Ireland awaits word on abortion law options

By OSV Newsweekly

A committee of the Irish Parliament is due to report early in the new year about potential reform of the country’s laws governing abortion — currently among the strictest in the world. While the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has long insisted he has an open mind on the issue, pro-life campaigners have harboured suspicions that the committee is a pretense for liberalizing the law and that the deliberations are a foregone conclusion.

A ‘farce’

Those suspicions proved to be not without foundation when the committee short-circuited the parliamentary process in late October and decided that — whatever happens in the future — it will not recommend the retention of the current constitutional provision, which grants an equal right to life to mother and baby during pregnancy.

This caused pro-life members of the committee to stage a walkout, insisting that the government is trying to ensure that the only option put before the people is deciding in what circumstances to permit the killing of unborn children.

As part of the process, the committee has heard from a number of witnesses — ostensibly, this was supposed to represent a broad spectrum. The committee’s idea of a broad spectrum, however, consisted of 28 witnesses — 24 of whom are open advocates for abortion. The committee has refused to invite the parents of children who have gone on to live happy and fulfilled lives after doctors critically misdiagnosed their unborn children as suffering from a fatal abnormality.

Cora Sherlock of the Dublin-based Pro Life Campaign has described the work of the committee as a “farce.” She told Our Sunday Visitor that the public should be grateful to the pro-life members of the committee who have refused to allow the government give the impression that the process is an open one.

“Slowly but surely, the public are starting to see through the charade,” she said. Thanks to the pro-life politicians, she said, “the public is being kept in the loop and can see up close how undemocratic and unjust the process has become.

She added, “If these members of the Oireachtas [Parliament] weren’t present, the farce that is taking place would never have been exposed.”

An attempted bellwether

Ireland’s Constitution has explicitly enshrined the right to life of the unborn since 1983, when voters, aghast at the wave of liberal abortion laws sweeping the Western world, voted overwhelmingly to back the proposal.

Abortion advocates have tried ever since to have the amendment repealed. So far, every effort has failed. However, those who want wider access to abortion are joined by powerful international allies, and Ireland has become the unlikely battleground in an international fight for abortion. And it is Ireland’s traditional reputation as a Catholic country that advocates hope to use as a catalyst worldwide.

It has emerged that the New York-based Open Society Foundations — set up by billionaire George Soros — is one of the key financiers of the pro-abortion campaign in Ireland. A leaked memo from the organization lays bare the strategy: “With one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, a win there [Ireland] could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much-needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places.”

David Quinn, who runs the pro-religious freedom think tank the Iona Institute, said the memo is proof that wealthy foreigners are attempting to influence the outcome of a vote on abortion — something explicitly forbidden by Irish law.

“It is illegal to use funds collected overseas or donated from non-Irish people to finance political campaigns in this country,” Quinn said. However, he believes that a “blind eye is being turned because the political establishment is more-or-less in favor of what is being lobbied for.”

The Standards In Public Office (SIPO) Commission — the body that is supposed to regulate funding of political campaigns — did force the Abortion Rights Campaign to return a small donation of $25,000 to the Soros foundation. However, SIPO has refused to comment on why it has not forced all overseas donations to be returned.

According to Sherlock from the Pro Life Campaign, the memo came as little surprise.

“One thing is certain: Those pushing abortion in Ireland have vast resources that they didn’t have just a few years ago. The money is not being raised from ordinary Irish citizens. That is for sure,” she said.

“The idea that an outside body would fund and organize groups in Ireland to dismantle Ireland’s protection for the unborn child would represent a gross interference and total contempt for the Irish people.”

Other influence

Soros is not alone. Amnesty International, which has in recent years begun campaigning for a so-called right to abortion, has held dozens of meeting with Irish politicians calling for change, according to a register of lobbying activity.

Senator Rónán Mullen — an independent member of the Irish Parliament who has long been outspoken against abortion — told OSV the group uses terms like “human rights standards” to push for abortion, by which Mullen says Amnesty means “their own policy in favor of abortion.”

The U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CFRR) also recently has stepped up its efforts on Irish soil, hiring a Dublin public affairs consultancy to lobby politicians on the issue.

Ultimately, it will be the Irish people — by way of a referendum — who will decide. However, it looks increasingly likely that the choice out before the people may be the option of abortion on demand or wider access to abortion in certain circumstances.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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