The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – Prof Fitzpatrick begins his article by decrying the lack of a nuanced approach on the issue of abortion and wonders why people are so entrenched in their positions on the issue (“In the media everyone is pro-choice or pro-life. I am both”, News Review, September 16th).

Such entrenchment is hardly surprising, however, given that we are dealing with the most central element of human rights, the right to life, and also with the issue of what it is to be human. The pro-life side of the argument considers that once the position is passed that one human being has the right to take the life of another, regardless of the circumstances, then a boundary has been passed which is both repugnant in itself and has severe and all too predictable ramifications.

While Prof Fitzpatrick’s article evinces compassion for prospective parents faced with intolerable dilemmas, it ignores the very real ethical crisis posed by the extinction of another life. To some extent he proposes to circumnavigate this crisis by distinguishing between what he terms an embryo and “a viable foetus”. However from the point of view of human rights the distinction is moot.

The argument, as always, comes down to whether a child in the womb, at whatever level of development, can be considered a human being and accorded the rights consonant with humanity.

If not, then there is no moral issue with abortion. If so, then it is correct absolutely to condemn those who seek to impose it on the innocent unborn.

Human life has an absolutely clear beginning; it is the moment of conception, just as it has, as far as our mortal existence is concerned, an absolutely clear end; the moment of death. Is it not legitimate to have absolute respect for that life at all periods in between?

Our understanding of what it is to be human is at best limited, with science increasingly revealing human powers and capacities that we do not yet fully understand. Are we not best advised to treat this extraordinary thing, humanity, with the respect that it fully deserves?

The professor puts forward a regime of what he considers limited availability of abortion, though there are clearly contradictions in his proposal.

However, repealing the Eighth Amendment will inevitably lead, regardless of any legislation published in advance of the referendum, to a widespread availability of late-term abortion for any or for no reason.

This has been the experience in other jurisdictions, and if one has any doubt that it would apply in Ireland one has only to look at the egregious recommendations of the recent Citizens’ Assembly on the matter, where that body put forward an abortion regime unprecedented in any other western country, and which would have represented a descent into barbarism for Ireland.

It is in many respects not surprising that they would have done so, for once a principle is gone, it cannot be partly retained. You cannot have “small bit of abortion”, and certainly not in a constitutional democracy. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.