Sacrifices in the name of choice

Sacrifices in the name of choice
An obsession with autonomy is driving up Ireland’s abortion rate, writes David Quinn


It was a classic case of ‘burying the lede’, that is to say, the real lead was not what the report highlighted. Instead the headline on the RTÉ website read: “Concerns raised about implementing new abortion laws.”

The story was about the implementation to date of the law which came into effect on January 1. It examined some of the technical problems doctors say they are encountering such as how to calculate the three days between a woman asking for an abortion and obtaining one.

But a full 15 paragraphs into the report we arrive at the real story, namely that doctors facilitating or performing abortions in Ireland “estimate they are carrying out between 800-900 terminations a month”.

This is a horrifying statistic, if true. We will not know for sure until the Department of Health releases official figures after the end of the year. But these doctors would be in an excellent position to estimate the numbers so far, seeing as they are the ones performing abortions or prescribing the abortion pill.


If they are accurate, and the current rate continues for the rest of the year, it will mean that around 10,000 abortions will have taken place in the first 12 months of the new law’s operation.

This would mean a doubling at least of last year’s abortion total, which was around 5,000 when you allow for around 3,500 Irish women travelling to England for terminations and an estimated 1,500 who were using the abortion pill illegally.

If this climbs to 10,000 it will mean the worst fears of pro-life campaigners have been realised. A doubling in the number of abortions will mean that virtually overnight we will have doubled the odds of our daughters and partners and sisters and wives having an abortion at some point in their lives. Even if you are pro-choice, who could want that? Even on pro-choice terms abortion is, at best, a regrettable necessity.

There is very little awareness of the divorce referendum because there has been almost no debate about it

If the number increases by ‘only’ 50% to 7,500 or so, that is still horrible. A 10% increase would be awful. What will then happen in the years ahead as abortion becomes more and more ‘normal’?

Remember, abortions are being provided ‘free’ in this country, which is to say, the tax-payer is funding them. And in about 80% of cases they are being provided by GPs, many of whom are easily accessible.

Also, the decades-long campaign against the Eighth Amendment has clearly persuaded large numbers of the public to simply regard abortion as part of modern life.

In other words, pro-choice propaganda has run deep, and if it turns out that the number of abortions is in line with what Irish pro-choice doctors are saying, it would be awful, but not a total surprise.

This same pro-choice mentality is at work in the divorce referendum as well. It takes place on May 24. There is very little awareness of it because there has been almost no debate about it.

This is partly the result of continuing fatigue from last year’s momentous abortion battle, but also because the stakes are quite low this time. The big decision was made in 1995 when we voted by a sliver in favour of turning marriage from something permanent and indissoluble into something impermanent and dissoluble.

In order to persuade people to vote ‘Yes’, the then Fine Gael-led Government inserted a provision into the Constitution that said a couple would have to be separated for four out of the last five years before they could divorce.

Now a Fine Gael-led Government wants to take the waiting time out of the Constitution completely. Take careful note of that. This is what we will be voting on later this month.

More than half of marriages that end in divorce are low-conflict

If we vote in favour, which is extremely likely, the Government will then reduce the waiting time to two out of the last three years, but will do so through an Act of the Oireachtas. There will be absolutely nothing to stop a future Government reducing the waiting time to six months, or zero for that matter.

Pro-choice arguments are being deployed in favour of removing the waiting time from the Constitution. If someone wants to get a divorce, how dare society get in their way? We lose sight of the greater good again.

The choice of just one of the spouses to end a marriage counts for everything. The choice of the other spouse who might not want a divorce, who might want to carry on for the sake of the children, counts for nothing. The happiness of the one person becomes more important than the happiness and welfare of the family as a whole.

It will be said that children cannot be happy in an unhappy home, but actually, more than half of marriages that end in divorce are low-conflict, meaning the children might not be aware one or both parents is unhappy.

Unfortunately, these kinds of issues are not being raised in the referendum. People will be taken in again by arguments based on notions of ‘personal happiness’ and ‘choice’ and nothing else will be considered.

That is the way we are now. The same logic that justified a liberal abortion law, also justifies a liberal divorce law. Nothing else but the choice of the one individual is considered.