Amnesty and the Eighth Amendment


Sir, – Colm O’Gorman’s letter on the use of terminology in the abortion debate was interesting due to his own use of such terminology, and particularly his repeated reference to what he calls “fatal and severe foetal impairment” (December 15th).

The unusual appendage of the words “and severe” by Mr O’Gorman is worth some focus here. What exactly is he referring to?

By logical deduction, and by plain use of English, he must be referring to abortion in the case of a medical condition which is not fatal to the child.

He says that there has been “huge public support for access to abortion on the basis” of such impairments. But has there really?

There has certainly been considerable public debate on the issue of abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, but not in the case of other conditions which do not bring about the death of the child at birth.

A search of The Irish Times archive for the term “fatal and severe” shows up just three results, all of which were printed in the last five months, and all of them in statements made by Mr O’Gorman and his organisation Amnesty International.

So in calling for “accepted language” to be used, Mr O’Gorman appears to have introduced some new language of his own.

A hallmark of the debate on abortion is that the goalposts are constantly shifted so that words and their meanings are repackaged in order to make the gradual extension of abortion appear uncontroversial and almost humane.

Since Mr O’Gorman and Amnesty appear to be the originators of this new term “fatal and severe”, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that this is the latest part of this strategy. In this instance, the genuine sympathy of Irish people for parents whose child has been diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities is used in order to usher in the introduction of abortion for much less serious and non-fatal conditions. – Yours, etc,


Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6W.