Is it human? The answer tells you how you should vote



Pregnancy video of o 10-14-week-old foetus/baby:


In a week’s time it’ll all be over. The Irish people south of the border will have decided whether they want to have legislation that will allow abortion for any reason up until 12 weeks of pregnancy. As someone living north of the border I won’t have a vote, but like everyone else, I have a view on the matter. I know I’ve looked at this subject before but with the referendum next Friday, I think it bears revisiting. Let me try to list, in no particular order, some of my thoughts on the matter.


  1. I had originally planned to head this blog with a Before and After image: before the abortion of a 12-week-old  foetus/baby  and after. On reflection, I decided against it, as some people find these After images offensive. But I believe we all should be clear in our minds about what is done to a foetus when it is aborted.  If we refuse to look at what we’re thinking of doing, then we’re like children who close their eyes in the face of ugly facts. So we all, and particularly Irish people in the south, should face up to what they’re voting for. The grim reality is that we are taking a foetus/baby and destroying it. I heard someone on television the other night describe this procedure as medieval, and that about sums it up.
  2. It is important to distinguish between the central issue of abortion and issues related to abortion. The central issue is whether the being in the woman’s womb is a human being. Other matters, such as religious faith, the numbers travelling to Britain for abortion, whether members of the medical profession should be involved in decision-making, the south’s shambles of a health service – all these are very important, but they are secondary to the core issue: is this being in the woman’s womb a human being?
  3. One reason why it is a human being, in my opinion, is that alternative suggestions don’t make sense to me. To say that the foetus only becomes a human being when it’s viable – that is, independent of the woman – doesn’t stand up. The baby is dependent on the mother twelve minutes, twelve hours, twelve months, twelve years after it is born. In some ways we are all non-viable. We depend on each other in so many ways – physically, socially, psychologically, financially. No man, or woman, or child, or baby is an island.
  4. To say the embryo is ‘a potential human being’ evades the question. Potentially I could be a barber, a musician, an actor, a politician; but the fact is, I’m none of those things. So too with the baby. “Potential human being “ doesn’t answer the question of what it is now, if not a baby.
  5. Being opposed to abortion doesn’t mean you’re slavishly following the teaching of the Catholic Church, or right-wing, or out of touch with the modern world. There are people, I’m aware, who are opposed to abortion and who are slavishly following the teaching of the Catholic Church/right-wing/out of touch with the modern world. But there are a lot more like myself who do not slavishly follow Church teaching, are left-wing rather than right-wing, and who are not out of touch with the modern world. Being opposed to abortion, I believe, is to be a defender of the helpless, and that concern for the helpless or vulnerable continues or should continue through every stage of life.
  6. Women seek abortions for all sorts of reasons, but prominent among those is that they feel they have no alternative. Translated, that often means they don’t think they can cope with all that having a child involves. If the quality of a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, the south fails miserably. Its support for women’s (and men’s) health is a national disgrace and one that needs addressing.
  7. To say that, if abortion is not available in the south, women will travel to Britain and have an abortion, and that the south of Ireland should supply abortion and make it unnecessary to travel, is to miss the point. Because other countries provide abortion should mean nothing when coming to a moral decision about legalising abortion. A thing doesn’t become right or wrong depending on how many people are doing it, or how difficult it is to travel somewhere, or because abortion pills are available online. A lot of countries in the world have the obscenity that is nuclear weapons. Does that mean that we should have them too?
  8. To decide against legalising abortion does indeed leave society in the south with a host of problems. But then that’s why we elect politicians: so that they will enact laws that protect us and encourage our full development. We all deserve the kind of government that allows us to become the best we’re capable of becoming. For the unborn baby, that chance of becoming the best human being s/he is capable of, is snuffed out before they can even begin.
  9. Clearly the woman carrying the child is the one most affected in this matter; but to conclude from that that no one else (including the father) should have any say is a false argument. We allare entitled to control over our own bodies, but there are limits to this self-control. I have two hands. They are mine. But for me to then say I’m entitled to use those hands as I see fit, since they’re mine, makes no sense. I am not entitled to use these hands to inflict violence on another person or even an animal; I’m not entitled to use my feet to walk down the white line on a motorway, or my tongue to spread lies about other people. So yes, the woman has got a range of rights relating to her body, but those rights are not limitless and they also carry responsibilities.
  10. “I trust women” is a glib and near-meaningless statement. Do I include Myra Hindley in that? Or Maggie Thatcher? Women, like men, come in all shapes and sizes, and all levels of trustworthiness. Some women I would trust my life with, some, to coin a phrase, I wouldn’t trust to get me a pint of milk from the corner store.


It’s a saddening thing, to see so many Irish people so passionately opposed to each other. We are clearly engaged with an issue about what is and what is not the case, whether or not the occupant of the pregnant woman’s womb is a baby or a clump of cells. If you were told by one person that the gun on the table contains no bullets, and by another person that there is one or more bullets in it, would you pick up the gun, put it to your own or a loved one’s head, and pull the trigger? If there’s even a possibility that there is a baby in the woman’s womb, do we really want to pass a law that allows firing at will, with no need even to say why?

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