbell’s technique records foetal movement in real time. As a result of this, we know that the baby’s heart starts beating at 21 days. At just six weeks, the baby’s eyes and eyelids, nose, mouth, and tongue have formed. Electrical brain activity can be detected at six or seven weeks, and by the end of the eighth week, all the baby’s organs are developing. By ten weeks the child can make bodily movements. At 12 weeks the baby can be seen sucking its thumb and wiggling in the womb.
The amazing advances in ultrasound technology illuminate the truth that the unborn child is a human being – a human life with potential, not a potential human life.
FEELING PRESSURED TO “CHOOSE” ABORTION
Some families of babies diagnosed with life-limiting conditions are devastated at the pressure they came under from medical professionals to abort their child. They say the only “choice” they were given was experienced by them as pressure, often in a cold and very unsympathetic manner.
In one case, a mother was told her daughter had a “fatal foetal abnormality” with zero chance of making it to birth. Sinead Mc Breen, from Co. Cavan says: “We were pressured to abort Grace and told by medical staff ‘why are you carrying on with this pregnancy – it’s not going anywhere?’ I was made feel like a foolish mum and told that I already had healthy children at home and that we should go for a termination to a ‘sister hospital’ in England”. In the end she decided not to abort Grace who was born with Down Syndrome but with none of the life-limiting conditions doctors said with certainty the baby would have.
Stories like this are not isolated. If this is already happening with the 8th Amendment in place, how much worse would the pressure be on parents to abort if the 8th Amendment is dismantled?
COMPASSIONATE CARE IN CASES OF “FATAL FOETAL ABNORMALITY”
The term “fatal foetal abnormality” is a loaded term. It is meant to indicate how a number of conditions (e.g. anencephaly, Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 18) are necessarily “fatal” for children either in the womb or almost immediately after birth. The reality is different. Almost one in ten children born with one of the Trisomy conditions live for a year or longer, in rare cases even into adulthood. They have been shown to have awareness of people around them, reaction to sounds, and the ability to learn and remember.
The debate about abortion where an unborn baby has a life-shortening condition is not a medical one. It is about how we look out for one another as a society. Anyone can have a disability, a handicap or a terminal illness and it can come in old age, middle age, in childhood or even before we are born. In each of these challenging situations we have to look after one another in a way that respects the dignity of every human life.
PERI-NATAL HOSPICE CARE
In Ireland today there are parents who have returned home after aborting their child with a terminal illness only to learn for the first time about the existence of peri-natal hospice care as an alternative to abortion.
Instead of pressuring parents to go down the road of abortion, health care professionals should be given additional resources to provide high quality palliative care and facilitate families in sharing those precious moments with their baby for whatever length of time he or she lives.
Each human being, regardless of age, dependency, gender, disability or circumstance, possesses a profound, inherent, equal and irreplaceable value and dignity. If as a society we arbitrarily decide to pick and choose which human lives are worthy or unworthy of protection in law, we diminish respect for all human life, born and unborn.