The starting pistol has been fired on the referendum on whether or not to give politicians the power to legislate to provide for abortion on demand. Truth be told, the battle started a long time ago – a media largely sympathetic with the push for wider access to abortion has been engaged in ‘softening up’ opinion for quite some time.
The Government decision this week to hold a referendum (probably in late May) was inevitable. Already, people are stepping forward to try to police the debate. A number of politicians have expressed the view that children with Down Syndrome should not be used in campaign material by those working to retain the Eighth Amendment. Of course, what they don’t address is the fact that nine out of 10 children in England and Wales diagnosed in utero with the condition are aborted. It’s a shocking statistic, and one which should not be ignored by those trying to police the debate.
Those who want to retain the pro-life provision in the Constitution face an uphill struggle – powerful forces, often funded from abroad, are lining up to push for wider access to abortion in Ireland. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution is a powerful barrier in their way. And it’s a provision that can be saved, if the truth of abortion is brought to the people.
Those who support the pro-life position must resist the temptation to become pessimistic or disengaged from the debate. Rather, everyone who cares about life, dignity and equality needs to step up, engage with thelr local pro-life group and fight for the rights of the unborn.
Hearts and minds will be crucial to this campaign. Pro-choice advocates are trying to push the line that abortions will be rare in any new legal framework. The evidence, however, is that where abortion is introduced it inevitably becomes more commonplace. Currently, more than one in five pregnancies in England and Wales ends in abortion – that’s 20% of all unborn children snuffed out before they even have a chance to be born and make an impact on the world.
Abortion is the most pressing human rights issue of our times. In the future, generations still to come will look back with horror at this era and the belief that targeting the most vulnerable amongst us for killing was ever deemed acceptable from seemingly civilised societies.
In human rights terms, there is no cause more just or noble than standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and giving voice to the voiceless.
The powerless and the voiceless that we are being asked to stand up for in this referendum are the unborn children – those who have no choice when it comes to whether they live or die.
Pro-life campaigners must take heart from the fundamental justice of their cause. They should also be aware that this is not just about Ireland – the retention of the pro-life article in the Irish Constitution will serve as a powerful beacon for the rest of the world. Pro-life campaigners and those who care about human dignity in every corner of the planet will be emboldened to speak out if Ireland says ‘no’ to abortion and a powerful ‘yes’ to life.