Hence, the misuse of language to cover a hideous crime.
There were three wonderful pro-life letters printed in the Irish Times yesterday. Each one gives its own honest message towards the indisputable value of human life from the moment of conception to natural death.
Letter no. 1
Sir, – Eamonn McCann is correct when he says that language is important in any discussion of abortion (“Are there signs of a ‘pro-life’ group influence in HSE document?”, Opinion & Analysis, July 23rd). However, language is also crucially important when ensuring parents have factual information, and are not being misled, or nudged towards abortion, after a diagnosis of a condition such as anencephaly or trisomy 13 for their unborn baby.
Eamonn McCann’s article repeated much of the misinformation surrounding these conditions – and misinformation is neither helpful to the public debate nor to parents who have received the devastating news that their baby may not live for long after birth. According to figures from the British Department of Health, more than 90 per cent of Irish parents facing a diagnosis of life-limiting condition for their baby do not seek an abortion.
We are parents who have been told that our children were “incompatible with life” or had a “fatal foetal abnormality”, labels which were not just offensive but misleading. We are seeking to ensure that parents in similar situations are correctly informed by medical practitioners, that outcomes for conditions are correctly explained, and that better services are made available to families of very sick unborn babies.
The experience of parents is hugely important. Many of them, such as Sarah Hynes, mother to baby Seán who lived for two days with trisomy 18, speak of their frustration at the lack of information available. “I was told my son had trisomy 18, that he was ‘incompatible with life’ and then I had to go home and Google it to find out any more information,” she says.
It is entirely appropriate that parents who have had first-hand experience of love and loss be a part of a consultation process of improving standards in bereavement care. It is simply astonishing to suggest that these parents be excluded from a consultation process because they do not support a political agenda on abortion.
No child should be described as a “lethal” or “fatal” abnormality, or “incompatible with life” – these descriptions are medically meaningless, misleading and offensive. Surely at the worst of times we should have the best of care available and this includes a language that affirms the reality that no matter how sick our babies are, no matter how short their lives may be, they are not only our sons and daughters but are members of our human family. They deserve to be treated with dignity and their memories respected. – Yours, etc,
GRACE SHARP (Dublin)
Letter no. 2
Sir, – Commenting on my letter of July 29th, Colin Walsh makes the point (July 31st) that the same human rights are not appropriate at all stages of the continuum of human life from conception to old age and hints that the human right to life may not apply in the earliest stages of pregnancy because the embryo is so relatively simple then. Of course there is nothing at all simple about the early embryo. On the contrary it is stupendously sophisticated, bearing the full plan of its whole unfolding along the remainder of the continuum of human life and the means of affecting that unfolding.
I do agree with Colin Walsh’s general point. A right can only apply to one who has the capacity to exercise that right in a meaningful manner, eg you don’t attain the right to vote until you reach your 18th birthday. However, I cannot accept his reservation about the right to life of the early embryo.
The primary human right is the right to life because you must first of all be alive before you can exercise any right. All other human rights are secondary. You are entitled to human rights simply because you are a living human being. Since the human embryo indisputably has the capacity for life and is indisputably human from conception, it seems clear to me that it automatically enjoys the primary human right to life. It will attain further human rights later along the continuum as it develops the capacities to exercise these rights. To argue that for a period from conception onwards the embryo has no right to life is to identify a category of human being who is completely devoid of human rights. That position is, in my opinion, incoherent. – Yours, etc,
WILLIAM REVILLE (Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, University College Cork.)
Letter no. 3
Sir, – Colin Walsh says that “a baby and the foetus in late pregnancy are practically the same entity” but that “there is no such equivalence between a baby and the unborn in the early days or weeks of pregnancy” because of the “vast changes that occur” during a child’s gestation in the womb. Thus he contends that a child in the early stages of pregnancy has a weaker case for the protection of its human rights.
Mr Walsh seems to overlook a serious flaw in his logic. Can it not also be said that there is an enormous difference between a newborn baby and a fully grown adult? In the intervening period, a person develops self-awareness, the skills of mobility, speech and communication, and the abilities to procreate and to live independently. All of these changes are just as radical as the developmental changes which occur within the womb, if not more so in some cases.
I am sure that Mr Walsh would not contend that a newborn baby ought to be entitled to inferior human rights to an adult simply due to its relative lack of development, so why does he contend that a child in the womb should be entitled to some lower threshold of human rights than a newborn baby for this same reason?
If some kind of sliding scale of human rights were to be introduced for a child in the womb, then where exactly would we draw the line at which a child in the womb is entitled to such rights? This is a question which pro-choice advocates remain completely unable to answer and unfortunately Mr Walsh fails to shed any light on the issue. – Yours, etc,
BARRY WALSH (Dublin)
I am going to include a fourth letter from the Irish Times written a few days ago by a member of ‘The Life Institute’ for the interesting points it brings up, and to repeat once again how the word ‘pro-choice’ has been used to hide the killing of unborn babies (and damage women).
Sir, – Emer O’Toole’s claim that “science and sociology are on the side of pro-choice” is wishful thinking (“Science and sociology are on the side of pro-choice”, July 27th).
In fact, decades have passed since the amazing advances of science opened a window to womb and proved, beyond all doubt, the humanity of the unborn child.
Public awareness of the scientific facts around foetal development is one reason why the Irish public does not support calls to legalise abortion as a matter of “choice”.
Another reason is that many women are negatively impacted by abortion. Numerous studies have shown this to be the case, not least the work of Dr David Fergusson, whose research found that women who had abortions were 30 per cent more likely to experience mental disorder.
The number of Irish women travelling for abortions has fallen by 45 per cent in the past 11 years. Providing better supports to women in crisis is the more enlightened answer that terminates the crisis, and not the child.
Since the pro-life amendment was passed in 1983, polls show very little movement in public support for legalising abortion on demand.
That’s because the Irish people recognise that there is always a better answer than abortion.
That progressive thinking should be a matter of national pride, not as Emer O’Toole claims “a national shame”, because no amount of wishful thinking can change the fact that abortion kills babies and hurts women. – Yours, etc,
NIAMH UÍ BHRIAIN, (The Life Institute, Dublin)