The humility of the Magi

The humility of the Magi Bartolome Esteban Murillo's 'Adoration of the Magi'
The View


On the day the Oireachtas Committee considering the Eighth Amendment recommended to the government to hold a referendum to legalise abortion in this country, a miraculous news story appeared across the water in Britain.

Vanellope Hope Wilkins was born a month premature with a condition that had caused doctors to advise her parents to ‘terminate’. Her development in her mother’s womb was not normal: her heart and part of her stomach grew outside her body. As reported by RTÉ news on its website, the condition, ectopia cordis, was discovered at nine weeks gestation.

Think about that. At nine weeks, it was possible for the doctors treating Vanellope’s mother to identify the baby’s major organs and see that they were growing abnormally.

Yet listening to the Oireachtas Committee that judged all babies up until 12 weeks to be worthy of no rights at all, one could be forgiven for thinking (as many do) that the baby isn’t really a baby at that stage, that we’re not talking about a child with limbs, a brain – a beating heart.

Indeed, if Vanellope had been older than 12 weeks, the Oireachtas Committee would still allow her to be aborted. Why? Because the doctors treating Vanellope and her mother stated clearly that she would not survive.

No chance

The Oireachtas Committee don’t want to give babies like Vanellope a chance – they don’t think she deserves a chance. They think that people should be allowed to end the life of such a child, rather than make the effort to save her. When our politicians and leaders take this kind of approach, the rest of society follows. Changes to our laws materially affect our culture and attitudes.

In relation to abortion, this can result in not merely a ‘disposable’ attitude towards aborting children, but can even create a kind of ‘moral’ pressure to terminate – particularly in cases of children with serious illnesses, whom doctors judge to have a slim chance of survival.

This was experienced by Vanellope’s parents whose doctors – undoubtedly affected by the culture of abortion in the UK – advised her parents to abort her. Her parents were told that the chances of Vanellope surviving were “next to none” – much like the parents of those babies with so-called ‘fatal foetal abnormalities’. They were told the only option was to terminate and that they could avail of counselling.

But Vanellope’s mother said that abortion was not an option for her, and that if her baby was to die naturally then she would accept it, but she wanted to fight for her baby’s life.

The consultant pediatrician in Glenfield Hospital in Leicester who treated the child said that she had only come across the very rare condition once, 20 years before, but that that baby had been aborted.

Thanks to her parents’ determination, the doctors did eventually rally around Vanellope and following her early delivery performed three operations on her tiny body to get her heart and stomach back within her abdominal cavity.

The question that one can’t help asking is: how many more miracle babies like Vanellope might be alive today if doctors had fought for them and sought to heal them, as is their duty, rather than advising and even pressurizing their parents to “terminate”?

The fact is, with a law as proposed by the Oireachtas Committee, babies like Vanellope would have an even slimmer chance of survival than they already do. For doctors, abortion in these instances is the easy option – the more difficult one is to make the effort to heal and look after the child. But isn’t that what every child deserves?

This week, we as Christians remember the arduous trek made by three world leaders to seek the Christ-child. Although they had authority, power and wealth, Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar bowed down before an infant in a lowly manger, in humility – the most important character trait in any leader.

The power that comes with leadership is something that needs to be tempered with humility and a willingness to represent and protect the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. Our laws should protect those most at risk of having their rights ignored and our politicians and leaders should be guardians of those laws and defenders those people.

Sadly, when given the choice, a majority of the Oireachtas Committee chose to do the opposite: to do away with a law that protects all human life and to turn their backs on the most vulnerable.

They voted for a proposal more extreme than that which exists in the UK, where one in every five babies are aborted.

They voted that a child can be killed because he or she is unwanted, up to 12 weeks’ gestation – that’s three weeks older than Vanellope Hope Wilkins when her condition was diagnosed.

They also voted that children can have their lives ended where a mother has an unspecified health issue either physical or mental: the reason for 97% of abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2016 – that’s 180,794 children lost on that ground alone in a single year.

They also voted for abortion in the case of rape, where the child is punished because her father is a criminal. But the most significant vote was not a vote on abortion. Rather it was the Committee’s vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment.


That amendment does not mention abortion at all. It is a law that recognises that a baby before birth has a right to live – just as his or her mother has a right to live.

Yet the Oireachtas Committee seems to think that this is a bad thing. In trying to take away the rights and dignity of “unwanted” children before they are born, they would obliterate the constitutional rights of all children before birth. How sad that those who are strong and powerful would abuse their position of responsibility to attempt to take away the only legal protection that the most vulnerable members of our society have.

It is now up to us, as citizens and as Christians, to stand up for the rights of children like Vanellope Hope Wilkins, and of all children, using the only language our politicians seem to understand – the language of the ballot box.