Ireland: The Victim of Orwellian Deceit

Ireland is currently the victim of an astounding deceit, the Orwellian “Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.” It passed the Irish lower house or Dáil Éireann, and now goes on to their senate, which lacks the power to reject the measure, and on for signature from the, largely honorific, president who is in any case favorable. For the first time in its history direct abortion will be legal in Ireland under certain circumstances.

How did Catholic Ireland, the isle of saints and scholars, come to this pass? Two words suffice: Modernity & Europe. Islands can resist cultural corrosion better than most, but Ireland and Malta join Poland as a small pro-life minority in the European Union. The Old continent generally embraces legal abortion, with the notable exceptions above, and the micro-states of San Marino and the principalities of Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco as well as the Vatican City State.

Ireland is particularly targeted because of a remarkable public health achievement, one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world—about half the rate of maternal deaths as England and Wales where abortion-on-demand rules. Abortion promoters cannot stand this blatant contradiction to their propaganda that women need abortion as “Reproductive Health Care.” When in 2012 a pregnant Indian woman died in Ireland and her husband charged that she was refused a “life-saving” abortion, the international media pounced on this opportunity.  The medical facts, however, revealed that Savita Halappanavar’s infection would not have been cured and her life saved by killing her child.  References to the Halappanavar case are nonetheless standard fare in media coverage of Ireland continuing a long tradition of “don’t confuse me with the facts” journalistic reporting on the abortion issue.

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The Emerald Isle passing pro-abortion legislation is emblematic of the cultural shift there. Politicians are now more comfortable taking their cues from the European Institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg than from their Catholic Bishops and Rome. The Church in Ireland has suffered increasing marginalization in the last 40+ years. Large declines in religious practice and vocations as well as highly publicized sexual and other scandals weakened the moral authority of the bishops. The prestige of the Catholic Church reached a nadir in 2011 when the Irish government closed its embassy to the Holy See in Rome, something unthinkable only a few years ago.

While publicly criticizing the bill the Irish bishops have not clearly declared that any politicians voting “yes” will be denied Holy Communion until publicly repenting. Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura—the highest court of the Church, has repeatedly reiterated this as the discipline imposed by Canon Law. The Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, also recently spoke out against abortion legalization, but the government has shown real contempt for Catholic teaching and opinion.

The courts are deeply involved in pressing the abortion agenda. The Irish Supreme Court infamously ruled in the 1992 “X” case that a pregnant woman has the right to an abortion to “save her life” from suicide. This is ridiculous on several levels. First, statistically speaking, women in general and pregnant mothers in particular, are the social group with the least risk of suicide. Second, scientific evidence is mounting that having an abortion, rather than being denied one, is a major risk factor in a woman committing suicide. Finally, the Irish Constitution, thanks to a pro-life referendum in 1983, states in article 40.3 that; “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” It takes an incredibly twisted mind to interpret the words above as justifying the killing of an unborn child based on a “risk” that the mother will kill herself.

Nevertheless, Taoiseach or Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny has decided a threat of suicide should be grounds for a legal abortion in Ireland. He justifies himself with reference to the European Court of Human Rights’ 2010 “ABC” ruling requiring the Irish government to enact abortion legislation “clarifying” the law there. In passing this measure Kenny carried out his threat of mercilessly using the Parliamentary Whip. The five legislators from his party who followed their consciences and voted against the bill will not be allowed to stand for re-election as Fine Gael candidates.

All the lies and use of raw power in ramming through the abortion law have awakened many Irish consciences. The largest numbers of right to lifers in Irish history came out to protest. Legal challenges by pro-lifers of various parts of the abortion bill are poised to be filed as soon as the legislation is finalized. Prayer campaigns at the Irish National Shrine of Knock and elsewhere are taking place as well as prayer and fasting. Ireland must seize this crisis/opportunity to soul search and see if they will tolerate joining the ranks of nations that protect/practice the killing of preborn children.


  • Joseph Meaney

    Joseph Meaney is president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

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