After the 8th – a Pro Life take on the Issues

As I write its just a matter of the margins. The 8th Amendment will be replaced, and like all other nations, the parliament will make the abortion laws, not the people.

I was a #SaveThe8th campaigner myself. I have been pro life for decades. Based on secular ethics based arguments, I am one of the few voices that was publicly pro life and active in the left orginisations of Irish politics. I met some fantastic people, and powerful women who I was honoured to canvass beside in the Renmore area. Some were traditional Catholics, some were Protestant. Some were young liberals, who want respect for being single mothers, not forced to abort to cover the shame.

Some like me were men. Gladly, I can say we were outnumbered by women in the pro life canvass. Gladly, I can say these women kept telling us our opinions DO matter on the issue. Some were coming from a Church standpoint. More like me were from a secular ethics standpoint. All respected each other.

We seem to have lost this one. But as 1916 was lost by the Irish, we take heart that 1922 saw independence. We may have a 1922 in the pro life cause yet. Though I hope we avoid the civil war!

I would like to congratulate the YES campaign on their win, and thank the people for the respectful way they engaged with us on the doorsteps. I would like to think we carried ourselves well. We did our best, and for the right reasons, but it seems the votes are not there.

We will sit back, relax on a job well done even if it was not successful, in politics one side must win, one side must concede. We will ask where it went wrong and what could we have done better.

Where will we go from here? The logical place, as the issue is now in the Dail, is to organise a cross party alliance in the Dáil. To actively join parties and make the voice heard at cummann level. The issue is far from over, and expends beyond the abortion issue to opposing eugenics and euthanasia. On all those topics there are degrees of opposition in the ranks, with some more sympathetic to the issues than others. Basically, we will organise to ensure that laws do not go too far.

Its always a dark day when you lose. But that’s democracy, and below I look at how it was lost, how it was meant to be used and wasn’t, and though we lost, how it is not all bad news for those who come from a pro life angle.

How it was lost

Adoption was pushed strongly as a better option than abortion. Adoption though, has a bad name, due to the babies for sale scandals. The Mother and Baby homes issue is still raw in memory. Many think it better there be no baby is the mother cant keep it than either of these two options.

The middle aged remembered an Ireland where it was a massive taboo to not alone the mother but the family to be a single parent. While that thankfully has by and large gone, its in the popular memory and will not be forgotten. Nor should it be. The term “illegitimate” and the B swear word should go the way of the N word, and never be used.

This was a social tabboo that went beyond church teaching, but was fueled by incitement from the churches. Discrimination in inheritance law, a slur on the “honour” of a family, and so forth was entrenched especially in the last few hundred years.

People believe that there will be less social supports from the state than the more that Love Both are campaigning for. Some thought them empty promises. While those like me do not see them as that – my background in the anti austerity movement proves authenticity in that – we respect other people cynicism. The pressures put on the nation will certainly push in that direction.

Lack of working class turnout was another major factor. It was heartening to see it was a middle class issue to repeal, and a working class issue to retain, from what we met while canvassing. However, convincing the people retention was right was easy, convincing them their vote mattered was hard. Voter participation is something that must be worked on.

The pro life left were late in the game. They should have organised five odd years ago. However they were a very welcome addition ot the pro life cause, and will be a central plank in future. Strong female voices like Carol Nolan shook off the stereotype of pro life being old people and men telling young women how to live.

How the 8th Was Meant to be Used

Particular Local interest – Savita:

“Where practical” was a vague wording, meant to be used with common sense. At the time, some said it would allow for abortion. More said it would not.

Savita Halappanavar had sepsis. She presented to UCHG with symptoms suggesting miscarriage in progress. She got sent home, as back pain is not taken seriously. On its own, maybe yes. In a pregnant woman, it should be different. That is bad medicine, not the 8th Amendment.

She presented again in A/E, this time with the unborn child in full progress of miscarriage, and more symptoms of sepsis. Tests, thirteen or so in number, were not processed or assessed. Before we address the removal of the unborn to save the mothers life, we must remember this. With sepsis, every minute matters.

When the gravity of the situation was realized, there was a panic. A lack of clarity of thinking, and gumption of principle, led to the doctors saying as there was no heartbeat the child should not be removed. Then, in what can only de described as patronizing, Savita was told “This is a Catholic country” by another staff member.

Bad medicine, not the 8th Amendment caused Savita death. It was blamed to cover their behinds. They will have to find a different excuse in future. They will find excuses. Expectant mothers deserve better care.

Bad medicine, not the 8th Amendment caused Savita death. It was blamed to cover their behinds. They will have to find a different excuse in future. They will find excuses. Expectant mothers deserve better care.

That is what happens when you are a foreigner and speak up for yourself. Medics do not like being questioned, and do not seem to understand that no one is telling them they do not know their job, but are trying to understand whats happening and why that they think should be happening is not been done.

Whether intentional or accidental, this is sectarianism, to tell a Hindu they have to abide by a Catholic law. Its racist, in that it makes the patient feel like the is less than a white Irish patient. And it is wrong, as its not a Catholic law, as forty cases a year, the mothers life is saved, the unborn removed, which were going to die anyway.

This is to spite forty annual cases a year in the forty years prior to her case where the child is actively taken out to save the mothers life, with no legal consequences, and no objection from what was then a powerful church. Dr Astbury acknowledged this telling the Coroner ’s Court that if she had been aware of the infection she would have terminated the pregnancy – as was permissible under Irish law.

Dr Astbury quoted on the legal position of Savitas tragic case

Solicitor Gerard O’Donnell told the Irish Independent: “Mr Halappanavar has never claimed in any interview that a termination could have saved his wife’s life.” However, it may have given her a chance, tough equally the trauma of an indiced delivery or surgical intervention itself could have killed Savita.

National Intrest – PP vs HSE

Again, a macabre lack of interpretaion saw a woman been kept alive to keep the baby as a doctor could not make a descision with forty years of precedent to protect them. While its different in that the issue was a dignified death for the mother, the preganancy was not practical reagardless.

The 8th was blamed, and the court judgement came back that it was misinterpreted, and the case should never have made it to court.

It might be an idea, on maternity admission forms, similar to the “No Resus” instruction that can be put on your file, the mothers wishes in advance of any issues that can go wrong can be taken into account and followed. Even though the 8th may be gone, some other excuse will be given to cover bad medicine or lack of medical descision making.

We might have lost, but it is not all bad news

There are a lot of positives to be taken from the campaign: a lot of the supporters are posting they only want it for the hard cases, but what the governement will bring in will be another story. There will be pressure from the EU and the UN to conform to international pressures. As countries adapt policies similar to Iceland, we will see less disabled people. Most who voted YES would be against selective abortions on disability, unlike Ruth Coppinger who said they are “no cakewalk” to rear and “parents should have the right to make that choice”. Those who opposed us in this referendum, may be allies in future campaigns.

I am a vetern of canvassing on the anti austerity issues, and for Socialist Party candidates. From opposing water charges to marching for fair pay, I have been there. I have sat at the feet of the guards as they kicked their way through the crowds at the road to the Dáil. Only a thin line of boot wearing Éirigi activists saved me and six others getting out teeth kicked in like other peoples ankles were.

This was the first campaign I canvassed on where though people disagreed with us and said so, they respected and listened to us. Those who didnt by and large were respectful in saying they would rather not hear our point. There were a few abusive folk, but Im sure YES met abusive folk on our side too.

Protestants can trust that Catholics are not under yoke of church. Even in the pro life campaign, the issue was fought on secular ethics based grounds. We had many strong Catholics in our ranks, Born Again Chritians, and Church of Ireland folk. In Dundalk, thirty Orange Order members canvassed side by side with Catholics. In Dublin at the Stand Up for Life rally, there was an Orangeman I was speaking to who said “there is no difference between us” to another man beside us. Finding cross community common ground has to be a good thing between the loyalist and the nationalist Irish.

Protestants have more in common with traditional catholics and pro life progressives than with liberals and ultra capitalists. People like Carol Nolan and Arlene Foster would work quite well in governement together if the national issue was not an obstacle. Two strong determined ethics based women, who respect everyones right to be Catholic, but would stand up against any of the old dictatorial Catholicism that there was. The “Cherish All The Children Equally” movement will continue in some form to give direction or insiration to the Pro Life Left in this country.

The pro life cross community and cross party groups may merge in some alliance to bring in family freindly laws. Families in all their forms, traditional two parent families, single parent families, same sex families. Issues like standing up for homeowners against banks, the suicide epidemic caused by putting profittering banks before the people are all the talk of grassroots FF and FG voters now.

The HQ of both parties cannot ignore this grassroots movement, as its not about replacing the parties. This they used before to silence opposition. They said the CAHWT was about replacing FF and FG more than sorting the nations problems. Sure, the SP / SWP and SF did take part with that in mind. They also did to sort the nations problems. But now the grassroots of the center ground are on the issues too.

The church taking on the role of advisers as opposed to dictating how people should live, gives them a moral authority which is their role – and they could do with practicing themselves – shows we have a modern society. However, the pro life people were very disorganized in the absence of being used to being led by the clergy, and convincing people to vote was an issue on the doorsteps. Having identified a need to engage people in the democratic process is something that can be built on at a community level in the future.

Concluding comments

Some say this is the final separation of church and state. They have been seperate for a long time. What was sad to see what the venom where it existed (a lot online) that was aimed at the Catholic people for being Catholic.

I campaigned on secular ethics grounds myself, but I respect those who base their ethics on faith based principles. Our Syrian friends would not tolerate being faulted for being Muslim, or basing their policies or politics on Islamic values. Why should anyone be faulted for basing their values on a faith basis, be it Catholic, or Protestant even?

Yes, the clergy for being hypocritical need to be silent. But the people have to be respected. The state will reflect the people who elect its government.

Who will win from all this? Cormac Lally, a YES supporter, put it very well. Even though he and I may not agree on a lot of political topics, from abortion to Barrack Obama, he was very fair on this one. He said, there are no real winners in this issue. Whats won is a way to do things better.

There will be one winner. Who runs the clinics. I personally suspect Denis O’Briens intrest in medical clinics will give him a network to roll out abportion nationwide and profit from it. Just like he did with water meters.

Which oddly enough will make him Ruth Coppingers new best freind!

By your company let ye be known!

About the Author

Thomas Carty
Thomas Carty is a Renmore resident, having moved to Galway for work a couple of years ago. Both his parents were originally from Ballinalee in Co. Longford but he grew up in Banagher and maintains his Offaly connections with membership of the poetry group Tullamore Rhymers Club. An amateur genealogist and historian, he writes on a range of topics that grab his interest. He works at security to pay the bills, and travels widely around Europe to keep sane!