October 27 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Pro-life cause needs to engage in debate

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Abortion Act 1967, the heat on the debate around the right to life of unborn children continues to be turned up —By ANTHONY HORAN

A recent edition of BBC’s Question Time debated the issue and, specifically, whether abortion law in Northern Ireland should be changed. Northern Ireland is less inclined towards abortion than the rest of the UK as access to the procedure is only permitted if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

I was saddened by the poor quality of the Question Time debate. The panel, and those members of the audience who asked questions, merely scratched the surface. There was little desire, as is often the case when abortion is discussed in the secular West, to delve deeper into the issue and to get to the very heart of the matter.

The panel and audience argued about whether or not Northern Ireland’s abortion laws should be more in line with the rest of the UK. They also spoke often about women’s rights and, in particular, the right to choose. I noticed that people are comfortable throwing soundbites at one another when it comes to the rights and wrongs of abortion.

The tactic here is to simply repeat your argument over and over again and never really listen to what your opponent has to say. It’s an extremely defensive stance and it means that there is very little room for common ground. But it also evidences something more deeply troubling—it highlights a lack of appetite for the truth.

A classic example of this is the increasing number of universities trying to shut down debate around abortion and transgenderism.

Universities should be the utopia of research and debate, open to new ideas and providing platforms for people who disagree with one another to argue with one goal in mind: to find the truth. The abortion debate should be no different. We should be opening ourselves and our arguments up to scrutiny, in open and forthright debate, with a view to coming to the truth about abortion.

There are a number of arguments put forward in favour of abortion: denial of the humanity of the unborn, the argument that the unborn do not feel pain, disability, mental ill health of the mother and socioeconomic reasons.

But perhaps the most prevalent today is the argument for a woman’s right to choose. Let us be honest: this is not about choice. We, as human beings, make choices each and every day. Some good, some bad. Nobody can disagree with the right to make choices, provided of course that what is being chosen is a moral good.

With abortion, there will be voices on one side who say it is a bad choice. Others will say it is good. Indeed, some who propagate the availability of abortion might accept that it is a bad choice but that it is an acceptable one which should be protected by law.

But claiming the defence of ‘choice’ muddies the waters around the abortion debate. The real issue is whether or not a living human being with its own distinct DNA exists in the womb. The answer to this will surely point us to the pro-life position—that all unborn children must be protected, or to the opposite, where abortion is no more than a simple medical procedure and no human beings suffer or die as a result.

If it can be shown that a small living human being, who is completely innocent and without blemish, exists in the womb then there is no choice to be exercised other than to protect that human being and to ensure that their continued existence is given the full force of the law.

Of course there is uncertainty, suffering and no little pain around the prospect of a child who is not planned.

This is where society must provide appropriate support services to ensure that these children, their mothers, fathers and families are given what they need. Supporting mother and baby must be the way forward for progressive societies that recognise the dignity of human persons and value life.

If we want to reach consensus on the sensitive issue of abortion, we need to be big enough and brave enough to openly and honestly engage with people on the other side of the debate.

Only then can we even begin to get close to the one thing that will bring us together—the truth.


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