My take on the proposed legislation ahead of the referendum

Having looked into the proposed 12 week limit on abortions in Ireland, James argues for a No vote

Written by James O'Neill


I remember staying up to watch the Presidential debates in 2008. Obama’s communication skills, energy and maybe just his cool-uncle vibes lead me, without really acknowledging it, to becoming a Democrat. I leaned left on every issue: social welfare, healthcare, gun control. I was what you might identify as “pro-choice.”

That is to say, I thought that women should have the choice to abort. Why wouldn’t I? It was her body, and her choice. However, abortion is an issue that I have read, watched, listened and asked a lot about over the past eighteen months or so. The reason I am voting no is not because I necessarily want to “Save the 8th”, nor am I of the opinion that all life is sacrosanct, but because of one article of the proposed legislation to replace it. This proposed legislation is why I cannot simply support a call to “Repeal the 8th.”

If the yes vote carries, there will be unrestricted termination of pregnancy up to twelve weeks:

7. (1) It shall be lawful to carry out a termination of pregnancy in accordance with this Head where a medical practitioner certifies, that in his or her reasonable opinion formed in good faith, the pregnancy concerned has not exceeded 12 weeks of pregnancy.

As I read and researched the above proposal, I was curious as to why so many European countries had adopted a “twelve weeks”, “three months” or “ninety days” limit.  I assumed that there was a scientific reason as to why so many of these countries had the same limit on abortion. Is there some universal agreement on a developmental event that changed a “foetus” to a “baby” that I didn’t know about? What was it that made abortions at 6, 8 and 10 weeks bearable but those at 14, 24 and 32 weeks unacceptable?

As Dr Rhona Mahony of the National Maternity Hospital said, “The 12-week issue comes from the fact that at least one in five pregnancies will end in miscarriage in the first trimester.”

The limit is twelve weeks because that is the end of the first trimester. That’s all it is. It’s a timeframe. To me there is no difference in an abortion at 10 weeks to one at 14, 18 or 22 weeks. Perhaps there is a difference in your ability to turn a blind eye. In my opinion that is not right, and voting for it will not make it right.  The referendum of 1983, which inserted the 8th Amendment in to our Constitution, did not make the 8th Amendment right. There is no compelling argument that the developing baby hasn’t passed some sort of human frontier. The twelve week argument takes no account of a beating heart, first kick or brain activity.

So I ask those who have decided to vote ‘Yes’ or who are still undecided: Why not extend the time limit to 40 weeks?

The People Before Profit poster campaigning for a Yes vote reads, very simply: “Our bodies. Our choice. Vote Yes.” If you accept this argument, why are you supporting a 12 week limit? Why isn’t the limit 24 weeks, like in the United Kingdom? Why, if you claim “Our bodies, Our choice” do you accept such abortion legislation, instead of allowing abortions up to the moment where the baby, or foetus if you prefer, leaves the womb and is separated from their mother?

While I concede that there may be need for abortions in certain circumstances, I believe abortions should not be allowed in cases where:

  1. The mother is healthy, both physically and mentally,
  2. The baby is healthy, and will be at birth,
  3. The baby was conceived as a result of consensual sex.

Furthermore, I disagree with the labels of “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” There is a huge difference between a procedure intended to save the life of the mother and that same procedure when the intention of it is solely to end the life of the foetus. This legislation which will provide abortions, for any reason up to 12 weeks, should not be adopted. Our laws may change, but moral truth will not change.

If you are of the opinion that: “It’s going to happen anyway, it’s legal in other countries” Legal and illegal have never been the same as moral and immoral, right and wrong, just and unjust. It is our civic responsibility to pull them as close together as possible, regardless of our gender, skin colour, nationality, faith or indeed lack thereof. This will be an enormous step backwards for our country when the most innocent among us are nothing more than an issue of choice.

If you are undecided, I say to you that you will have another chance to vote on the 8th Amendment if a No vote carries. Following the referendum on the Nice Treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty 2008, when the Government did not get the answer that they campaigned for, they organised second referenda for each treaty. This will give you opportunity to lobby your local TD for the removal of unrestricted abortions but the inclusion of other scenarios which are important to you.

If you consider yourself “pro-choice” and I have only convinced you that I am an uncompassionate bigot, I ask you: Why are you willing to limit your compassion to twelve weeks? Why do you disagree with abortions up until birth? Why are you willing to protest that it is “our bodies, our choice” only up to but not further than twelve weeks? What specifically happens at twelve weeks that it is no longer your body? Why are you comfortable restricting abortions from the women that we ought to trust to make the right choice because they are women, but who are further than twelve weeks pregnant?

I believe abortions should be legislated for under certain circumstances such as where the women’s life is at risk. In that case, I can completely understand why an abortion would be necessary even past the nonsensical 12 week limit. My issue is with the current proposed legislation that allows a perfectly healthy foetus, whose mother is healthy and whose conception was consensual to be killed for any reason.

If you agree, Vote No on May 25th

Our work is supported by