The Eighth Amendment

 

Sir, – Until the Government makes known the advice from the Attorney General, there can be no real clarity about what the electorate is to be asked.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty, it is clear that repeal of the Eight Amendment would have consequences in that abortion decisions would be taken from the electorate and given to the Oireachtas.

Therefore it is worth looking at what the Oireachtas has produced so far as indicative of what one might anticipate. The joint committee report has linked the referendum with legislation for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks. There will be nothing to stop this legislation being amended in the future in the Oireachtas if the Constitution contains no reference to the question of abortion.

Furthermore, a proposal to allow abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks does nothing to address the issue of fatal foetal abnormality. However, a formula of words allowing abortion in the case of reported alleged rape or incest or fatal foetal abnormalities allows a real option to retaining the Eighth Amendment that does not take power of decision from the hands of the electorate. – Yours, etc,

CAITRÍONA McCLEAN,

Lucan,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Too many pro-choice arguments begin and end with the rights of adult humans. An abortion which terminates the life of the unborn is described as a medical procedure for an adult. The right of adults to make choices for themselves are considered without reference to the being whose life depends on the decision.

This is a troubling omission. Where the rights of one affects the rights of another the discussion is incomplete if only one party is considered. For example, it might be accepted that an abortion is right for a woman in a given circumstance, but if we allow that it may not be right for the foetus, we are left with an ethical dilemma. The rights of the two conflict. Against this, there are strong arguments to be made in support of the view that human life at conception, and for some time afterwards, is too basic to be accorded human rights, but these arguments tend not to be made. The powerful reasons for the pro-choice position that relate to the rights of women are presented with eloquence and compassion: the ethical dilemma between the rights of the born and the tentative rights of the unborn is usually avoided. It is very rare to see the pro-life view confronted directly; instead there is an attempt to marginalise its supporters, dismissing them as well-meaning people who are influenced by religious notions or discredited traditions.

The justification for abortion must address the potential rights of the unborn. The question should not be avoided, or rejected based on ad hominem arguments which criticise pro-life supporters, but considered in full, confronting all the complexities of early life and its development. – Yours, etc,

COLIN WALSH,

Templeogue,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I commend Micheál Martin’s call for a debate “where we acknowledge the goodwill of the people we disagree with”. A pity therefore that Mr Martin went on to suggest that “if we are sincere in our compassion for women . . . we must act” by voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment; the word “compassion” has been bandied about a lot in the course of debate on the Eighth Amendment, and both viewpoints have accused the other of lacking compassion. This type of inflammatory rhetoric can only create an atmosphere of hostility, and does not help to facilitate a productive debate.

Perhaps it would be more useful to agree that neither side lacks compassion as such; we merely have different ideas about what constitutes a human being, and whether we are dealing with a decision which involves the rights of one person who is deserving of compassion, or the rights of two human beings, both of whom deserve our compassion and protection. Therefore, the first question which Ireland must answer is: do we become human only at birth, and if so why? – Yours, etc,

MARTHA QUIRKE,

Greenmount,

Cork.

Sir, – I note that Fianna Fáil politicians opposing Micheál Martin are calling for their voices to be heard. Strange then that so many of them didn’t grab the opportunity to speak in the Dáil and Seanad Eighth Amendment debates. – Yours, etc,

COLIN ROGAN,

Terenure,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – In his criticism of Micheál Martin’s support for repealing the Eighth Amendment, Peter Carvill (January 20th) also refers to Mr Martin’s support for “radical proposals for abortion on demand”.

In fact, far from being radical, the proposals from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment for access to abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks are the norm in most European countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain. – Yours, etc,

SÉAMUS WHITE,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – Bravo, Micheál Martin.

If anyone thinks this will harm Fianna Fáil, think again.

Half the population of Ireland is female!

His stance has shown courageous honesty, and compassion and consideration for all of us. – Yours, etc,

SHEILA DEEGAN,

Dublin 3.