There are those who believe that in order to divert our attention from the economic mess, our leaders and the media make much of other matters, frequently sexual: - gay marriage being an outstanding example of this. I think there’s some truth in that. Personally I don’t get it with regard to gay marriage. That is, I don’t see why those who have beliefs that see homosexuality as sinful should see gay marriage as something hellish. If anything they should be welcoming the element of fidelity which marriage, gay or straight, espouses. The fact that an awful lot of marriages collapse for one reason or another, and the fact that many young and not so young people are simply ignoring the wedding banns and co-habiting weakens that argument a little. But I don’t understand those people who feel that traditional marriage is somehow diluted or demeaned because of gay marriage. Maybe I’m missing something.
I also don’t quite get the south’s abortion debate, which is raging at present. The suggestion is that abortion will be allowed if a pregnant woman is suicidal. David Quinn the journalist and director of the Iona Institute is opposed to this and says that 113 Irish psychiatrists agree with him and are opposed to “suicidality” as grounds for an abortion. Those in favour of more readily-available abortion in the south say the proposed Bill won’t go far enough, as very few of the hundreds of women who go from Ireland to England for abortions are suicidal, so the Bill, even it allowed abortion for the few women deemed suicidal, wouldn’t address the problem.
The core question, I believe, is “What is a foetus?” If it’s a human being, then it’s hard to see grounds for abortion, since that would involve intentional killing of a totally innocent human being. Those who argue for abortion only in cases of incest or rape seem to me plain wrong: while pregnancy because of rape or incest must be ghastly, it’s even more ghastly to put an end to the pregnancy by killing the totally innocent child.
If the answer to “What is a foetus?” is that it is not a human being, then abortion should be allowed at any point during pregnancy - from conception right through to the moments before birth. Why talk of difficult, harrowing decisions to abort if what’s being aborted isn’t a human? I’ve heard people talk about the foetus being a “potential human being” but I frankly don’t understand what that means, or maybe that it means too many things. You could have a potential human being if you left a couple of irresponsible teenagers, a boy and a girl, in a room alone. You could have a potential human being if a man thinks about raping a woman, let alone doing so. And that’s to ignore the difficulty concerning the linked contention that at some point the non-human foetus becomes a human being foetus.
As to the argument which points out that every day, some dozen women leave Ireland to have an abortion in England, therefore Irish hospitals should provide abortions: that strikes me as totally spurious. The action of abortion is either right or wrong, and the fact that lots of people are doing it, or that services for doing it are available next door - these are grim facts but they have no bearing on the right or wrongness of aborting.
Oh, and one last point. Those people who say that men should not form judgements in this matter since they don’t know what it’s like to carry a foetus would have to argue that prostate cancer, for example, is no business of women since they don’t get it, and that breast cancer is no concern of men since they don’t get it. The fact that you can’t have a particular condition, whether life-threatening or life-forming, has no bearing on your ability to form judgements about it. The only limitation on judgement, I would think, is your level of moral coarseness.