Breda O’Brien: No one ever asks when the foetus is due
A first step to accepting violence towards others is use of dehumanising language
‘It is no surprise that increasing numbers of parents, devastated by a dreadful prognosis for their little girl or boy in the womb, choose abortion.’ Photograph: iStock
By proposing the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and the effective abolition of rights for boys and girls in the womb up until the age of 12 weeks, the Oireachtas committee is being shamefully regressive.
When human rights are violated, there is usually a predictable process. One common step is dehumanisation, referring to humans in ways that obliterate their humanity.
Regarding abortion, we use a medical term for a stage of development instead of the simple word “baby”. Yet no one I know has yet been greeted by a friend with these words: “Congratulations. When is the foetus due?”
Similarly, one member of the Oireachtas committee described the early heartbeat as simply a pulsating tube.
Another tactic is to focus on the difficulties that individuals present for themselves or for society. This is particularly egregious when it involves disability. Recently, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) issued a sharp rebuke to the UN Human Rights Committee, which wants to create a right to abortion on the grounds of so-called fatal foetal abnormality.
The CRPD said: “Laws which explicitly allow for abortion on grounds of impairment violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
It added: “Often it cannot be said if an impairment is fatal. Experience shows that assessments on impairment conditions are often false. Even if it is not false, the assessment perpetuates notions of stereotyping disability as incompatible with a good life.”
It is no surprise that increasing numbers of parents, devastated by a dreadful prognosis for their little girl or boy in the womb, choose abortion. They are often surrounded by medical people whose immediate response is to suggest abortion.
They are failed by a system that still discriminates against people on the basis of ability. If they have the baby, they are likely to be treated kindly in the maternity hospital, but if the baby survives long enough to come home, they will be left cobbling together a threadbare patchwork of care at a time when they are already overwhelmed with grief.
Offering abortion as a way out instead of real, practical, ongoing support is part of a litany of State failures concerning children with disabilities and their parents and carers.
Another step towards the violation of human rights is to be able to listen to graphic descriptions of how the lives of other humans are ended without changing one’s mind.
Peter Thompson, consultant in maternal foetal medicine at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital spoke to the committee about abortion in the case of so-called fatal foetal abnormality.
He told the committee: “It is important that one then paralyses the foetus by administering a drug much as one would with a general anaesthetic, followed by an injection of either a local anaesthetic or potassium, which stops the heart.
“Once the foetus is born it becomes a baby and it is important to realise that whereas the foetus has no rights in the United Kingdom, the second it is born it acquires full rights . . . One would then have turned a scenario involving a foetus with an abnormality into one involving a premature baby with an abnormality, thus making the whole situation worse.”
This is a straightforward admission that the foetus must be killed before she or he can acquire human rights.
Despite this graphic, factual description of medicalised killing – Thompson termed it foeticide and said he did not enjoy it as he had become a doctor to save lives, – the majority of the committee voted in favour of this procedure being carried out in Ireland.
One would think that human rights advocates such as Amnesty International would be up in arms at this blatant discrimination based on disability, but no. They are selective about which UN committee they choose to listen to, just as they are selective about which Irish legislation they choose to respect.
Amnesty thinks it is above the rules and that its mission renders it immune to question.
Therefore, it believes billionaires such as George Soros can pour as much money as they like into campaigns to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
The Standards in Public Office Commission ordered it to return €137,000 given to it by the Soros-funded Open Society, saying the donation breached Ireland’s campaign finance laws, which prohibit foreign donors from making donations to groups involved in elections or referendums here.
Perhaps Amnesty is shouting so loudly because its projected revenues are down to the extent that it has had to scale back contributions to the international Amnesty movement.
Any pro-life organisation blatantly receiving foreign funding like this would be hounded. Amnesty is betting on the silence of its friends in politics and the media to help it ensure the indifference of the Irish public.
It is a bet Amnesty is likely to win. Constant promotion of pro-choice views in the Irish media has already rendered the public numb to a deliberate denial of human rights to the very youngest humans.
Meanwhile, nothing is done to advance progressive alternatives that respect the dignity of both mother and baby.