‘Pro-choice’ lobby sanitised discussion on abortion Bill
Anti-abortion protesters with graphic anti-abortion posters outside the Dáil during the debate on the Protection of Life Bill. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Are de facto proponents of abortion entitled to be squeamish about the nature of the consequences their activism is likely to deliver to Irish society?
This question surfaced in a rather graphic fashion this week, arising from the contribution by Senator Jim Walsh to the Seanad debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. A headline in this newspaper describing the occasion declared: “The air froze in the chamber: Walsh’s input was disgusting.”
The account underneath related in sympathetic terms how Senator Ivana Bacik walked out of the chamber. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said Walsh’s contribution was inappropriate and over the top. “I hope we don’t hear much more of this language. Irrespective of the opinions and points of view that people have on the issue, I think that by and large it has been expressed in a restrained and reasonable way.”
But if someone doesn’t believe a “foetus” has human properties what’s to be upset about in hearing the process of its elimination described?
Would any of those who objected to Walsh’s speech object to the publication of a graphic account of a rape in the report of a court hearing?
A year ago Fintan O’Toole wrote a column in which he challenged those whom he described as the “lunatic fringe” among anti-abortion campaigners to take their own rhetoric more seriously.
“If they really believe what they purport to believe – that a fertilised ovum is a human being in exactly the same sense as Nelson Mandela or Lady Gaga or the pope,” he avowed, “they are disgracefully moderate” in the face of what he said was in effect the obliteration of the equivalent of the population of Limerick over the past decade.
Yet Walsh stands accused of being, in effect, disgracefully immoderate. Because he takes his own logic to its reasonable conclusion he is deemed not to be sufficiently “restrained”.
How, then, can pro-life people avoid being either disgracefully moderate or the opposite?
I took part recently in a radio debate about the politics of the Protection of Human Life During Pregnancy Bill, along with two female journalists, both of whom repeatedly used the word “conservative” to describe Lucinda Creighton’s position on the Bill. I pointed out that this manner of depicting the issue circumvents the fact that those who oppose abortion do so because they regard the child in the womb as a human person. If this is your position there is nothing “conservative” about opposing abortion.