Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Run for cover, its a debate on abortion!

I've been quiet reluctant to throw my tuppence worth into the ring on the abortion debate thats spread like a rash across the Irish blogsphere. Unlike my Saintly colleague I do have strong views on the topic, but much of what I feel has been stated more eloquantly elsewhere. However as this blog has been referred to as an "umpire", I thought it would be remiss not to post an opposing view to The Saint. Simply put, I don't believe abortion should be legalised in Ireland. There are many layers to the debate and they have been addressed elsewhere, so I won't repeat them here. The fundamental issue, in my humble opinion, in this debate is when does human life begin? All other arguments are trumped by this as it involves our most basic right as a human, the right to life. This may be moralistic, but our law is based primarily on what is morally right and wrong. Granting somebody the 'status' of human being based on its ability to survive on its own is flawed and highly unsatisfactory. The new born baby will not survive on its own. Nor will somebody who is severely mentally handicapped. Yet nobody would deny that such persons are human beings. How about the level of dependence on the mother involved? Does somebody on a life support machine cease to be a human being for the duration they are on the life support machine? I believe that the simplest and most satisfying answer to that question is the life begins at the moment of fertilisation, conception. Thus the foetus growing in its mothers womb is an innocent human being. I, like many others, believe this to be the fundamental and pivitol issue in the debate. Once a human being exists, that human has a fundamental right to life, and that right is only matched by the right to life of other human beings. It is superior to all other rights and non-negotiable. Aud puts the point succinctly when she says "Refusal to extend the most basic of all human rights, the right to life, to unborn human beings, makes the ubiquitous human rights language that we reference so many of our dilemmas to, negotiable and wholly dependent on social/cultural mores. " I've read other blogs talking about rights of the mother, be they the right to choose, 'reproductive' rights, 'right to privacy and bodily integrity' etc. Whilst there is little doubt that these rights exist , surely they are not absolute and the right to life is superior to all such rights? I would echo the sentiments of Michael over at disillusioned lefty, where points out that, if the woman has freely entered into actions that can result in pregnancy then she should accept the responsibilities that arise when pregnancy occurs. In the instance of rape the woman of course has not freely entered into the actions which resulted in pregnancy. As a male I can't begin to put myself in the shoes of a woman in that position. However, that foetus is still a 100% innocent human being, with the same fundamental rights as every other human. Finally, The Irish State has a duty to protect the right to life of all the natural persons living on this Island, whether they be a citizen or not. This duty exists regardless of how dependent one person is on another, or the circumstances of that persons conception. Similarly every human being has the duty to respect the right to life of all other human beings. Legalising the murder of human beings, whether they be in the womb or not, is wholly inconsistent with these duties.


Simon said...

i was wondering about the umpire status as well. I would perfare the term documentor maybe :)

Cian said...

Documentor it is, umpire was only stemming from a comment i read at the start where you mentioned a reluctance to weigh in.
Not meant in a disparaging fashion i assure you.

Simon said...

i know.:)

CK said...

Absolutely, I agree with Tuathal. I would never agree with the idea of deciding the legal status of abortion based on its availability in a neighbouring country.

However, I could not debate the topic and defend this position as affirmatively as Tuathal. I certainly believe life begins at conception bit I'm unsure about where I stand on issues such as the morning after pill- does it destroy the potential for life? Also where a woman is raped I don't know how I could reason with her that she should preserve the life that has been created through her trauma.

Also I am never comfortable in describing rights in absolute terms, so that where the mothers life is in danger through the pregnancy I cannot deny her right to life over that of the unborn. The grey areas proliferate throughout, in Ireland where the mother is at risk of committing suicide, this is a constitutionally protected grounds to perform a termination- satisfactorily determining the mental state of a person and using it as a grounds to end a life is full of pitfalls in my mind.

This is a debate I find hard to intellectualise, I would defend the right to life before all else but there are so many areas where I am unsure in forming an opinion.

-Ann said...

Your argument on viability/dependence has forced me to crystalise my thinking on the issue. I've supported the idea behind Roe v. Wade, that as viability increased, the compelling State interest to protect life also increased.

You've forced me to examine more carefully my believe that until viability is established, that abortion should be legal. After thinking about it, I have to say that there is a major difference between a foetus and a mentally handicapped person, an infant, or a person on life support. Quite simply, if the primary caretaker of any of the latter 3 is unable to care for the individual, he or she can seek support, assistance or, as a worst case scenario, hand over custodial responsibility for the dependent.

A pregnant woman cannot transfer her foetus to another's care. Until the foetus can exist independently from the mother, the foetus is part of the mother. The foetus can have no existence without the mother.

It's overly simplistic to say that if the woman can wait, in 9 months someone will be happy to adopt the child. I could create hypothetical situations all day that would illustrate this point.

A certain ability to carry out basic life functions separate from the womb is, to me, an essential defining line for life. Until the foetus is able to survive outside the womb, the woman should have the right to terminate the pregnancy in a safe manner. I still believe that although your arguments did make me think about it.

Simon said...

But if you think about it there was a time when a pre mature baby could not survive. But now with technology very pre-mature babies can survive. Who is to say that technology in 40 years could not advance to the stage that a foetus does not need its mother at all and can survive from perphaps a test tube conception.

-Ann said...

If in 40 years, technology advanced to that point, then I would happily take of the cause to make that the accepted and practiced alternative to abortion. (Providing that it was humanely done and that the children found homes afterwards - such technology could produce a whole range of unintended consequences.) But, the simplistic point is, yes, if there were an immediate, safe and humane alternative to abortion, I would be all for that.

I don't think any woman goes along in her life thinking "Gee, I really hope I get to have an abortion." It's a decision born out of desperation and, I would think, in 99.9% of cases not one taken lightly.

Simon said...

sorry ann I don't think you got me. My point is that you said you agreed with abortion as the foetus/baby is not viable outside the woman.

My point was that this is only dicatate by technology. Roughly an abortion can be carried out up to 20 weeks. But who is to say that in 10 years time a baby born after 20 weeks prematurly could survive with mordern technology.

I don't think any woman goes along in her life thinking "Gee, I really hope I get to have an abortion." It's a decision born out of desperation and, I would think, in 99.9% of cases not one taken lightly.
Oh I 100% agree. I doubt any abortion has a happy story surrounding it and I would say most suffer long lasting physcological problems.

Anon said...

I'm sure there are "long lasting psychological consequences" either way. The question for the woman in question will be which consequences are best for me.