THE EIGHTH AMENDMENT: ‘To cherish all the nation’s children includes protecting her most vulnerable’

Derry GP Dr. Ann McCloskey. DER3915MC071
Derry GP Dr. Ann McCloskey. DER3915MC071

I work as a GP in Derry in an area which, according to Derry City & Strabane Council’s own figures, has 60 per cent child poverty. Helping men, women and children through the worst that this government can inflict upon their lives, and human dignity is a very privileged, if at times challenging career.

Earlier in my training, I worked for a year in the peri-natal intensive care unit of the RVH in Belfast and I think that it was there my pro-life views were really formed.

L to R, David Smyth and Dawn Mc Evoy, Both Lives Matter, Marion'Woods, Life NI, Anne Mc Closkey and Anne Bolly, Cherish all the Children'Equally.

L to R, David Smyth and Dawn Mc Evoy, Both Lives Matter, Marion'Woods, Life NI, Anne Mc Closkey and Anne Bolly, Cherish all the Children'Equally.

Watching these wee scraps of humanity; born too early but wanting to live; fighting for life; feeling pain and responding to being held and soothed, made me sure that state of development, degree of dependence or size were irrelevant. These were full members of the human family and deserving of every chance at life.

Nowadays, I spend a good part of my working life helping women control their fertility; manage crisis pregnancies; pregnancy loss; cope with illnesses during pregnancy; deal with domestic conflict, including sexual violence and care for children with significant medical problems.

Through all of this, I can honestly say that in my experience I know of no case where abortion, that is the direct and intentional killing of the preborn child, would have helped.

As a lifelong republican, feminist, leftie, I’m astonished at the almost unopposed narrative among my erstwhile political allies that a pro-life stance is regressive and anti-woman.

It is an analysis which pits women’s freedom and progress against her maternity and her own children. It erroneously, or deceptively, conflates her health and wellbeing with her “choice” to destroy her child.

The fact that the repeal campaign in Ireland is being funded by some of the most right-wing and monetarist institutions on the planet, underlines that this debate is not really about women’s health and wellbeing, but more their priorities - a cull on the poor, the disabled, ethnic minorities, those who are deemed “untermenchen,” not truly human.

Political institutions who have failed utterly in terms of delivering austerity and bail-outs instead of healthcare, housing, jobs and hope now need the safety-valve of abortion to balance the books. Many women have truly no choice and are not to blame for falling into the arms of the multi-billion pound abortion industry, which feeds them the lie that all will be well.

Robust research now shows that mental health problems including completed suicide is many times more common in women who have undergone abortion than in those who carry their babies to term.

It is an uncomfortable fact for the repeal campaign that Ireland is one of the safest places worldwide for mothers to give birth.

The sepsis which took the life of Ms. Halappanavar is the leading cause of maternal mortality in Britain and killed five pregnant women in 2015 there. Even had Savita’s care been exemplary, which it was not, according to three enquiries, she may not have lived.

But the law is clear - in her case the delivery of her 16 weeks gestation child was appropriate and legal. It should have been a part of the treatment for her life-threatening illness. Such procedures are standard medical care in all Irish hospitals.

Shockingly, of the two million abortions carried out in Britain in the last decade, only 16 were ‘one under ground C,’ that is to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency, whereas 98 per cent are for risk to the physical or mental health of the mother, which translates as abortion on demand.

We can rail against human biology and the design which forms and nurtures the genetically new human offspring inside the mother’s womb, but we can’t change it.

With the phenomenal advent of ultrasound and MRI scanning, we now have a window on the developing baby which was not available. The overwhelmingly beautiful story of how each and every one of us was formed is online right now. Google it. Ignorance is no longer an excuse.

The narrative that the new baby is merely a part of the mother before birth is biological balderdash.

Two half cells, one from each parent contain the blueprint for the new and unique human. And if the human embryo is part of the woman’s body and subject to her autonomy alone, what then is a father?

Mine was my hero; my friend; my soul-mate and mentor and I’m his spitting image.

When their child’s life is ended by induced abortion, men are often left bereaved and traumatised by a decision they have no control over and, in my experience, often suffer the same grieving process as they would following a natural miscarriage.

I don’t know of any research in this field, but in seems likely that at least some of the excess mental health problems we see among males are related to this loss of role as fathers and equal partners in parenthood. The narrative that the unborn child is not a new life created by both parents, but merely ‘tissue’, a ‘parasite’, a ‘choice’, is one which many men do not accept, and with good reason.

For others, abortion absolves them from responsibility for the outcomes of sexual activity and provides an opportunity to use women as objects of gratification and abuse, without responsibility for the consequences. I haven’t come across a pregnancy yet that didn’t have male input.

Recent high profile court cases on both sides of the Atlantic demonstrate the deeply misogynistic ideas about women and their value in society which have been tolerated for too long. And abortion is also a useful tool to hide abuse, violence, exploitation, trafficking and other crimes against women and children.

The phrase ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ is inaccurate and offensive, despite its ubiquitous usage. No person is an ‘abnormality.’ These are children with life-limiting disabilities. There are compassionate and life-affirming ways of helping these families through what is undoubtedly a traumatic and often bewildering experience (Have a look at Both Lives Count or One Day More online to see how this works).

Again, there is evidence that outcomes are better with such care and support. However, if the mother’s mental health is seriously affected, delivery of a non viable infant may be appropriate and covered by current legislation.

Where abortion is legal, around 95 per cent of people with Down’s Syndrome don’t make it and defects as minor as clefts are sufficient to render one’s life forfeit.

Next time you’re watching the Special Olympics, consider these heroic ‘abnormalities’, and what choice might mean for them. Of course, worldwide, the most common ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ is that of being female. Sex-selective feticide means that, for example in India today there are 50,000,000, yes that’s fifty million missing females. So who’s anti-woman now?

In England about one in four pregnancies end in abortion, in a country where contraceptive services are free and available around the clock. Even if only from a health-economics perspective, in a cash-strapped NHS this is nuts.

It has been estimated that over 100,000 people in Ireland are alive today because of our laws protecting the dignity of human life. How many of these are our friends, colleagues, family members, partners or perhaps ourselves?

There is a well-funded and highly influential lobby in this country waging a battle for hearts and minds. Republicans recognise that the only legitimate authority comes from the people. Irish people in the 26 counties have the protection of a referendum, but shamefully no political party has campaigned for we northern Irish people to have a vote on this issue.

If the Eighth falls in the South and abortion on demand is introduced, we will find it impossible to defend our laws here.

We don’t have to follow the failed models of other nations, but, ‘relying on our own genius and traditions’ can forge a better way.

The most basic right, upon which all other rights depend, is the right to life.

I uphold the tenets expressed in the Declaration of the Republic over 100 years ago and know that to cherish all of the children of the nation includes protecting her most vulnerable.