Popping A Cork For Abortion?


Convivium, 1 June 2018

Convivium Editor-in-Chief Father Raymond de Souza asks how aborting babies has gone from being a rare individual choice to international cause for breaking out the bubbly.

The Irish referendum to make abortion legal was a cultural moment of significance. Not because Ireland had legalized abortion; that’s been going on for fifty years plus around the world, and the news was that Ireland had held out for so long. 

The cultural significance lay in the popular voice of a referendum and the international celebration which greeted the news. 

In Canada and the United States – the latter more than the former – the abortion license has been issued largely by the courts. Pro-life voices thus speak of the abortion laws – or in Canada, the absence of abortion laws – as something dubious from a democratic point of views. 
Courts sent reluctant Canadians down of the road to our wide-open abortion access. Politicians have subsequently refused to even discuss restoring any kind of limitations. Abortion isn’t a right in Canada. But exceedingly rare are the elected voices willing to call it wrong. 

Around the world, abortion laws – far more moderate than the extremism that marks Canadian and American policy – have generally been passed by the legislature. There is a considerable measure of democratic legitimacy to be sure, but it is still possible to posit a disconnect between the governing elites and the values of the common people. 

In Ireland that is not the case. The referendum had high turnout, was well debated, and the abortion side carried the day by a large margin. Indeed, so emphatic and euphoric was the consensus across Irish society that some pro-life observers marvelled their cause did even as well as it did. 

So, the Irish moment confirms what would likely be true in many other places if an abortion referendum were held, namely that the people, well-informed and well-engaged, would choose liberal abortion laws. 

And many of those who would so choose to do so because they view abortion as a positive good. The international reaction to the Irish abortion vote was positively celebratory. Certainly, those who rallied in Dublin and other Irish cities to celebrate the outcome were not acknowledging some regrettable, but necessary, outcome, but lustily cheering something good.

Consider the change from 25 years ago. The only fixed point in the Bill and Hillary Clinton political universe was abortion – any which way and for any reason. The Clintons would jettison any policy or principle or ethical standard for power, save for abortion. On this they would stand, including the dismemberment known as partial-birth abortion. Yet despite their abortion enthusiasm, the Clintons described their policy on abortion as “safe, legal and rare.”

It’s an odd formulation for a supposed human right. Would someone advertise himself as being desirous that freedom of speech be safe, legal and rare? Or voting rights? No one speaks that way even about prisons, a veritable regrettable necessity. 

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