Opposition to abortion is not due to a lack of trust in women

Movement against terminations is based on respect for the life of all human beings

O wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as others see us.

Has Robert Burns’s wish been fulfilled for the pro-life constituency? Perhaps.

Dr Robert Grant’s recent article on “abortion on demand” did prompt some hard questions. Morally obtuse and insensitive? Guilty of linguistic tricks and sleight of hand? Failing to respect women? Yes, to all of these, according to Dr Grant.


Is this generally true of those who oppose abortion? I do not think so, and Dr Grant's narrative serves to obscure the central issues. His arguments are best described as ad hominem arguments, essentially fallacies that serve to attack an opponent and undermine the credibility of his position.

Dr Grant writes as follows: “One can only assume abortion on demand is to be avoided because one does not trust women to make the decision with the requisite thought and consideration it deserves.”

Lack of respect

This comes, he says, from a lack of respect for Irish women. Opposition to abortion, however, is based on respect for the life of all human beings. It is not based on either a lack of trust in, or a lack of respect for, women.

As to the charge of moral obtuseness, listening to women speak about their experiences of difficulties in pregnancy, including abortion, has awoken Irish people to the deep anxiety, loneliness and insecurity often experienced.

A compassionate concern, made visible by groups such as Cura, is to reach out to and support a woman and her unborn child.

Rather than allowing anxieties or fear determine how to act, an encounter with friends can help mothers face the future with their child and with some confidence.

Dr Grant removes from sight the effect that “free, safe and legal abortion” will have on the baby. His arguments overlook the reality that there are two lives, mother and child, both needing support.

From a juridical view, this is the purpose of article 40.3.3. It is broadly drawn, with protection offered to two parties, both of whom may be vulnerable and fragile, in different ways.

The principal objection to abortion is that it permits action against an innocent and defenceless human being. This objection is not an end in itself; its purpose is solidarity with the mother and with her baby.

It’s a case of both/and rather than either/or. Love them both rather than allow arbitrary preference between them.

The preference of Dr Grant is for what he calls “free, safe and legal abortion”. There are strong commercial interests and forces in the abortion industry, but that is another matter.

The objection to it in the legal order is not that it is chosen without consideration, or its marketing programmes. It is that it establishes, as a systemic feature of the legal order, a structure of oppression and injustice.

Safe, legal and free abortion permits unequal protection under the law, allowing deliberate action against innocent human beings.

All of us have been embryo, foetus, infant, child and so on. This is our human identity as dependent rational animals; there is no escaping this reality. All of us have been an embryo, and a foetus who could have his or her life ended under such a regime.

The self-directing process of the human organism is a good that deserves full legal protection at every point of its life. It is the most fundamental human good in the sense that it is necessary for all other human activity.

Where there is free, legal and safe abortion, two major social institutions, law and medicine, may disregard the most defenceless and vulnerable people among us.

All human life before birth is in potential jeopardy, leaving its protection at the mercy of individual preference. The reality of this is enough to wake us up to the gift of life, which would be under threat.

Fr Seán Mac Giollarnáth is a Carmelite friar in Dublin city