The referendum vote in Ireland today, on the ‘right’ to abortion, is a turning point in our culture, for the Catholic nation symbolizes something beyond itself in the imagination of many. When the Republic of Ireland’s constitution was originally penned in 1937, they never thought of putting in a prohibition of abortion, since almost no one would have though of it. A mother having her own child killed? But times, or more properly cultures, do change. The vote today is to repeal the 8th amendment, enacted on October 7th 1983 (the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and the anniversary of the victory of Lepanto, which may or may have been intentional), which explicitly forbids abortion, for by that point, most nations had legalized the nefarious procedure, and the Irish had to shore up their law.
But now, four decades on, Ireland has by and large lost her Catholic soul. As I wrote recently, Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae states that the two principal causes of abortion are the trivialization of sexuality and the mentality that flows form contraception, both of which are now rife in once-staunchly-moral emerald isle. And underlying those causes is the loss of religion itself, that whole set of beliefs that give a purpose and point to life. If our existence is limited to our three-score-and-ten here and now, for those of us fortunate enough to avoid early death, then why not gather ye rosebuds while ye may, and remove whatever may get in our way? If the unborn ‘child’ is just a bundle of protoplasm, then so is a born one, and so are we.
Yet, in all the discussions on this topic on our biased CBC, there is rarely any mention of the child; it is always about woman’s autonomy, and the restraints and injustice caused by the punishments meted out to women for having an abortion, which could include fourteen years behind bars.
As soon as one begins to frame things this way, the jig is just about up, and the fight, at some natural level, already lost. Can a woman forget the child within her womb, the Lord asks through the prophet Isaiah, as though such were unthinkable.
Yet we must now think it.
We all want to avoid uncomfortable talk, and on a recent BBC interview on this question, the studiously liberal host, Steven Sanker, asked a question of the proponent of the pro-life side to the effect of whether she thought those who supported abortion supported baby killing. The woman did not answer the question directly, in fact she really answer it at all, yet I wish she had, and said, yes, they are guilty of killing babies, in line with John Paul’s exhortation to speak more boldly and clearly, without obfuscatory euphemisms: The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder
But so many have blinded themselves to this simple, and at one time obvious, truth. When power, privilege, ambition, sex become the primary goals in life, the fetus, ahem, the child, becomes an enemy, to be ‘suppressed’ if he gets in the way, inverting the whole mother-child relationship.
For the law to intervene in this most intimate of relationships, a mother and her unborn child, is very difficult, and in many ways practically impossible. It is analogous to trying to save a loveless marriage by law. How does one force a mother to ‘keep’ her baby?
Yet we must do what we can by laws, even if the culture has degraded to such an extent. For the pedagogical power of law is great indeed, and even if there be hard cases, we should face them square on, and hope that the illegality of abortion will dissuade the vast majority. Most mothers, deep down, want to bring their children to term, and we as a society must do all we can to help them, not just by law, but all that ‘culture’ means, community support, shelter, food, adoption.
We should not forget how that phrase from Isaiah continues, that even if a mother forget, God will never forget us. And God will not forget Ireland, and all those faithful souls who have stood up for the unborn, the elderly, the sick and the outcast. Regardless of how the vote goes today, we will still stand up, and continue the fight for the culture of life.
Here’s praying for a victory for life, for truth, for love.