Oireachtas committee’s decision on Eighth Amendment was predictable

Committee cannot now cast around for fig leaves by inviting anti-abortion advocates to address it

The profound cynicism many feel about politics will only have been reinforced by the extraordinary actions of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

It voted by an overwhelming majority that the Eighth Amendment should not be retained in its present form long before all the witnesses had been called or heard.

Senator Rónán Mullen’s and Deputy Mattie McGrath’s claims that the committee was seriously lacking in balance and fairness have been more than vindicated.

Up until last week, the imbalance in those invited to address the committee was six to one in favour of those who wish to remove some or all constitutional protection from human life before birth.


This week, it moved closer to seven to one. Worse, some groups like the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) that are actively campaigning to remove the Eighth Amendment have been invited as so-called experts.

CRR spends millions of dollars every year on promoting abortion, especially in countries like Ireland that continue to respect the right to life of all humans.   CRR opposes bans on late-term abortion. CRR actively opposes bans on sex-selective abortions despite claiming to be feminist. The victims of sex-selective abortions are most often female, aborted because they are perceived as being of less value than males.

Sex-selective abortions

CRR believes that objections to sex-selective abortions are simply a plot to undermine access to abortion, even though the pro-choice journalist Mara Hvistendahl, in her book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, estimates that there are 160 million girls who have not been allowed to live, primarily through abortion and infanticide.

CRR is represented by DHR Communications in Ireland, which lobbies politicians on its behalf, including for legislative and policy change on abortion.  George Soros, through Open Society, gave them over $500,000 in 2016, a fraction of its total funding of $23.I million.

BPAS is Britain's biggest provider of abortion, the chief executive of which, Ann Furedi, is commendably honest.

In a Spiked Online article, she says: “But are we really so shallow, so fickle, as to let our view on moral worth be determined by appearance? Even if at five weeks we can only see an embryonic pole, we know that it is human. The heart that can be seen beating on an ultrasound scan at six weeks is as much a human heart as the one that beats five months later.”

The whole emphasis now will be on painting those who want abortion on demand, and those who want no abortion, as similarly extreme

However, she believes that given there is no definitive difference between a younger and a more developed foetus, there is no argument against later abortions other than sentimentality based on “familiar, endearing gestures – a ‘yawn’, thumb-sucking and grasping tiny fingers - and when we can see whether it is a boy or a girl”.

She believes abortions should be “as late as necessary” and believes the abortion regime in Britain is not liberal enough, because it still requires two doctors to agree to an abortion being carried out.

Anti-abortion advocates

Given its record so far, the Joint Oireachtas Committee cannot now desperately cast around for fig leaves by inviting a few anti-abortion advocates to address them.

At the time of writing, Prof Patricia Casey has withdrawn from addressing the committee, and who could blame her? Despite being an internationally recognised expert on mental health, she will not be listened to.

Similarly, even though there was an overwhelming vote in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis, the party supported the motion with only two abstentions.

The whole emphasis now will be on painting those who want abortion on demand, and those who want no abortion, as similarly extreme, and the fallacy of the middle ground will be trotted out again and again.

The question is not whether a position is moderate, but whether it is right or wrong

In this view, the "moderate" position is automatically better. People who believe that the middle ground is somehow always morally superior should read Barbara J Field's work, Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century.

Particular cruelties

At the time of the civil war, the state of Maryland had almost as many free black people as slaves and was seen as moderate. In reality, its alleged middle ground status only served to conceal its particular cruelties.

The question is not whether a position is moderate, but whether it is right or wrong. There are times when the middle ground is reasonable and times when the middle ground is unequivocally wrong. Abortion is one of the latter. Either, or all abortion is allowable, as Ann Furedi believes, or all abortion is wrong. Either innocent human life must be protected or it must not.

And yet, this does not justify condemnation of women who have abortions. Most women have abortions because they feel they have no other choice. As Ann Furedi said also, no woman aspires to have an abortion.

Feminist organisations could choose to work as fervently as they do today to secure abortion, in order to eliminate the many reasons a woman feels she has no better choice than to end the life of her own child. We could all unite around that positive change – a real middle ground instead of a spurious one.