Charles Moore says of Ireland’s vote to repeal the 8th amendment to their constitution, which specifically protects the rights of the unborn: ‘Personally, I greatly regret the Irish result, because I think that, in matters of life or death, one should try to side with life’; however, he believes ‘the subject was a fit one for a referendum’, and that as with the referendum that ushered in the 8th amendment, the result of the second referendum should be respected; that if the Irish government does not introduce abortion, it ‘will flout the wishes of voters’ (‘Ireland’s vote on abortion is a lesson to us all’, Telegraph, May 28, 2018).
He applies the same logic to the Brexit referendum, and it is true that while the result of the 1975 referendum on whether to remain in the European Community was respected, the Brexit vote has been widely disrespected, with vocal threats to overturn it. The Brexit vote should be respected, but the Irish vote is a completely different case.
The original vote for the 8th amendment was justified in view of widespread threats to unborn life, with pressure growing for abortion to be legalised in every corner of the world, despite the Geneva Convention enshrining the right to life from conception; however, the result of the later vote cannot be regarded as set in stone, because the right to life is an inalienable right – it cannot be bestowed or taken away by politicians, or even by majorities of the electorate. If it were, there would be nothing to stop referenda on euthanasia for the over-70s, or the killing of the disabled, blacks, gays, the unemployed, homeless people, vagrants, travellers and illegal immigrants. All, it should be noted, are unwanted in some degree by someone, and it could be argued that the electorate may have a legitimate interest in terminating their lives if they prove too financially and socially burdensome.
But while no vote can legitimately take away the right to life of the unborn, it is legitimate for our parliamentary representatives to introduce measures to protect life in line with internationally recognised human rights, as the 8th amendment did. The 1967 Abortion Act did not legalise abortion but protected doctors from prosecution if they performed abortions on certain approved grounds, although the Bourne case of 1938 meant that abortion was lawful if the doctor believed that continuing a pregnancy was likely to make a woman a “physical or mental wreck”;* it was already allowed to save the mother’s life, usually in cases of obstructed birth, when the physician would destroy the child piecemeal in utero.** If one parliament cannot bind its successors, it is legitimate to revisit old laws if they are not working as originally foreseen, and the fact that nearly nine million abortions have been carried out under a law that was supposed to only address ‘hard cases’ suggests that a revision is long overdue; despite this, abortion advocates wish to abolish even this flimsy legal protection, arguing that it is ‘outdated’.
Already they are calling for Northern Irish law to be ‘updated’, even though no vote has been taken on the issue and the matter is a devolved one. It is ironic beyond belief that having struggled so hard to rid Northern Ireland of the scourge of terrorism, in which so many innocent lives were lost, they would reintroduce the killing of the innocent by the back door. Significantly, too, no one is proposing a referendum on the death penalty for convicted terrorists, even while they are happy to impose it on innocent unborn babies.
The lesson of the Irish referendum is that once the line protecting human life is moved, there is no logical reason not to keep moving it. History teaches that killing breeds even more killing, because once it is accepted as the solution to a problem it swiftly becomes the solution to all human problems – in practice, the solution to all problem humans. With abortion advocates demanding free provision of the abortion pill as the next step in our steady upward progress to a feminist Utopia, women will soon be able to get a home abortion but not a home birth.
Many thanks to our Guest Blogger, Ann Farmer, who is an independent author and researcher in Essex, England.