The abortion debate


A chara, – As the result of an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy in 1968, as evidenced by my being given up for adoption, I feel that there is a distinct lack of consideration for the best interests of the unplanned and unwanted child in the womb in the current debate.

Economic factors cited as causal in abortion can never justify the targeted ending of human life. Giving the child up for adoption after delivery – giving people like me a chance at life – is much more liberal and humane a solution for those who cannot afford another mouth to feed.

This also holds true in the case of disability. Every life has its difficulties, every life has its value and none can be replaced.

I do not know if I was conceived as a result of rape. If I was, should my life have been forfeit as the blood price for the crime of another? This is a principle more in tune with the mores of the Old Testament than a modern republic. Are rape trials to be expedited in ease of such abortions?

There is no evidence that abortion is a treatment for suicidal ideation. This thin end of the wedge is being driven by a doctrinaire pro-abortion lobby. Once again we look the other way and seek the seemingly “easy” way out. – Is mise,


BL, An Leabharlann Dlí,

Baile Átha Cliath 7.

Sir, – I’m not so sure Patsy McGarry (Rite & Reason, May 7th) is right when he says the Catholic bishops’ pronouncements on the abortion Bill are “an echo of the past”. In fact, on this occasion, they have been careful to confine themselves to “natural law ” arguments, studiously avoiding any appeals to episcopal authority, an area where they are well aware of their lack of credibility. What a change from the heyday of theocracy when churchmen such as Cornelius Lucey and Jeremiah Newman could arrogantly claim that Catholic bishops were the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong in political matters. We are witnessing a fascinating turn in the history of church-state relations – on both sides. A Fine Gael taoiseach and a Labour tánaiste are firmly upholding the autonomy of the secular jurisdiction. Enda Kenny has responded to the sly blackmail about the possibility of being refused communion by splendidly invoking a direct, personal line to God, thus sidelining church authority.

All this is a far cry from the craven submission of Fine Gael taoiseach John A Costello (Knight of Columbanus: “prostate at the feet of your holiness”) and of Labour tánaiste Brendan Corish (Knight of Columbanus : “I am an Irishman second, a Catholic first”.)

Progress is reported. – Yours, etc,


Douglas Road, Cork.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry attacks the bishops regarding their statement on the proposed abortion legislation:   “We have seen it again and again in their fierce opposition to abortion and despite the fact that they are alone in this view” (Opinion, May 7th).   The shame is that they are alone in this view as regards the other churches, despite Church of Ireland Archbishop Jackson stating that his church opposed abortion in principle.   Some principle when it can be set aside so easily. 

The bishops have quite rightly criticised the “flawed” X case decision.  How could it be otherwise when no psychiatric evidence was heard.     They have rightly pointed out that abortion – the deliberate killing of a baby in the womb – is against the common good, not just a religious view. “Morally unacceptable” certainly fits the legislation of abortion and no amount of camouflage changes that. Wrong is always wrong and, while people are free to participate in it, it does not change that fact. 

Mr McGarry claims it is outrageous arrogance on the part of the bishops to speak out against abortion because of the failure of some to ensure children were protected, but I contend that to support the proposed Bill, which for the first time will lead to babies being deliberately killed in the womb, is the worst form of child abuse and no amount of rhetoric can change that. 

How our society has changed – and not for the better – when this can be openly advocated.  A society is judged on its treatment of the most vulnerable and who is more vulnerable than the helpless baby in the womb?   Surely politicians will come to their senses before inflicting this legislation on our country? – Yours, etc,


Ardeskin, Donegal.

Sir, – Congratulations to Patsy McGarry for his outspoken comments (Rite & Reason, May 7th). Without the slightest hint of humility the bishops have dug an even deeper hole for themselves. Time to stop digging gentlemen, and beg forgiveness for your failure to protect vulnerable children. – Yours, etc,


The Demesne,

Killester, Dublin 5.

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (Rite & Reason, May 7th) refers to the statement of Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Dublin to the Oireachtas Committee on abortion that “In the unlikely event when a group of competent trustworthy physicians confirm that the continuity of pregnancy jeopardises the mother’s life, abortion could be conducted as the last and only alternative to protect the mother’s life”.

Mr McGarry failed to point out, however, the very salient point made by Dr Selim in this statement that the availability of abortion where a mother was suicidal was not permissible under Islamic law.

It is absolutely vital in the current debate to present the different views as accurately as possible. – Yours, etc,


Tirellan Heights, Galway.

Sir, – Saul Bellow’s “Irish Huguenot” Dean, Albert Corde, in The Dean’s December muses: “We couldn’t ourselves observe the dulling of consciousness, since we were all its victims . . .The genius of these evils was their ability to create zones of incomprehension”.

I’d suggest one of these zones of incomprehension in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is its reference to the European Court of Human Rights’ Tysiac v Poland decision. Commenting on Tysiac v Poland (Opinion, March 24th, 2007), Prof William Binchy noted that the court’s “one-sided concern for protection of rights . . . will surely have a chilling effect on doctors who might be disposed to decline to authorise an abortion”.

Another dean, Jonathan Swift, has a well-known critique of lethal euphemisms. Did the drafters of the current modest proposal for the protection of life intend to dull our consciousness when they wrote: “The judgment in Tysiac v Poland is of particular relevance in setting out the detailed requirements envisaged by the court”?

Tysiac v Poland ’s particular relevance for reducing protection of the unborn lies in its noting,“The legal prohibition on abortion, taken together with the risk of their incurring criminal responsibility under . . . the Criminal Code, can well have a chilling effect on doctors when deciding whether the requirements of legal abortion are met in an individual case. The provisions regulating the availability of lawful abortion should be formulated in such a way as to alleviate this effect. Once the legislature decides to allow abortion, it must not structure its legal framework in a way which would limit real possibilities to obtain it”.

Are those who drafted their modest proposal anticipating further appeals to the European Court of Human Rights based on the logic of its Tysiac v Poland decision? Yours, etc,


St Mary’s Cathedral,

St Mary’s Road,

Sydney, Australia.

Sir, – Dr Jacky Jones is correct (Health + Family, May 7th). But while the misogyny is present, it is not at all a natural part of the Irish psyche. It is a hangover from the bizarre domination of the majority of the population by Catholicism that has existed since the Reformation, after which Irish independence aspirations were inextricably linked to support for that religion. This link was strongly reinforced during the ascendancy, such as it was, of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and later through his relatively powerful kinsman, Eoin Roe O’Neill, during the time of the Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny. It was very strong just before and certainly right after actual Independence.

There has to be some correlation between the fact that the Reformation passed nationalist Ireland by and the enmity that existed between England and the Catholic powers of late medieval Europe in Spain, France and the Vatican. Irish nationalists, it would seem, saw England’s difficulties as Ireland’s opportunities and acted accordingly, nailing their colours to the Catholic mast in the process.

Whatever the history, we are now playing the endgame in the effort to have the irrational belief in the immortal soul and Catholicism’s despising of women separated, once and for all, from the business of running the State in the interests of all its citizens.

The trend, at least, is in the right direction. – Yours, etc,


Farrenboley Park,

Windy Arbour, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Should the venal silence of the past be matched by a craven silence at present? This seems to be thinking of those who would invoke the church’s past failures in an attempt to muzzle her present interventions in the abortion issue.

It is absolutely right that the church be criticised for her past failures to defend the vulnerable. By the same token, it is quite bizarre when those who make that criticism suggest that the church has no business defending the vulnerable unborn.

The shameful chapters of the Irish church’s history mean that her interventions must be compassionate to be credible; but that she be urged to continued silence by some of those who most criticise her past silence is itself both shameful and incredible. – Yours, etc,


Coolfancy, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – It is commendable that legislators in Ireland have taken the first step in recognising the necessity of legal abortion for women and their families, but it is unfortunate that these policymakers have been subject to unsupported and not-so-subtle threats from their bishops, who won’t “rule out excommunication” (“Hierarchy declines to rule out excommunication of TDs and Ministers who back abortion Bill”, May 6th).

Cardinal Seán Brady protests that the Irish bishops “know what the [canon] law is about excommunication about abortion, that’s a fact.” I wonder what he’s referring to.

This is a fact: the church’s law regarding excommunication – on abortion or anything else – does not apply to people based on how they vote. In many cases, it does not even apply to women who get abortions, especially in those cases that fall under the very narrow circumstances stipulated in Ireland’s new law. The hierarchy’s power in Ireland has waned of late. Perhaps it is because they don’t let the facts get in the way of whatever story they want to tell. – Yours, etc,


Executive Vice President,

Catholics for Choice,

U Street NW,

Washington, DC, US.

A chara, – Despite all of the division among pro-life and pro-choice people, surely it can be agreed upon that many of those alive today would not be had the current Bill been enacted as legislation prior to their birth. Or as Ronald Reagan once said “I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born”. – Is mise,


An Clochán,

Tír Chonaill.

Sir, – Much of the abortion debate seems to hinge on whether or not a foetus counts as a person. However, for all practical purposes, even the most right-wing abortion opponent regularly admits that a foetus is not a person: pregnant women can’t claim a foetus as a dependent for tax purposes; women who miscarry are not accused of manslaughter; the census doesn’t count foetuses; one refers to “two children and one on the way”, not “three children“; there are no funerals for miscarriages; etc.

Maybe it’s time to put ideology aside and legislate for what we already know to be our shared reality. – Yours, etc,


Coleville Road,

Clonmel, Co Tipperary.