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Catholic Culture Resources

The case for change in Irish abortion law: based on a framework of falsehood

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 17, 2013

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has outdone himself with the claim that the legislation advanced by his government, which would allow for legal abortion in some circumstances, “obviously doesn’t change the legislation on abortion.”

The proposal advanced by Kenny obviously does change Irish law regarding abortion. But it’s not entirely surprising that the Irish leader would deny the obvious, in light of the many falsehoods and half-truths that have been used to justify the push for this legislation:

  • The legislation would allow for legal abortion when it is necessary to save the life of the mother. Actually there is no convincing evidence that abortion is ever necessary to save a mother’s life. But if such case did arise, existing Irish law gives doctors the authority to do what is necessary to save the mother, even if it costs the baby’s life.
  • The proposed legislation explicitly states that a mother’s life is in danger if she is considering suicide. This proviso clearly allows for abuse; a “little white lie” would be sufficient to qualify for a legal abortion. But if a woman really is suicidal, abortion is certainly not the right response to her condition.
  • Kenny and his supporters hammer their pro-life opponents with the argument that the government leader is obligated to follow the constitution, not the teachings of the Catholic Church. But the Irish constitution guarantees the right to life of the unborn child. Kenny says that he must follow the will of the public. But as a candidate he pledged to uphold Ireland’s laws protecting the unborn.
  • Kenny and his supporters argue that the legislation is required to solve the constitutional challenge arising from the “X case,” in which Ireland’s top court ruled that a woman cannot be denied access to abortion if she might commit suicide. But the X case did not require any change in existing laws. Moreover, the X case was decided in 1992—21 years ago. So it is disingenuous to suggest that the government is suddenly required now to push ahead with new legislation.
  • The real impetus for the current legislation came from the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar. The young woman’s bereaved husband charged that she died because doctors refused her an abortion when her life was in danger. But again, an abortion would have been allowed, if doctors had found it necessary to save her life. In fact, an inquest found that a doctor was unaware of the deterioration in the woman’s condition, apparently because he had not read the notes on her medical chart.

If legal abortion comes to Ireland, it will arrive the same way it came to the US: on a train of lies and misrepresentations.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 17, 2013 5:19 PM ET USA

    I was in Ireland last February and got to see Kenny in action. After an initial refusal followed by a media-frenzy uproar, he apologized publicly for the Irish government's role in the Magdalen Laundry story. While I had seen American pols grovel and curry favor with hypocritical performances, this one was in a class all by itself, painfully embarrassing to watch. That 'show' tells me Kenny is one of the premier phonies in the West, a man for whom truth is never an obstacle to his ends.