Brutal description of abortion necessary in sanitised debate of half-truths

James Reilly is about to bring in abortion - it is wrong to ignore the disturbing facts

Those of a pro-life ethos must be allowed to articulate a defence of the defenceless. Photograph: Alan Betson

Those of a pro-life ethos must be allowed to articulate a defence of the defenceless. Photograph: Alan Betson


Given how the abortion debate has developed in recent months, I was not surprised by the reaction to aspects of my speech in the Seanad last week.

The vast majority of media commentary has simply repeated the Government spin that its abortion legislation is “extremely restrictive” and has written off any contrary position as scaremongering.

Few in the media seem to consider for a second the distinct possibility that the new law could, over time, lead to wide-ranging abortion.

Some commentators and parliamentarians may genuinely believe the legislation is strictly confined to life-saving interventions to safeguard the lives of pregnant women. However, deep down, many must know the reality will be quite different.

I knew my speech would be criticised but chose to make it because the debate has been dominated by sanitised half-truths and comforting fictions. One of these fictions is that the Bill is “restrictive”. The unborn have neither a voice nor a vote, so if those of a pro-life ethos do not articulate the protection of their innocent, vulnerable status, their cause is conceded, to the shame of humanity.

Abortion on demand
A look at the experience of jurisdictions from California to New Zealand shows that laws almost identical to the one the Government is introducing have led to abortion on request.

This is why the Labour Party has campaigned so hard for 21 years for legislation based on the X case. Its spokespeople, from Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, have been quite clear they see the Bill as a stepping stone to abortion on request.

I make no apology for using graphic descriptions of abortion during the committee stage in the Seanad. The context in which I did so was seeking to ascertain what precise methods of abortion will be used under the new law.

The answers the Minister for Health gave were far from reassuring. Inexcusably, he was unable to confirm what abortion procedures will be allowed. All we know is the law he is bringing in permits terminations that are life-ending not life-saving. Indeed the abortion procedure is not in any way circumscribed.

If my descriptions were horrific and “disgusting”, what does that say about the procedure itself, a procedure that we are set to legalise?

I was mindful of trying not to add to the heartbreak of women who have been through the experience. I met with women from groups such as Women Hurt who pleaded with members of the Oireachtas to speak out about the devastating consequences of abortion and help end the spiral of silence about its brutality and what it inflicts on an innocent unborn child.

It’s perfectly legitimate for commentators and others to attack my speech. In a democracy, you expect that. But democracy functions better when all sides are scrutinised and criticised equally. That isn’t what is happening here.

Selective outrage
When a Senator last week described babies with a fatal foetal abnormality as “a cluster of cells which will develop into a large piece of tissue that will have no head, no brain, no spinal cord”, where was the outrage and condemnation from any newspaper? Where was the demand to correct this misleading description or to apologise to the families of babies who were born with this condition and loved for as long as they lived?

With the Government set to introduce abortion disguised as medical interventions, I believe that it is an appropriate time to describe the reality of what is being proposed.
Jim Walsh is a Fianna Fáil Senator

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