Whose rights? A submission on the 8th amendment

Like suicide, abortion is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, not one that we can honestly recommend, if we care about women or children.

There is a tremendous sadness and loneliness in the cry ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg. Frederica Mathewes-Green

We all know that no one leaves the abortion clinic skipping. Equally, I’ve never heard someone say they regretted having a child, no matter how tragic and desperate the circumstances. An abortion is always a tragedy- a tiny life is snuffed out, a woman, temporarily relieved perhaps, but left with wounds, be they physical or psychological, whether consciously or unconsciously, acknowledged or suppressed.

Rights of the Child

We all know from biology class, that a fetus, no matter how small, has its own DNA from the moment of conception, and as such, is a separate person from its mother. By making abortion, i.e. the intentional killing of a baby, legally available, we would pit women’s rights against their children’s in denying the basic human right to life the underpins all others.

We have recently strengthened children’s rights in Ireland, Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Act 2012 in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1992), so how can we take away this most fundamental of rights?

Think about these four general principles that underpin all children’s rights in relation to abortion:
Non-discrimination means that all children have the same right to develop their potential in all situations and at all times. For example, every child should have equal access to education regardless of the child’s gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, parentage, sexual orientation or other status
The best interests of the child must be “a primary consideration” in all actions and decisions concerning a child, and must be used to resolve conflicts between different rights. For example, when making national budgetary decisions affecting children, Government must consider how cuts will impact on the best interests of the child
The right to survival and development underscores the vital importance of ensuring access to basic services and to equality of opportunity for children to achieve their full development. For example, a child with a disability should have effective access to education and health care to achieve their full potential
The views of the child mean that the voice of the child must be heard and respected in all matters concerning his or her rights. For example, those in power should consult with children before making decisions that will affect them.

Rights of Women

Women’s right have come a long way in the last century in Ireland – I am very glad of the right to vote, and to own property, and to equal pay for equal work. However, at some point, it seems the desire for equal treatment as women became confused with the desire to become the same as men. While feminists in the 1960’s believed that legal access to abortion was a necessary evil to allow women to compete equally in a male-dominated world, in fact legalizing this evil can also be seen as profoundly anti-woman. Look at the reasons women opt for abortion, as one typical longitudinal study in the US found:
• financial reasons (40%),
• timing (36%),
• partner related reasons (31%), and
• the need to focus on other children (29%).

Note that all of these issues are social, with health issues down the list, and extreme cases at the very end. These are issues which can be resolved in much more caring and life-affirming ways than a quick fix abortion. Legal abortion actually supports anti-motherhood social attitudes and policies and limits respect for women’s citizenship; it perpetuates uncaring male-dominated society. Women come to think of pregnancy and parenting as obstacles to full participation in education and the workplace.

These attitudes translate into simplistic slogans such as ‘My body, my choice’, attempting to posit a right to abortion on a fundamentally flawed premise – that the baby is not a person. (If anything, that slogan actually suggests the right to suicide.) Each baby is a wholly separate person from its mother: with different DNA, different fingerprints, with possibly a different blood type or the opposite sex. The baby is a person living within a person and not “the mother’s body”. I find it so ironic that we fight against the violence of female genital mutilation (FGM), while at the same time fight for the violence of abortion as a right??

I believe that a woman should have the right to protection in pregnancy; she should have the right to every support necessary to give the child its life, and every support to ensure the child’s survival is she is unable to care for him/her. This includes supports such as peri-hospice care and open adoption. No woman should be left with the ‘choice’ of abortion.

Impact on society

In Ireland, we are discussing the repeal of the 8th Amendment, which by protecting the unborn child, has prevented abortion from becoming widespread here. A study has shown that it has probably protected more than 100,000 people from being killed since 1983, and that is a conservative estimate.  In all likelihood, each of us know someone whom the 8th Amendment protected.
In the same period, abortion, legalised in many countries with the understanding that it would be safe and rare, has in fact resulted in millions of deaths in England and throughout Europe. While the estimated abortion rate for Ireland is 1 in 20 pregnancies, the abortion rate in England is 1 abortion in every 5 pregnancies; i.e. 20% of pregnancies end in abortion.


Access tends to be steadily expanded as abortion becomes increasing accepted and then available on demand, and then becomes seen as a ‘right’ with growing numbers of abortions as a result. In France, the number of abortions in 2013 increased by 4,7 % over 2012, from 207 000 to 217 0006, following a government decision to allow 100% reimbursement of abortions. As it stands, the average abortion rate among the 47 members of the council of Europe is 1 in 3, i.e. one pregnancy out of every three is ended by abortion; last year that meant that 4.5 million babies never saw the light of day – that is about the population of Ireland.

As a result of its policies on abortion, much of Europe is facing what is called a demographic winter.. European nations simply do not have enough children to sustain ourselves. It seems we have succeeded in raising generations of men and women who fear pregnancy and parenting rather welcoming them, despite our growing prosperity. Only Ireland is at replacement level in Europe. And once a nation falls below replacement level, efforts to reverse that trend have not yet proven successful. This parallels what is happening in China and Japan – where adult nappies outsold baby nappies for the first time in 2012.

Much media attention is directed at the ‘injustice’ of Irish women being ‘forced’ to travel abroad to access abortion. In the face of the enormous human crisis caused by abortion, this is really a ridiculous quibble. Abortion tourism happens wherever one jurisdiction is more liberal than its neighbours. Norway has recently legalised pregnancy reduction- where one child can be killed in the womb leaving the other to survive. As a result, there are fears of abortion tourism from Sweden and Denmark.
And by the way, sex tourism happens for the same reason. Airports in the Netherlands were carrying notices urging people to report underage sex tourists in Asia. Should we legalise underage sex in Europe just to prevent this?


Like suicide, abortion is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, not one that we can honestly recommend, if we care about women or children.

The 8th amendment is a good a law as can be imagined for protecting both women and children in crisis pregnancies. If we add to it sufficient supports for women in difficult circumstances, then it would be for the good of all.

No-one really WANTS abortion, ever.

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