There’s a letter into today’s Sindo, with the heading ‘Few people are anti-life’. It’s from a John Fitzgerald in Co Kilkenny, and he’s taking to task those who are referred to as ‘pro-lifers’ in the abortion debate, because there’s an implication in their title that those not in agreement with them are anti-life. He says that excluding ultra-right-wingers like the guy who killed 77 people in Norway and people “who peddle death as a matter of routine” (presumably drug-pushers), there are surely very few anti-life people on the planet.
It might be interesting to ask those in the Gaza strip right now if they share John’s view on the hard-to-locateness of anti-lifers. But let’s set that aside. I think people have a right to call themselves whatever (within reason) they like. If others feel the name is in some way passing judgement on them, then it’s their job to argue a case showing how wrong they are. Instead of doing this, John Fitzgerald advances the only-the-occasional-nutter argument, and supplements it with the charge that a lot pro-lifers aren’t so hot about looking after the living. This second charge may or may not be true but it's shifting the argument from its focal point: abortion. It may be ironic if I were, for example, pro-capital punishment and anti-abortion, but drawing attention to that does nothing to answer the central questions around the abortion debate.
If those who describe themselves as ‘pro-choice’ are just as pro-life as the pro-lifers ( as John claims) then presumably they see the foetus as human life, since it’s the foetus we’re talking about here. If they do see it as human life, the abortion debate is over. Human life deserves to be protected, and only in cases of self-defence (in this case defence of the mother’s life) can that right to life be flushed away. If on the other hand pro-choice people believe that there is no human life in the woman’s womb during the early stages of pregnancy, why do they speak of an abortion as always a serious, soul-searching decision?
I would class myself as pro-life in the abortion debate, and that has nothing to do with the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion, so please, don't start telling me about what a shit your parish priest was/is. I just believe the pro-choice people are unconvincing in their claims as to when the foetus becomes human, as well as in their claims about abortion always being a serious, soul-searching decision.
As to the Galway case, to describe reactions to it as knee-jerk would be to understate. Until we hear, clearly and dispassionately, what actually was said and done - or not done - in this sad, nightmare case, we’re adding our wasted breath to the Irish stereotyping that’s currently being peddled at home and abroad.