The sense of dread that came over me when Donald Trump was elected President of the USA was heightened considerably last week.
There were silly tweets from him about launching missiles “nice, new and smart”, after the reported gas attacks near Damascus. In a sleepless moment last Friday night, on an extended Newsroom programme (BBC World Service) I heard that he had carried out that threat. It was in trepidation that I tuned in to the 8am news next morning, but thankfully things seemed to have stabilised, with no military response from the Russians, who also had been throwing shapes.
Funny peculiar thing was, the plot of last Thursday’s episode of Designated Survivor (Netflix) also featured a US President launching a retaliatory missile attack on a Middle-Eastern state. He wavered between angry desire to hit back at US enemies and reflective concern over the damage he was doing. The show has improved a bit of late, but can still be corny and contrived, with an uneasy mix of liberalism and gung-ho patriotism.
Also last Saturday morning there was an articulate defence of the Eighth Amendment from barrister and media person Theresa Lowe on the Saturday Sit-In (Newstalk). She thought the right to life was primary and that it was “almost inconceivable” that we would take such a human right out of the Constitution.
She saw the Government proposal as “abortion on demand” up to 12 weeks gestation and said this was more “drastic and draconian” than the UK regime. Dr Lara Dungan was pro-repeal and was factually incorrect when she stated that the Eighth Amendment had itself been amended in 2013. I was amazed to hear a doctor saying that there was “no such thing as science for when life begins”. I prefer not to know where presenters stand on controversial issues but the sympathies of presenter George Hook seemed to lie with the pro-life side. However, he made one puzzling statement, that he knew women that had “carried a dead foetus or child for the entire nine months” because they though abortion was wrong. Surely if the unborn baby, tragically, is dead, neither the Eighth nor abortion is remotely relevant?
Also on the Eighth, Newstalk had a poster obsession last Thursday, covering the issue over three programmes. It was obvious that it was about pro-life posters. There was much use of the term “graphic”, but I’ve seen hundreds of referendum posters and they display pictures of living unborn babies only. It’s ironic how people take offence at such posters but don’t express offence at abortion itself.
On Lunchtime Live presenter Ciara Kelly interviewed psychotherapist Stella O’Malley about what one might say to children about abortion if confronted with these posters. Her suggestion was to describe it thus: a woman didn’t want a pregnancy to continue and so “the doctor fixed it up”!
The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) was hosted last week by Jonathan Healy. On Tuesday he conducted a very challenging interview with John McGuirk of the Save the 8th campaign. Worryingly, Healy seemed to think that it was only on threat to life grounds that abortions could be carried out after 12 weeks. McGuirk had to correct him, pointing out it was also on threats to health, including mental health, the grounds under which most UK abortions take place. Healy used emotive and loaded terms that suit only the pro-choice side – talking about “people forced onto boats” (for abortions abroad) or women being ‘incubators’ if carrying babies with life limiting conditions.
On Wednesday, he interviewed Dr Louise Kenny, a pro-repeal obstetrician, and it was a softer interview, though he did put some pro-life views to her for response. The interview was inherently unfair as Healy doesn’t have the medical knowledge to challenge her arguments. She was not challenged when she said that the Eighth “states that the termination of pregnancy can only be allowed when there is a substantial and immediate and substantial threat to life”. It doesn’t. She repeated “immediate and substantial” and while Healy put a counter view from a pro-life obstetrician he didn’t point out that Medical Council Guidelines say “real and substantial” and that this ‘may not be immediate or inevitable’.
It’s great that Dr Kenny does life-saving work on high risk pregnancies, but I’d prefer to see obstetricians working in a medical environment that requires full support for mother and baby “as far as practicable”.
Pick of the week
VOX NOSTRA WITH VLAD SMISHKEWYCH
RTÉ Lyric FM, Sunday, April 22, 7 am
The sacred music of Carissimi set the bar high in the 17th Century, and shines on this morning’s Vox Nostra.
RTÉ 1, Sunday, April 22, 11 am
Mass for Vocations Sunday with choir from the National Centre for Liturgy, Maynooth.
TOLKIEN’S ‘THE LORD OF THE RINGS’ – A CATHOLIC WORLDVIEW
EWTN, Sunday, April 22, 4 pm, also Thursday, April 26, 9 am
Host Joseph Pearce uncovers the Catholicism found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.