By Patrick Brogan
We at The Navigator Media recognise that this referendum is one of the most difficult votes many people in this country will cast. We are offering as many view points as we possibly can for undecided voters. We talked to many people from both campaigns and are offering up their testimonies. If there is a video of somebody from the Yes side, we countered this with an interview of a person from the No Side. We are trying to inform people. Nothing more. We have no side in this so to speak. Our only concern, as it always is, is with those people who are being hurt in society.
If your mind is already made up, our series of articles and videos is probably not for you. If, like us, you see this as more than a black and white issue than maybe you will find something of interest here. We are not going to get into the emotional arguments and throw opinion around. Enough of that has already been done. We are just trying to present the facts as they were presented to us and offer something approaching a logical conclusion, as difficult as it is on many levels.
There is something we have to remind ourselves of and that is what the Yes and No side believe as their core principles. Too much mud slinging has gone on (from both sides!) and this has become a topic were people just want to be seen to be right rather than the welfare of mothers and babies in extremely difficult circumstances which is what it should be about.
What Do They Believe?
For the No side, this comes down to one main issue, the sanctity of life. There are many side issues, but it is all formed around this. For the No side; life in all its forms is sacred, including the born child. And who can genuinely disagree with this thinking?
For the Yes camp, there are slightly more issues at the core but one of the main ones is bodily autonomy, particularly female bodily autonomy. Women should not be questioned on decisions regarding their own lives, particularly their own bodies. Again, what rational person can argue against this?
Now, this is where the really grey area begins, when the rights of the unborn baby and pregnant mother seem to run contrary to each other. This has been possibly the most serious moral debate over the last decades, if not centuries.
We must examine the claims made by both sides to really find a logical conclusion.
The No Side;
Abortion on demand; This is based on the proposed legislation in which a pregnant woman, or somebody on their behalf, can seek an abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. There are a few issues with calling it Abortion on Demand, though. Firstly, a medical practitioner will have to be consulted. There is then a three-day waiting process before they proceed. This is to give the mother time to think over her options. If the doctor or obstetrician have a moral problem with this, they can step away and it will be referred to another.
The problem with referring to this as abortion on demand is it makes it sound like a casual process like getting a coffee or ordering something online. Do we really think so little of women to suggest that this will be an easy decision for them to make? That this will be a form of contraception? No doubt some will use it as so, but for the vast majority of women this will be an extremely difficult decision to make and one not taken lightly. There will be good reason behind this. Now, the problem here is that the claim is the right of the mother is above the rights of the unborn child, but again it is more complicated than that and I’ll get into that more later.
Babies can be Aborted Up to Six Months;
Yes, this is true, but only under specific criteria and they are if there is a threat to the mother’s life (which is under the current 8th Amendment anyway) or due to mental health and if the foetus cannot reach full term or will die just after birth. Up to nine months, it will solely be based on the health and viability of the foetus, i.e. will it reach full term and have any quality of life thereafter? Now, there is an important caveat here, the legislation proposed so far only goes as far as the 12 week mark, after that we are going by what politicians have told us.
The Yes Side-Savita Halappanavar;
I don’t really like writing about this young woman because her death has been politicised and every time her name is mentioned it pours fuel on the fire and this must be extremely difficult for her family to witness. Savita died in horrible circumstances. Sepsis caused her death but, the Yes and No sides have pointed to her death as an example to justify their claims. As pointed out by Cherish All the Children Equally; “Three separate inquiries into her death found that she died of sepsis. The inquiries found that Savita’s case had been medically mismanaged in the hospital, with HIQA inquiry pointing to 13 missed opportunities to save her life.”
This is important because as the current legislation stands, an abortion was allowed because her life was at risk and dents the Yes Side’s argument. However, it is just as significant to add that the obstetrician that led the HSE inquiry into Savita’s death said the 8th Amendment “played a major role” in her passing and Savita’s family have also campaigned for its repeal.
Framing of (dis)Information
This framing of information has led to a breakdown in communication on both sides. We have seen unnecessary nastiness and cheap shots. From stories of a Pro-Life woman wearing a Repeal jumper with ridiculous signs to convince the public not to vote for the repealment (somebody I actually shared a class with, strangely enough) to comments from Janet Ní Shúilleabháin claiming she was glad Peter Mathews was dead because of his anti-abortion stance. Tell me how these, and numerous other similar cases, help those they are claiming to be campaigning for? Like most other debates, this has become a personal quest to prove one’s rightness, not helping those who need it most.
John Waters’ most famous moment during the campaign was when he stormed out of an interview with Eamon Dunphy. However, it is something else he said during these debates that sticks in my head. He said that the Government was bullying people into abortion. An extraordinary remark, especially when the Government is handing back these decisions to the people. This is often described as a Left-Right issue, but in this case it actually makes zero sense. The Right, usually, are the people asking for less government interference with people free to make their own decisions and the Left, usually, wants more government regulation to protect people. The Left-Right roles appear to have flipped in this scenario.
The Question of Life
I suppose all of this really focuses on the question of life. When is the unborn classed as a person? For many, it is at the moment of conception. Indeed, if you are following the example of the Catholic Church, they are very clear that abortion is murder.
I think like many people, I feared this Referendum would led to the death of innocent children in some way. 12 weeks seems a bit late. If a heartbeat can be detected at 5 weeks, surely that is a little person? Unfortunately, real life is not as clear-cut. At 5 weeks, the baby may have a detectable heartbeat, but no heart, or at least as we have one. There is a collection of hearty tissue at this stage, but no defined heart. Indeed, science nor philosophy cannot say definitively when an actual human is formed.
At least the church is clear. But, this wasn’t always so. St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas both believed in the idea of ensoulment. What was in the mother’s womb was not a baby until this happened. They set this at the moment the baby first moved. Only then was it human. In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV said there was no homicide before 166 days (24 weeks). As late as 1974, the Vatican itself said the question of ensoulment was still open and Catholic theologians debate it to this day. They don’t deny what is in the mother’s womb is alive, but is it a conscience, sentient human being and when does it become so?
Complicated and Confused
There is no clear answer to this. Science may say an embryo is not a human and just a collection of tissue, but try telling that to two loving parents. To them it is a child. Their baby. As man, I clearly don’t fully grasp what it means to be a mother, nor will I. I stood at the Love Both rally and could not help but be moved by the testimonies of those women that had a negative experience of abortion. As much as I can empathise, I will never truly know what it is like to stand in those shoes.
The Power of Women
However, as a man, I can easily recognise the role of women in society. And it is the most important one. Women are the glue that hold a family together in this country and they do the same in our society. Women are the head and decision makers in most households. We generally ask too much of women as a society and yet they continuously and unselfishly deliver. If you think of who the most undervalued members of society are; it’s single mothers.
It seems strange to me that we allow women to make really important decisions day-to-day, but probably the most important one we take away from them. They are the best qualified to decide what is right for their bodies and just as important, what is best for their babies, unborn or not. Many comparisons have been made with this and the marriage referendum. My thoughts to that are the same as they are now, if you don’t agree with it, don’t do it. If you think gay marriage is wrong, don’t marry a gay person. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t it.
As we have shown, the issue is too grey for definitive answers. The choice must remain with the person best able to make it. As I fan of history I regularly read stories of Celtic society and how it was closer to a matriarchy. While this vote will not but the power of society in the hands of women, it will at least help empower them to make their own decisions. If the history, and present, of this State has shown us anything it has been that we lack compassion for women. It is about time that changed. Compassion does not come with judgement, it comes with trust. And that’s really what the question is on Friday; do we trust women? Time to answer that with a Yes.
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