Preparing for abortion referendum
It may seem extraordinary that the State, which over the years has put in place a range of statutory regulations covering campaign funding, political advertising and balanced coverage in broadcast media, finds itself with no legislation governing political campaigning on the most powerful communications platforms in human history. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
Sir, – Being told at a 20-week scan that my much loved and wanted second baby was unlikely to live, I went headlong into trying to save him.
Undergoing much intervention: amniocenteses, foetal surgery inserting a shunt into his bladder and living through the rest of the pregnancy, much of it spent in hospital away from my two-year-old daughter, I look back on that time now and wonder if that was the right thing to do?
I researched “travelling” and heard first hand from the brave women who made that choice and shared their story with me. I continued to fight. I put him through so much, and as the paediatric team fought to save him after he was born, I willed him to live. He didn’t.
I know now it might have been much easier on him to let him go earlier, peacefully. Had that choice been available to me in Ireland, with my own trusted medical team, surrounded by my family, then maybe I would have chosen to let him die peacefully, and not suffer the way he did. I didn’t have the choice. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Dr Fergus O’Ferrall’s Byzantine moral logic – which can be summed up as “we wouldn’t need abortion if we had it” – is, unfortunately, indicative of an ecclesiastical community in the service of the State, a characteristic of Protestantism in general since its creation (Rite&Reason, Opinion, May 7th).
The foundational assumption is that the earthly paradise is attainable and all that is necessary is the provision of sufficient services from a beneficent state. The position of the “many church leaders” who “have chosen to oppose abortion in Ireland” – by which, I presume, he means the Catholics – is that man is a fallen creature who will always take the low road when that road is open to him.
Usually, that road is taken as an act of supposed compassion, and it ends up with (as in our nearest neighbour) 200,000 abortions a year. Indeed, in Russia to this day, abortion is the main form of birth control. To quote the English writer, Peter Hitchens, paradise is only approached across a sea of blood and you never get there. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Judge Bryan McMahon recognises (Letters, May 4th) that an unintended pregnancy is a traumatic event. As the chair of the working group that reported on direct provision in 2015, he surely understands the particularly traumatic situation of some of the most disadvantaged women and girls in Irish society when they are faced with a crisis pregnancy.
Caught between the direct provision system and the law on abortion, those who face the most daunting barriers to accessing legal abortion services are women asylum seekers.
The need to raise funds and to organise the practical details of travelling abroad – including weeks going through administrative hurdles – means they experience significant delay in accessing services. This can have serious physical health consequences if there is an underlying health condition.
For some women, the barriers to travel are insurmountable.
Instead, they may acquire the abortion pill online, or self-administer other potentially risky substances to induce abortion. And some women ultimately have no option but to parent, regardless of their wishes, their personal situation or the circumstances of the pregnancy.
The McMahon Report recognised the vulnerability of women in direct provision who need access to abortion care.
It drew attention to their specific needs, including travel documents, financial assistance, confidentiality, and access to information and support services.
The Eighth Amendment is particularly harsh on vulnerable women and girls who have come to Ireland seeking a place of safety.
Its retention will show them no compassion. Only a Yes vote will allow us to support all women and girls in Ireland who might in the future need abortion care. – Yours, etc,
Together for Yes,
Sir, – I refer to reports that the Association of Catholic Priests has called for an end to what it called the “inappropriate and insensitive” practice of allowing campaigners in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to speak from pulpits during Mass.
Having heard such a speech at Mass, I do not understand how any fair-minded person could consider these speeches to be either inappropriate or insensitive. The pro-life speaker just made the case, with compassion and sensitivity, for protecting the right to life of babies in the womb from abortion.
Pope Francis said, “Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you.”
The message that Pope Francis shares, that we should defend the unborn, should be proclaimed everywhere by Catholic priests, lay people, people of other faiths or no faith at all. On May 25th, it can be put into practice by voting No to the introduction of abortion on demand into Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Who should have control over a woman’s body? The Church? The State? Or herself? I stand with anger, pride and admiration for every brave Irishwoman making a stand for this most basic of human rights. – Yours, etc,
Omagh, Co Tyrone.
Sir, – The independent guide published by the Referendum Commission makes it very clear that we “are not being asked in this referendum to vote on any particular law relating to the termination of pregnancy”. Instead we are being asked to vote on whether, or not, to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution and to insert in its place that “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”
If the right to life is repealed, the unborn will no longer have any constitutional protection. In this scenario it will no longer be, in the Referendum Commission’s words, “a criminal offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life”. It is also possible that any subsequent legislation may fail. According to the Referendum Commission “the courts may declare a law invalid if it conflicts with the Constitution”.
Having abolished the right to life of the unborn, any law, at any stage of pregnancy, could later be declared invalid by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it conferred protection on the unborn that no longer existed in the Constitution. We would then end up with unrestricted abortion.
The Government is asking us to “trust” them and doctors with a potential mess. Surely the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, under-pinned by constitutional protection for both the mother and the baby, is a better option and the reason why we should vote No. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your Editorial on the Eighth Amendment referendum says, “digital campaigns are likely to increase in intensity as voting day approaches” (“The shadow campaign”, May 8th).
Judging from my own Facebook homepage, this murky micro-targeting of voters is already well underway. For instance, I’m forced to do a daily “pruning” of my Facebook account to purge it of unwanted anti-abortion material.
It also seems to be going only one way. On YouTube I routinely have to watch pro-life ads before getting to the video I want to view.
You write, “Facebook, Google and others have argued for years that they are neutral platforms which should not be subject to the same regulation as traditional media companies”.
It is clear from my own experience that the digital giants are quite literally “hands off” when it comes to the effective monitoring of their social media outlets. Each time I identify an uninvited pro-life video/link to a website on my Facebook account, I immediately report it as being “inappropriate” material for me; nothing is done and the unwelcome stuff keeps on coming.
You’re right that the “logical next step” for Ireland “is to extend established democratic safeguards into the digital sphere”. This cannot happen soon enough. In the meantime, let’s hope the “shadow campaign” will not decisively influence the vote on May 25th – and further damage popular trust in the democratic process. – Yours, etc,