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Heads we lose, tails they win December 15, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

There’s a piece by Fr. Kevin O’Reilly (who teaches at the Angelicum University about moral theology) in the IT where he writes about the 8th and related matters. Discussing the Committee he argues:

The committee is composed primarily of campaigners for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Of the “experts” called before it, something like 25 are on record as being in support of abortion. Many of them are campaigners for the cause. Only four of the experts who have appeared are opposed to abortion or are neutral on the issue.
One might say that an instrument of democracy is being used in a manner that is anything but democratic in order to remove the constitutional protection for the most defenceless members of Irish society.

First he attempts or appears to propose there must be equality of representation in terms of experts. Secondly, and perhaps even less compellingly, he is in a way attempting to present this as important when in truth he doesn’t actually believe there are two sides to be represented since he himself is adamantly against the idea of abortion full stop. So even equality of representation would be a cosmetic charade – a term he uses in relation to the committee.

And the further problem is that there is a body of expert opinion, a consensus as it were, that abortion is legitimate. That those who came before the Committee represented that is something he can complain about but he cannot deny such a consensus of those in medical practice exists. And moreover the Committee itself demonstrates that there is an significant majority (reflected by polls) in this state for repeal of the 8th and some form of extended provision of abortion, though where that lies remains yet to be seen.

Interestingly though O’Reilly then pivots to Katie Ascough…

Recently we witnessed the debacle at UCD in which the students’ union president, Katie Ascough, was voted out of office for upholding the law of the land. On the basis of legal advice, she had omitted information on abortion from a student publication.
It seems that the students’ union has a history of breaking the law with impunity, which tradition Ms Ascough did not uphold. Of course, to pursue criminal charges against young adults would be unseemly. It’s surely just coincidental that these pro-choice students support the “correct” view, isn’t it?

But that is to ignore the weight of the pro-choice and pro-information vote of the student body. By going against that Ascough was breaking her own stated willingness to implement student decisions. Of course Ascough had a number of choices. She could have resiled from the decision and allowed another member of her executive to do so. She could have resigned. But instead she decided to act differently from her predecessors and remove the specific information. Moreover she did this without reference to the broader student body.

For O’Reilly all this points to a ‘kind of political society’, one he laments:

Can we condone Government committees being loaded in favour of particular outcomes? What does it say of a society when a young, intelligent, honest, and law-abiding lady can be treated in such an uncivilised manner because she seeks to uphold the law of the land? One might quite rightly point out that student politics is not mainstream politics. The fact is, however, that today’s university students will be tomorrow’s leaders.

And then, and for one whose political life, including in relation to activism on abortion rights including information, this is quite ironic, he continues:

In the case of both incidents, what we have witnessed is the result of an ideology in which what is right is no longer grounded in the inviolable dignity of the person but is subjected to the will of those who exercise power in society – albeit subverting the instruments of democracy in order to do so. The trappings of democracy conceal a naked will to power that does not need to offer anything remotely approaching a reasonable argument in support of its designs.


Irish democracy is moving towards a form of totalitarianism in which the support of reason for the weakest and most defenceless in society is unwelcome.

Given the manner in which the state itself was, and continues in part, to be used as a sort of weapon against the rights of women this is quite something. He ignores another reality that the very concept of abortion, or information about it, was effectively excised as best it could in the society for years (and hence the absurdity of information availability still being a legal issue). And it, of course, hyperbole. Which continues when he states the following:

It is impossible to find reasoned arguments in support of the moral legitimacy of wilfully destroying innocent human life. Pro-choice advocates would, however, be better off in the long term if they attempted to engage in reasoned dialogue.

On the one hand it is impossible to find reasoned arguments in support of the moral legitimacy of wilfully destroying innocent human life and yet pro-choice advocates ‘would be better… in the long term if they attempted to engage in reasoned dialogue’. To what end? If he frames these matters in that way there is no opening for change or persuasion.

And that’s what is perhaps most striking about the Committee, that some went in and came out with their minds changed. And the direction of that change is telling. It wasn’t that those who sought the provision of abortion became ‘pro-life’. Quite the contrary.

Still, intriguing ground he chooses to try to base a critique upon, that being the witnesses before the Committee and Ascough. Some of us would think it thin stuff compared to the past. Perhaps that demonstrates too that the old traditional ‘arguments’ are no longer working.


1. Jack Jameson - December 16, 2017

“Can we condone Government committees being loaded in favour of particular outcomes?”

We don’t, but there are religious bodies “loaded in favour of particular outcomes” that are customarily granted a media platform as if by divine right.


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