This was a terrible year for Ireland, writes David Quinn
The year just gone will go down as one of the worst, morally speaking, since Ireland gained independence in 1922. May 25 – the date of the abortion referendum – will eventually be remembered as the day when a two-to-one majority of the Irish people voted to remove the right to life from all human beings before birth. It was a giant, regressive step in the annals of human rights. It was wildly celebrated in Dublin Castle, which only makes it worse.
Many of those who voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment admittedly did so reluctantly, some of them with only the ‘hard cases’ in mind. But some of those more ‘moderate’ voters will have calculated that since abortion is happening anyway, either through women going to England or through the illegal use of the abortion pill at home, it is better to simply make it legal.
This, of course, is an utterly defeatist attitude. It looks at the social norms of our time and assumes they can’t be changed. In Britain, about one in four women will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Abortion surged after the Sex Revolution and is part and parcel of it.
Women are far more likely to have an abortion when they are not in a secure relationship, when they do not feel they can count on the father of their child. This is why married women are vastly less likely to have an abortion than unmarried women.
Well, those who voted ‘Yes’ for ‘pragmatic’ reasons have voted for an Ireland in which it will be more likely, not less likely that their daughters will one day go on to have an abortion. Even leaving aside what abortion does to the unborn child, how is that progress?
The referendum also revealed that about one in three weekly Mass-goers voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment. At best, they will have been guided by a false idea of ‘compassion’. This merely shows the failure on the part of the Church to properly catechise regular Mass-goers, never mind the rest of the Catholic population.
In a very secular culture, the job of catechising people will be challenging, but contrary to what some journalists and politicians probably believe, the right to life is rarely spoken of by priests at Mass and that is a terrible failure. It is possible to talk about the right to life of the unborn in a non-judgemental, pastoral way.
The year just gone is also one in which we heard a great deal about feminism, and the feminist cause was closely linked to the cause of abortion. Indeed, a certain type of feminism sees motherhood in general as an impediment to the advance of women in society.
A true feminism should support women in all the legitimate choices they make, but the type of feminism on offer from policy-makers judges that women are only achieving equality with men when they achieve the same economic and work outcomes as men. That is, work in the same jobs at the same levels and for the same hours.
This is regardless of whether or not women in general want to strike a different work-life balance, and would rather devote more hours to the domestic world than to their careers compared with men.
Maybe what men have – often working very long hours in unrewarding jobs – is something not worth striving for?
In any case, if the world of work is the measure of success, and if motherhood is regarded as an impediment to this, then abortion must be made widely available, and if the baby is born, then the child should be placed in State-subsidised day-care for long hours each day. Apparently, this is what liberation looks like.
The Church (and by this, I mean the wider Church, especially women), needs to present Irish society with a better, more balanced, more rounded vision of what human flourishing means for both women and men, a vision that properly respects the home and family life.
We have also seen the Constitution’s provision on women in the home debated in 2018. This provision does not say a woman’s place is in the home, but does say no woman should be forced to work outside the home because of economic necessity. It has been condemned as ‘misogynistic’ even though the broad aim of the policy was very widely supported in the Western world in general at that time.
The aim of the policy was to protect the world of home from the world of work, especially given that a century ago it was not uncommon for mothers, fathers and children to work for long hours outside the home to stave off extreme poverty.
Another divorce referendum was also proposed in 2018, to take place next May, the Government’s favourite month for referenda that has included attacking the right to life and redefining marriage. This one will be aimed at making it easier to divorce, which further reduces the legal status of marriage. No doubt the campaign for a more permissive divorce law will be driven by hard case personal stories once again.
Finally, 2018 was dominated by Brexit, which may or may not now be in the balance. But as important as Brexit is, it does not attack the most fundamental of rights in the way the May referendum did. The right to life itself was not and is not at stake and therefore Brexit is less morally significant as an issue. Without doubt, the stripping away of protection from the unborn child was the stand-out event of 2018.