The Irish are not the only country that has issues with abortion. Obviously, it’s an issue in the US, but even in countries like Britain it rears its head as an issue as pro-life Tory MPs seek to restrict it.
But what is uniquely Irish about the abortion debate is the absolute point blank refusal of Irish society to confront it head on. On top of that, there is the permeation of a “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” stance throughout the whole debate, where being openly hypocritical on aspects of the issue is totally accepted.
Consider this: The Irish have voted FIVE times on the issue of abortion, yet not once have they been actually asked to legalise abortion. In 1983, they were to insert a ban on abortion into the consitution, which merely confirmed what Irish law said in practice, and added that the life of the unborn was equal to that of the mother and therefore abortion was not permitted. In 1992, as a result of a Supreme Court ruling which ruled that abortion was legal if the life of the mother was threatened in certain circumstances, the anti-abortion Irish voted that people could access information on abortion services elsewhere, and travel to avail of those services elsewhere. In other words, the Irish were now against abortion on a geographical basis, in that what was a precious life one moment was, in the eyes of the Irish people, disposable genetic material one foot past the Three Mile Limit.
Twice, then, in 1992 and in 2002 the government moved to restrict abortion back to the previous pre-1992 state, including, interestingly, introducing a 12 year sentence for performing or assisting in the performing of an abortion. We haven’t managed to jail anyone for thrashing our economy, but boy, were we going to get tough with these bastards! Both proposals were rejected by the people. The 2002 campaign was particularly Monthy Python: Pro-life organisations ran both Yes and No campaigns and both pro-choice and pro-life voters voted No for differing reasons.
And yet, it gets even more surreal. Both the Labour Party and Fine Gael have stressed their lack of enthusiasm for doing, well, anything about this, as indeed has Fianna Fail. It really is a political issue where the political parties hope that it will just go away. Yet you would swear that there is no support for abortion in Ireland. There probably is, yet not a single mainstream political party is willing to advocate it. Why is that?
That’s the second part of the twisted Irish psyche approach to the issue. The abortion issue brings out a po-faced morality that is rarely seen in any other aspect of modern Irish life, where unplanned prenancies are seen as retribution on morally weak women who have “made their bed and will now have to sleep in it”. Such is this twisted get-out clause that there are Irishmen happily impregnating women whilst thinking to themselves that they can’t believe that this dirty whore is letting them have their wicked way with them, the tramp. And these are the same guys who will play the Palestinian widow when the woman seeks an abortion, yet walk away, hands firmly in pockets, and be welcomed by their community, if she were to keep the child and seek financial assistance.
People often forget that in 1967 the abortion act was introduced by David Steel into Britain to reduce the number of lethal back-street abortions. Ireland, as with so many issues from nuclear power to neutrality, has always had the option of having its problems resolved by the actions of others. The child nation can always rely on various different mammies to clean up after it.