Frequently Asked Questions About Abortion
Firstly, the definition of abortion in the new legislation says nothing about healthcare or the intervention being necessary to treat a pregnant woman. It simply defines abortion as a procedure “intended to end the life” of an unborn baby. The aim of the legislation could not be clearer.
Secondly, before the Eighth Amendment was repealed, Ireland ranked in the top league in the world in terms of safety for pregnant women (1). The argument that Ireland without abortion put women’s lives at risk simply didn’t add up.
Thirdly, there is a huge ethical distinction between necessary medical interventions in pregnancy to treat the mother (where the baby may be exposed to some risks) and induced abortion where the life of the baby is directly and intentionally targeted.
Fourthly, numerous peer-reviewed studies confirm that rather than helping women, abortion itself heightens the risk of future mental health problems (2,3,4).
There is comprehensive longitudinal research showing that women who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide compared to all women of reproductive age (5,6).
At the core of the campaign in support of abortion is a systemic denialism about the extent and strength of the peer reviewed research debunking claims that abortion helps women’s health – a reluctance that extends to suppressing the voices of groups like Women Hurt, which consists of women who regret their abortions and wish to tell their stories.
Abortion was not introduced in Ireland to protect women’s health or lives. It was introduced to allow the lives of unborn babies to be ended. Everyone knows that’s the reality and it is misleading for pro-abortion activists to suggest otherwise.
- Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015, Estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division (2015)
- Abortion and mental health disorders: evidence from a 30-year longitudinal study, David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood and Joseph M. Boden, British Journal of Psychiatry, 2008, 193:444-451
- Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. Fergusson DM1, Horwood LJ, Ridder EM. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2006 Jan; 47(1):16-24.
- Pregnancy continuation and organizational religious activity following prenatal diagnosis of a lethal fetal defect are associated with improved psychological outcome. Cope H1, Garrett ME1, Gregory S2, Ashley-Koch A1. 2015 Aug; 35(8):761-8
- Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987–2000, Mika Gissler, Cynthia Berg, Marie-Hélène Bouvier-Colle, Pierre Buekens, European Journal of Public Health, (2005)
- Decreased suicide rate after induced abortion, after the Current Care Guidelines in Finland 1987-2012. Gissler M1, Karalis E2, Ulander VM2. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 2015; 43: 99-101 Comment: The research revealed that women had a 2-fold risk for suicide after an induced abortion, compared to all women of reproductive age. The authors state: “Neither were our data suitable for investigating whether an increased suicide rate after induced abortion is caused by common risk factors or by causality.”
No, it didn’t. Three independent reports from the HSE, HIQA and the Coroner’s Inquest all established that the actual cause of Savita Halappanavar’s death was a sepsis infection with a virulent antibiotic resistant strain of E Coli, compounded by a series of systems failures that delayed the realisation by her medical team of the gravity of the risk to her life, and the timely implementation of the appropriate responses to it.
To their credit the doctors treating Savita didn’t blame Ireland’s abortion laws for her death. They could have easily done so to deflect attention away from their mistakes, but they didn’t.
It was opportunistic abortion campaigners and journalists who dishonestly used the tragedy to push for abortion.
Those who peddled the distorted version of the story hardest from the start were happy to hardwire a false account into people’s minds to usher in abortion and they weren’t going to disturb the false presentation even when three official reports showed the real cause of the tragedy in Galway was mismanaged sepsis and not the non-availability of abortion in Ireland at the time.
It is disgraceful the way some people continue to link the Savita tragedy to Ireland’s abortion laws at the time of her death.
The media’s coverage of this case is proof, if it were needed, that journalism in Ireland is dead when it comes to reporting on the abortion issue.
Abortion supporters repeat the ‘trusting women’ slogan like a mantra as if they alone represented the voices of women.
If they genuinely trusted women, they’d be honest with them about what happens to the unborn baby during an abortion. And if they trusted women, they would inform them about the adverse effects of abortion on women.
Instead, women contemplating abortion are told their unborn baby is nothing more than a ‘clump of cells’. They are encouraged not to look at the ultrasound monitor, if an ultrasound is even taken before the abortion.
It is a significant human rights abuse of women to systematically withhold from them vital information about the development and humanity of their unborn baby and the possible adverse mental health after-effects of the abortion. It gives the lie to the ‘pro-choice’ line about ‘trusting women’ to make an ‘informed’ decision on whether to proceed with an abortion.
Firstly, there is the well-established peer-reviewed research highlighting the negative after-effects of abortion and the countless personal testimonies of women who have been through abortion.
Women Hurt is a support group for women who had an abortion and regret the decision. In a recent submission to the Government, they outlined the impact abortion has had on their lives.
The following is a brief extract from the submission:
“Nobody told us what life after abortion would be like. There is so much talk about the ‘right to choose’ but never anything about the actual abortion procedure itself. The heartbreak and pain of abortion for many women is also being totally suppressed in the present debate. We hear lots of talk about ‘women’s rights’ and wanting to give voice to the experiences of women. This rings very hollow to us. There are thousands of women suffering in silence after their abortions. We are here to reach out to them. Women deserve better than abortion. We also deserve better than State funded women’s groups only highlighting stories that fit in comfortably with a pro-abortion narrative. When pro-choice campaigners claim to speak for women who have had an abortion, they need to know they don’t speak for us or the countless women who deeply regret their abortions.”
Sure, you can say that an unborn baby is just a clump of cells. By the same token, so are infants, teenagers and adults. But it advances nothing to insist on describing human beings in such a reductionist way.
Every human being, regardless of age, dependency, gender, disability or circumstance, possesses a profound, inherent, equal and irreplaceable value and dignity. Each of us, as a vulnerable unborn baby, completed the journey from conception to birth.
An unborn baby’s heart starts beating by 3 weeks. In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy an unborn baby can be easily seen kicking and jumping on ultrasound scans. The baby’s fingernails and hair have already started growing. All the baby’s vital organs are formed. At this stage in development, the baby can yawn and even suck his or her thumb. The baby’s face is also visible at this stage.
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.
By adopting dehumanising terms like ‘clump of cells’ to describe an unborn baby, we diminish respect for all human life, born and unborn.
When we talk about confronting the reality of legalised abortion, we cannot airbrush the reality of the abortion procedure itself.
Without question we have a duty to approach the issue with sensitivity, mindful of those who may be suffering in silence from the after-effects of an abortion. But equally, we cannot bury the truth.
At the National Abortion Conference in San Francisco in 2015, leading abortionists were filmed talking about how, in order to protect the abortion industry, they are under pressure not to disclose details of their profession in public.
They were comfortable discussing such details among colleagues: the “violence” of what abortion does, “heads getting stuck” during the procedure, and expressions of unease about deliberately “inflicting pain” on the baby.
Another abortionist gave an account of an “eyeball” falling onto their lap during a procedure. The audience of abortionists laughed when the chairperson remarked that this was a sign that the abortion was going well.
Speaking at another pro-abortion conference called “Don’t Mention the ‘A’ Word”, British abortionist Dr John Parsons said:
“When you are doing termination procedures, especially later terminations, you are exposed to a rather gross, destructive process dealing with bits and pieces of foetuses, which are not very nice. That is why we are not keen on people observing abortions.
“I was recently asked if I would have a journalist join me at work, who wanted to write for the Daily Telegraph. After discussing with other people we decided this was probably not a terribly good idea because it does not really help women who have got to make this decision to hear how unpleasant it is. I am talking therefore really from a doctor’s point of view and explaining why doctors are not that enthusiastic about abortion.”
As distressing as it is to hear these truths about legalised abortion, it is part of what ‘confronting the reality of abortion’ is all about. Any serious debate on this life and death issue requires facing the brutal reality, not turning away from it or sanitising it.
There are very few laws that can be said with certainty saved lives. The Eighth Amendment was one.
The fact that it became politically divisive was simply the result of strident ‘pro-choice’ activists attacking and undermining it from the very day it was enshrined in the Constitution.
The reality however is that there are over 100,000 Irish citizens alive today thanks to the life-saving Eighth Amendment.
An independently produced actuarial report (1) compared the number of Irish women who travelled abroad to avail of abortion, to abortion rates in other EU countries. It concluded that at least 100,000 lives have been saved from abortion by the Eighth Amendment in the last two decades. That’s 1 in every 50 people in Ireland or the population of Co. Kilkenny.
Many people involved in the pro-life movement today openly say they owe the life of their child to the Eighth 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.
Some of these children are very well known to members of the pro-life movement. When you get to know someone personally who was nearly aborted, it has a profound impact on the way you see the issue. When you meet a son or daughter who was nearly aborted, you’re not meeting a ‘choice’, you’re meeting a child with the same potential and right to be alive as you or me.
Ireland’s life-saving Eighth Amendment didn’t deserve the constant criticism and ridicule it received in the media. It served as a beacon of hope at a time when other countries legalised wide-ranging abortion. Ireland showed it was 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 the our pro-life laws that endured until 2018. With confidence and resolve, we will work towards the day when expectant mums and their unborn babies are once again protected in law.
Rape is a vicious and appalling crime. When a woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape it is an immensely difficult and agonising situation for her and tests our true compassion and solidarity as a society. Indeed, abortion may be the easy solution for everybody except the woman and her unborn child. The fact that it involves the taking of an innocent unborn baby and exposes the woman to emotional hurt and possible long-term psychological harm is constantly overlooked by pro-choice campaigners.
The landmark Roe v Wade decision, which legalised abortion in the United States, showed how abortion advocates use highly emotive cases like rape to open the door to wide-ranging abortion. The same happened in Ireland. Hard cases from one side of the debate were used continually to get repeal across the line. The net result is abortion on demand in Ireland.
Norma Mc Corvey (Jane Roe from Roe v. Wade), who died recently, admitted she was exploited by pro-abortion campaigners and then quickly abandoned once they successfully used her case to get abortion legalised. Up until her death in 2017, Norma campaigned publicly against the abortion law in the US that resulted from her case.
Ryan Bomberger is a human rights campaigner. He was born following rape and publicly thanked his birth mum for giving him life. Ryan has movingly said: “We’re all wanted by someone.”
Heather Gemmen faced a horrendous situation when she became pregnant after rape. In her book Startling Beauty she tells how relieved she is that she gave birth to her daughter Rachael: “So much of my anguish was in deciding what to do with the pregnancy. Now I know that going through with it brings healing.” Her daughter Rachael, she says, “is the epitome of joy.”
Every pregnancy following rape is a Ryan or a Rachael. Their stories and others like them deserve to be heard in the abortion debate. Each child conceived in rape is one of us, smaller and hidden from view like every unborn child, but equally a person. The child is absolutely innocent of their father’s crime. They are not a part of their mother’s body, or responsible for their father’s character.
Seeking stronger sentences for rapists and real justice for those who are victims of rape is surely a more just way to proceed than campaigning for the right to end the life of an utterly innocent child?
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.
The term “fatal foetal abnormality” is grossly misleading (1). It is intended to indicate how in a number of conditions (e.g. anencephaly, Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 18) the baby will die either in utero or almost immediately after birth. But doctors have no way of knowing how long a child diagnosed with one of these conditions will live.
They could live for months and even years after birth. Studies have found over 70% of children conceived with anencephaly have live births, with roughly a third of these babies living for at least two days (2,3).
Almost one in ten children born with one of the Trisomy conditions live for a year or longer, in rare cases even into adulthood (4). They have been reported to show awareness of people around them, to react to sound, and to learn and remember.
Instead of parents feeling pressured to go down the road of abortion, health care professionals should be given additional resources to provide high quality palliative care to facilitate families in sharing those precious moments with their baby for whatever length of time he or she lives (5).
- Fatally flawed? A review and ethical analysis of lethal congenital malformations. Wilkinson DJ1, Thiele P, Watkins A, De Crespigny L. BJOG. 2012 Oct;119(11):1302-8
- “Incompatible with Life’: Does Article 40.3.3 Permit Abortion for “Fatal Foetal Abnormality’?” Simons, Caroline, BCL LLM Medico-Legal Journal of Ireland, 2015, 21(1), 11-4
- Monika Jaquier, Report about the birth and life of babies with anencephaly’ (2006), www.anencephalie-info.org/e/report.php,M Jaquier, A Klein, E Bolthauser, ‘Spontaneous pregnancy outcome after prenatal diagnosis of anencephaly’ (2006) 113(8) British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 951-953.
- Zoler, Mitchel L. (2003) “Trisomy 13 survival can exceed 1 year”, OB/GYN News.
- Evaluation of the Children’s Palliative Care Programme (CPCP) A jointly funded programme of work arising from Palliative Care for Children with Life-limiting, Conditions – A National Policy, SUMMARY REPORT, Dr Joanne Jordan GEN Research & Deirdre Fullerton Insights Health and Social Research, (2016)
Before the Eighth Amendment was repealed, the purchase of abortion pills online was not unique to Ireland. It also happens in countries where abortion has been legal for years. It’s a public health issue that every jurisdiction must contend with.
Abortion facilities in Britain – where abortion has been readily available for years – have complained that “staggering” numbers of illegal abortion pills are still being used there (1). The introduction of abortion on demand in Ireland will not prevent the use of illegal abortion pills.
The excuse that it was necessary to take away the right to life of unborn babies because of the advent of abortion pills on the internet is dishonest and completely illogical, given that such a premise would require the legalisation of every single illicit substance which might be available to buy online, no matter how damaging, dangerous or inappropriate it might be.
For example, the sale or supply of heroin, cocaine or ecstasy is not legal in Ireland but anyone who wishes to access them can do so without great difficulty. No one is seriously suggesting that just because these dangerous drugs can be accessed by the public that we should legalise them for anyone who wants them. It’s the responsibility of the Medicines Board and the customs authorities to monitor this area. It did not necessitate the introduction of wide-ranging abortion in Ireland.
Tellingly, before proposing the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment, the Government never issued as much as a single public health and safety warning against the use of illegal abortion pills.
Yet, out of the blue, we were told we needed to change the Constitution and do away with all legal protections for unborn babies in order to address the abortion pills problem. It was one of countless lies told by repeal campaigners trying to woo voters into voting for abortion.
Some families of babies diagnosed with life-limiting conditions, for example, have been 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.
At a time when they desperately needed genuine help and support to carry them through the crisis, they felt they were being pushed to opt for abortion.
Several of these families have spoken publicly about their cases. In Sinead Mc Breen’s case, she was told her daughter Grace had a “fatal foetal abnormality” with zero chance of making it to birth.
Sinead 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.”
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. More and more families are coming forward to talk about similar experiences.
It is appalling that this creeping insensitivity and pressure to abort now exists. It amounts to doctors making value judgements on which lives are worthy of protection and which ones are not. It very clearly crosses a line from duty of care towards every patient, to adopting what can only be described as a eugenic mentality.
It is not just in the area of disability that women and families feel the pressure to opt for abortion. We cannot bury our heads in the sand about this reality. It needs to be publicly acknowledged and discussed.