Last Saturday, in Dublin, an estimated 40,000 people came out to stand in opposition to legalized abortion-on-demand in Ireland. The abortion issue has simmered in Ireland for years, but the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in October 2012 has pushed the issue to the forefront of national debate.
As expected, there are those in Ireland, and across the world for that matter, who see this potential development as a sign of progress. These people believe that a modern Western nation has no business denying abortions to women who want them. Abortion must be legal and enshrined in law, cherished as a fundamental freedom, and never compromised.
Abortion proponents argue that this is a women’s health issue. They ignore the fact that pro-life Ireland offers some of the best maternal care in the world – with maternal mortality in the United States (where abortion is essentially available up until the moment of birth) more than three times that of Ireland. They ignore the fact that Savita Halappanavar died as the result of a strain of E-coli particularly resistant to antibiotics and not due to the failure of doctors to abort her child. They assert that abortion should be available in cases of suicide ideation or intent, though there is no medical evidence that supports the assertion that abortion is a treatment for suicidality. To the contrary, abortion has been shown to be the cause of serious mental distress and may cause more psychological distress than carrying a child to term.
Forty years ago, the United States stood on the same precipice on which Ireland now teeters. For this reason, it would be advisable for the Irish government to look towards the U.S. for insight into how legalized abortion impacts a nation. If they were to do that, they might just see what a long dark road they are considering embarking on.
Legalized abortion was sold to the U.S. as a freedom. Women would have the right to terminate their pregnancies. They would make private decisions regarding their health and their lives. Abortion would be rare, it was thought, and women would be protected.
What has transpired since that time is far from the idyllic vision that was sold to the American people. Since 1973, more than 54 million children have been lost to abortion in the United States. That is more than 12 times the population of the Republic of Ireland.
Health is perhaps the most frequent and compelling reason offered for easily accessible abortion. However, if anything, the “health care” that is offered to women through abortion facilities has only detracted from the proper medical treatment of women. The Gosnell case in Pennsylvania is the most notorious example of the abortion industry’s abuse of women but there is a long and sad list of women in the U.S. who have been killed or permanently injured as a result of botched abortions, many done ostensibly for health reasons. Numerous reports of health and safety violations at abortion facilities across the country (noting unsanitary conditions, forced abortions, and appalling medical care) demonstrate that negligence and brutality are prevalent within the industry.
The decision to abort one’s child is not an empowered choice. It is more often the last choice of the desperate, when the woman feels she has no options. The purported freedom for women has turned out to be oppressive for them and their children. If the Irish government want to seriously address the problem of crisis pregnancies, in whatever form they take, it would be better to focus on ending the crisis and not terminating the pregnancy.
Abortion is a violent and ugly act. To legalize and institutionalize such violence is a dangerous step whose repercussions may be far beyond what its advocates anticipate – as evidenced by the mess in which the United States currently finds itself. In the words of John Updike, “Death, once invited in, leaves its muddy footprints everywhere.” In the United States, we must now fight to resolve this sad situation we have brought upon ourselves and all of its tragic fallout. Ireland still has a chance to make better decisions and protect its women and children from such a fate.