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Sitting on a fence… July 20, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Bioethics, Irish Politics, Social Policy.
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John Waters was exercised by the nature of the abortion ‘debate’ this last week and complaining that the criticism of Senator Jim Walsh’s speech to the Seanad which graphically sought to outline the abortion process, albeit from the testimony of an US based anti-abortion activist and obstetrician. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why one might query that testimony, not least its somewhat hazy relationship with the general scientific and medical consensus on fetal pain.

Waters argument is worth considering, though I suspect it raises issues that might not be entirely congenial to his position on the issue in the way they work out, and I’ll return to them some other time.

But here’s the thing. There’s a certain element of Waters having his cake and eating it on this for it is notable that in this column he doesn’t follow Walsh’s lead. Now, there’s no onus upon him to do so, but logically if he believes it is an appropriate, no – necessary, approach then it does raise the question as to why he wouldn’t be quite so blunt. After all, he has a public platform, he has a weekly space in a national newspaper, so if he thinks that Walsh is correct…

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1. Laim Smullen - July 22, 2013

Laim Smullen
What Jim Walsh was describing a second stage Surgical abortion which is used when chemical abortions are impossible because the pregnancy gone on too long.

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WorldbyStorm - July 22, 2013

And a very emotive and loaded account, deliberately so given its provenance.

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2. richotto - July 22, 2013

“Now, there’s no onus upon him to do so, but logically if he believes it is an appropriate, no – necessary, approach then it does raise the question as to why he wouldn’t be quite so blunt.”
I think the commentary is missing the point of Waters article. He was pointing out lack of democratic standards through the political class and media refusing to allow for balanced coverage of the issue. There is a hell bent determination to bring this in by deploying any and every bit of media and political power with no regard to democratic principles. That was his simple point and the comment in the article that he should get off the fence seems to me to diliberately evade his argument. How suitable it would be then to dismiss Waters as being simply partisan rather than admit to an approach of the ends justifying the means and whatever it takes, so be it. The effect of the uniform media hositlity to those advocating catholic values can be seen in the past in the divorce and abortion referendums. As soon as a referendum is called there is an obligation to let both sides of the argument have their say. The debate went dramatically in the opposite direction the media and political class wanted once the campaign got underway by a shift of at least 25% from the opinion polls up to then.

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WorldbyStorm - July 22, 2013

I dont think that was the point of his piece at all. it seemed very clearly to be about Walsh’s right to say it as he saw it and a ‘sanitisation’ by pro-choice as Waters regarded it.

Problem with that thesis is that Kenny et al calling for this legislation could badly be called pro-choice.

You made a similar point the other day but it was no more convincing then than in its new version above. What you don’t appear to accept is that the societal centre of gravity on abortion has shifted not to pro choice but to greater liberalisation in a restricted range of cases, and consequently given how limited this legislation was in that regard the anti legislation side got a fair crack of he whip, perhaps given their marginal support more than a fair crack.

As to divorce, not comparable, the issue of abortion has been revisited time and again in referendums on this very narrow ground and yet despite those referendums legislation for x was never provided.

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RosencrantzisDead - July 22, 2013

Waters’ article is not about a lack of democratic standards. If it were, one would expect to see him use a phrase like ‘democratic standards’ or something similar. He does not.

Waters’ is rather complaining that people like Jim Walsh should be able to rely on emotive imagery in place of logical argument because it shows up ‘pro-choice’ people as hypocrites (‘they deny a foetus is a human being but get squeamish when abortion is described, which they would not if they truly believed it was a just a bundle of tissue.’). But Waters is being dishonest, or committing a logical fallacy, in stating that people who are pro-choice must simply believe that a foetus is a collection of tissue. There is nothing inherently inconsistent in being pro-choice and recognising the unborn as potential life or a human being. Thus, Waters’ article is itself based on a logical fallacy. Given this, it is easy to understand why he would want to defend the position that the anti-choice brigade should not have to use reasoned, logical argument in this debate.

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richotto - July 22, 2013

The drawing of publicly acceptable boundries for debate is a well known form of censorship and Waters example was intended to highlight the double standards, comparing how a similar description in a rape case would be dealt with in the media.
There was incidentally another piece of evidence of double standards today when RTE broadcast this afternoon the BCI findings against the Liveline programme in the treatment given to an anti abortion advocate.
Given that the anti abortion position is the the suicide provision would like the Uk be an effective back door to increasingly generally available abortion its at the very least open to question how restricted this system will be.
On the X case referendum the issues were unclear and the pro life side were on either side of the argument, Dana with one interpretation and William Binchy with another for example. The poll was very low and the margin about 1%. I believe that its reasonable now the issue has been clarified to have a referendum and the real centre of gravity can be determined in a fair way rather than in this contrived establishment driven way.

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3. sonofstan - July 22, 2013

@Richotto.

I don’t agree that the catholic argument doesn’t get an airing- the problem is, it is always allowed couch itself in a nimbus of sanctity and invoke conscience and so forth, which means the details of the argument are never contested. The ‘catholic’ position on abortion is philosophically and ethically absurd and should be challenged as such,

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RosencrantzisDead - July 22, 2013

The problem for the Catholic side is the exact opposite – they get an airing; this airing reveals them to be dishonest and more than a little crazy.

It was only a few months ago I recall that I could not access youtube without being bombarded with an advert for a pro-life group (which you would be forced to sit through before you could watch your desired video). I saw no adverts expressing a pro-choice position on youtube (actually, I am straining to think if I saw/heard any pro-choice adverts at all).

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4. Tomboktu - July 22, 2013

Did any of them get squeamish when Ronán Mullen described Savita Halapinavar’s death as one of those things that happens from time to time?

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