Debate On Abortion


Sir, - The answer to the question posed by Julia Heffernan (July 27th) as to whether the unborn is "less human" at 10 weeks than at 24 must surely be yes. In the first uncertain trimester of its existence (up to half are aborted by nature) the developing foetus has yet to acquire the distinguishing feature of a centralised integrated nervous system.

The rest of the civilised world which permits abortion generally admits of the distinction between the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and subsequent stages and legislates accordingly to make abortion more easily available in that early stage. Medbh Ruane (Opinion, July 21st) articulated well the humane reasons for us to do likewise.

The fertilised ovum has often been likened to an acorn in the sense that they are both potential, rather than free-standing entities, and I am sure Ms Heffernan can see the absurdity of treating an acorn as if it were an oak tree. The inability to perceive the same qualitative differences in the stages of human development must stem from the theological belief that a newly fertilised ovum acquires through metaphysical means a soul which instantly equates it with a grown human woman in status.

If it is the case that theology is the distorting prism through which the Pro-Life movement views the abortion debate it rather undermines their declared motives of simple humane concern for the unborn. Women with or without crisis pregnancies have had to suffer the consequences of theological opposition to contraception and abortion for long enough. - Yours, etc.,

Dick Spicer, Secretary, Association of Irish Humanists, Bray, Co Wicklow.