On abortion: Why it should be a woman’s decision…

‘Throughout the whole Greco-Roman civilisation abortion was permitted by law. It was Christianity which revolutionised moral ideas in this matter by endowing the embryo with a soul; for then abortion became a crime against the foetus itself’.

Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex.

There is one reason only a woman should have the legal right to abortion and it is not because of rape, incest, foetal abnormality or threat of suicide; but simply because she chooses to. The above are reasons she may decide to abort, however they are not the principle upon which the right to abortion should be established.

In the North and South of Ireland the legal right of women an abortion is discussed on the premise of the woman as ‘victim’, the woman as ‘vulnerable’, the woman as ‘irrational’. Women must present as ‘broken’, ‘violated’ and ‘unbalanced’ before they have the right to request an abortion let alone be granted one.

Further, it is not enough that the woman has been raped etc. it must be established that there is a ‘real’ danger that she will commit suicide. The fact that she doesn’t want to carry her rapist’s child does not suffice, she must be prepared to die to avoid it. Again she is not capable of deciding this but as with children others must decide what is best for her. This fascist state of play has been permitted to exist in Ireland far beyond its sell by date because the notion of female autonomy is largely absent from the debate.
On the hand the anti-abortion lobby, driven by religious belief, is scientifically blind and deaf. It is fixed on the belief that life begins at conception which explains its fanatical opposition to abortion even in tragic cases. This also explains the extreme views of Bernie Smyth, Director of Precious Life, whom when asked ‘what the young girl or woman who is suicidal because she does not want to go through with the pregnancy should do?’ responds candidly, ‘In some cases women who are suicidal during pregnancy may even need to be institutionalised in some cases’.

Whether deliberate or not Bernie replaces the ‘because’ with ‘during’ pregnancy, leaving enough interpretative wriggle room for future combats, but given the context of the discussion there is little doubt what she is advocating. (25th August 2014). The imprisonment of women in mental hospitals until they give birth to children they don’t want, then their release back into society, with or without the child, to a society which doesn’t give a damn what becomes of them.

The pro-choice lobby, starting from such a low base, has tended to push to the fore the ‘vulnerable’ woman argument with a view that this will lead to public sympathy shifting in favour of abortion. This is understandable, as the public tend to respond sympathetically to a broken woman but with disdain at an independent one. This tactic however is ineffective and fundamentally flawed, particularly from a moral and rights perspective.

In rejection of the anti-abortion lobby’s argument that ‘abortion = murder’ the pro-choice accept that it is not an ‘actual’ person being terminated therefore the debate must centre on the legal right of all women to have abortions, not a few.

The principle upon which the debate should centre is the woman’s right to choose because she is an autonomous rational human being. Women should not have to plead and in many cases, feign suicide to obtain the right not to reproduce. Women should not be denied the right to abortion on the grounds that they have not been violated or are not mentally ill. Women should not be categorised into the deserving and the non- deserving.

The debate must progress beyond the ‘victim centred’ approach. Many women will choose abortions for the reasons cited but the thousands of women who travel to England every year for abortions, and who have been doing so for decades, do so because they do not want a baby or another baby. Women’s reasons like their circumstances will vary, but there is a common thread and that is the cost of motherhood.

Motherhood radically changes the status of women and curtails if not extinguishes her liberty (that ideal upon which wars are supposedly launched resulting in the killing of millions). Every woman knows what it means to be pregnant and the first question asked is usually ‘are you happy about it?’This question encompasses a dozen other unasked questions probing the profound changes which will come about if the pregnancy continues.

Is she happy with the detrimental effect it will have on her career? Is she happy with the state of domesticity it will bring? Is she happy that the father will forever be a fixture in her life? Is she happy that from here on her identity will be that of ‘Mother’? Is she happy that she will be no longer ‘her’?

The inevitable physical changes are rarely mentioned as a concern or consideration, unless a dress fitting is on the horizon. For those women to whom answer is ‘Yes’ the recipient is happy for them and the pregnancy is embraced with happiness, expectation and commitment. For others it is No and they may decide to abort.

These women are not irrational, vulnerable and weak but rational human beings weighing up a decision based on reflection, assessment and judgement on the outcome of the options available.

For most it is a difficult and emotional decision ultimately made for pragmatic reasons in the cold light of rationality. It is within this context that debate on abortion should be based. The fear that women may choose en masse not to become mothers suggest a problem with that status in the first place, and is in contrast to society’s imposition of the mother role on women as a natural state only to be avoided by the deviant or unique women.

Until the ground of debate shifts away from the woman as the ‘other’ to woman as a fully formed autonomous human being, control of women’s reproduction will remain in the hands of the misogynists. People, such as those who designed the abominable Eighth Amendment in the South and whom are trying desperately to further restrict abortion in the North have for too long framed the debate to their liking.

It is time for women to take control of the conversation and to look these people in the eye and say, ‘I choose abortion because, I choose abortion’.


  • Jude42

    “These women are not irrational, vulnerable and weak but rational human beings weighing up a decision based on reflection, assessment and judgement on the outcome of the options available.” How do you know this, Catherine? Some of them might be, most of them might be, few of them might be…That statement has no foundation in evidence that I know of. And of course, as always, the one word never mentioned is ‘baby’. If the foetus is a human being, then no one, including the mother, should be allowed to kill it. Mental institutions exist (in some cases) to keep people safe from visiting violence on others or themselves. That would include mothers who want to kill their babies. If on the other hand the foetus is not a human being, what’s all this fuss about? It’s just a bunch of tissue and yes, the woman should be allowed to have an abortion when and where she chooses. Why agonise about something no more important than the contents of a hanky after a nose-blow? Most people, I’d guess, would be horrified at the idea of a foetus/ baby due to be born next month being aborted. An awful lot of people would feel no horror at the idea of a foetus/baby being aborted at 20 weeks. At what magic point does the non-human foetus become a human being?

  • Jawine Westland

    Most people, I’d guess, would be horrified at the idea of a foetus/ baby due to be born next month being aborted. == Yep, and that’s why every country has cut-off dates, varying from 14 weeks to 24. Viability is 50/50 at 24…but pretty much 0 at 20.

    It’s not a baby until it’s born. Nobody here is advocating for infanticide.

    At what magic point does the non-human foetus become a human being? == “non-human foetus” nobody says foetuses aren’t human.
    You probably mean “human person”?

    There’s always a point: DNA set (conception), start of pregnancy (implantation) ,presence of certain properties (viability, higher brainwaves), and every choice has social consequences.

    That discussion on social consequences can’t be had without looking at the results of criminalization and the fact women are already legal and moral persons.

    Who benefits really from criminalization? (which is the moral line society has drawn…) not the women sent to England, not the foetuses (as there’s no fence and nobody gets sent to prison anyway on return), not the families/women who have to scrape money together, and lack of it is often a cause to end a pregnancy…

  • Siún Carden

    Brava! Comparing the debate around abortion to that around organ donation is revealing. Those who call an embryo a ‘person’ from the moment of conception argue that this gives it the right to use and occupy another person’s body until it can survive on its own. Once humans are born, of course, we have no right to use anyone else’s organs without their consent – even after they are dead. A pregnant woman is granted less bodily autonomy than a corpse. The few extreme cases that are publicised here might make some people think about the subject for the first time, but we can’t forget the fundamental point, that no woman’s human rights are suspended when she becomes pregnant.

  • ndubois

    I’m a man, and if Jude42 was inside my body feeding of me and I wanted him out, I would the have the right to do so, even if that kills him. It may be seen as heartless but it would not, and should not, be a crime.

  • BaldyBapTheBarber

    “On the hand the anti-abortion lobby, driven by religious belief, is scientifically blind and deaf. It is fixed on the belief that life begins at conception which explains its fanatical opposition to abortion even in tragic cases.”
    Hi Catherine – In your comment above you state that the Pro life lobby are “scientifically blind and deaf”. Can you elaborate on this as to exactly how they are blind and deaf?
    Its my understanding that at the moment of conception we have a living organism. It is my belief that this is simply a human being at a particular stage in its life.
    I would be intrested though to understand where the pro life camp has ignored the science as you say.

  • Jude42

    Jawine – you’re talking about the difficulties of having an abortion, which I accept exists for women in Ireland. “Who benefits from criminalization”? Well the child/human being (if it is a human being) might well benefit, in not being aborted so readily. It’s no doubt my bone-brain’s fault, but I don’t know what your point is/what you’re talking about in your fourth and third last paragraph. I repeat: at what point does the non-human foetus become a human being? And though I know this is perhaps a side issue: is the father of the child entitled to no say in the matter? We’ve had four children and we regard them as ours. Were they not mine until they were born?

  • Michael Henry

    It’s a woman’s body it should be a woman’s choice-you had better believe that if men were getting pregnant both laws and religious convictions would be changed as Quick as you could say Jesus Christ-

    ” it is time for woman to take control of the Conversation “-

    Control control yet again-no difference between you Catherine and those freaks who bend the bible and want to control women-

  • The sperm is a living organism, as is the egg. Conception is the continuity of life, not the beginning. Thus, to draw a line at that point is arbitrary. Otherwise, we must then accept, as Monty Python hilariously lampooned, that every sperm is sacred, which is plainly ridiculous.

  • Jawine Westland

    Well the child/human being (if it is a human being) might well benefit,
    in not being aborted so readily. == Actually, no. There’s no evidence to suggest women will not travel. So that particular pregnancy does end.

    The reasons for the abortions are lack of resources, either socially, financially or medical issues or relationship issues. Criminalization doesn’t resolve any of these.

    Contraception can fail, half of the women traveling are in stable relationships and already have children. So they’ve been pregnant before.

    I repeat: at what point does the non-human foetus become a human being? == My point is that there is no consensus. There never has been.

    I can give you my answer which is: I don’t know either. I think there should be at least a higher functioning brain, so 20-24 weeks in the pregnancy. Some people say that’s too late, and it should be 12 weeks. Some say not until you’re alive and kicking.

    And on that you can argue until the cows come home. But every country the same happens. In developing countries women simply die due to backstreet abortions. In NI stigma and lack of resources punishes poorer women/families. In IRE, well they can hold you hostage and force you to surgery. In NI if you get ill, too bad…off to England.

    And though I know this is perhaps a side issue: is the father of the child entitled to no say in the matter? ==
    This is indeed a side issue, as men don’t carry the pregnancy. Not that I am not willing to discuss but maybe easier to do one thing at a time…

  • Ruhah

    Not sure if I follow your line of thinking here Colin? So did we alway exist as living organisms in our mother’s egg and/or father sperm.

    Surely you’d want to acknowledge the zygote’s division as the beginning point of something new that would be become a ‘ruhah’ or colin morrison? Are we discussing the science of life or are you offering some manner of spiritual understanding that we always existed in seemingly multiple forms and places?

  • Conception is just one point in a sequence of biological processes which must happen for reproduction. Why not draw the line at implantation, first cell division, or further back in the reproductive tissue in the parent? None is any more significant than the rest – they are all important, none can be skipped.

    Thus, to draw the line at conception, as pro-lifers do, is arbitrary.

  • BaldyBapTheBarber

    Hi Colin, you might have missed the point I was trying to make in that I was looking more information from Catherine as to how the Pro life camp are blind and deaf to Scientific fact. Your clarification still doesn’t remove the need for this explanation. Maybe my use of the word organism was the wrong choice, may be I should have said that at the moment of conception they believe a new life is created. By holding this belief is this evidence that you are scientifically blind and deaf? Maybe Catherine can tell us what Science states with regard to when life begins.

  • Iluvni


    Pat Ramsey, SDLP
    Jim Wells, DUP
    Jonathan Craig, DUP
    Alban Maginness, SDLP
    Mervyn Storey, DUP
    Jim Allister, TUV
    Mark H Durkan, SDLP
    David McIlveen, DUP
    Kieran McCarthy, Alliance
    Danny Kennedy, UUP

    …agree with the callous opinion of Bernadette Smyth? Would they really support the suggestion that a troubled pregnant woman may be ‘institutionalised’?
    Surely not….but each needs asked.

  • BaldyBapTheBarber

    I would disagree with you that none is more significant than the rest and that picking conception as the beginning of life as arbitrary.

    “The entire basis for a new, human life beginning at conception stems from well documented, universally recognized scientific fact. The only ones who deny this are those blinded by their own religious dogma of so-called “choice” who have a stubborn need to deny scientific fact in order to stay faithful to their own ideology.

    If science had proven that human life actually began at implantation or at nine weeks or whenever, then that’s precisely when we (Catholics and any other reasonable belief system) would believe that human life began. Simple. And, logically, it would be from that moment when this human being should be treated with the rights and dignities that come with being a human being.

    But that’s not what science has told us. Science has quite clearly and decidedly proven that a new, human life begins at conception (i.e. fertilization. AKA the moment sperm and ovum meet and form an entirely new, self-directing living organism of the human species with its own individual DNA distinct from both mother and father.).”
    – See more at: http://fallibleblogma.com/index.php/when-does-science-say-human-life-begins/#sthash.YAvyIcZo.dpuf

  • Jurassic Parke

    What I think one’s opinion on abortion boils down to is whether one considers the zygote/foetus/baby to be human before it is born. If you do (as I do), then abortion is morally unthinkable. If not, then it’s merely an obstetric procedure.
    As I don’t think many will switch between these beliefs, it really renders the accompanying side arguments fruitless.

  • A perfect demonstration of what the article stated: “On the hand the anti-abortion lobby, driven by religious belief, is
    scientifically blind and deaf. It is fixed on the belief that life
    begins at conception which explains its fanatical opposition to abortion even in tragic cases.”

    As for – “Science has quite clearly and decidedly proven that a new, human life begins at conception” – Gibberish. Science claims no such thing. Life is actually remarkably difficult to define in scientific terms. In this context, it’s not science, it’s philosophy. To try to pass it off as science is dishonest.

    As for decrying the pro-choice position as ‘religious dogma’, do you really want to go there? Because religious dogma is precisely why we’re having this conversation, and a wee hint, I’m not the one so afflicted with it.

    As for the Catholic Church and it’s record on defending ‘babies’, let’s consider the 68% infant mortality rate in Bessborough in the 40s. Yes, 20th century.

  • Jurassic Parke

    I agree. “Scientifically blind and deaf”? It’s hardly unorthodox to consider a genetically distinct organism to be human.

  • Mister_Joe

    Not necessarily the correct answer, but an interesting case arrived at the Canadian Supreme Court a number of years ago. It arose from a case where an estranged husband shot his wife in the abdomen and the shot killed the foetus she was carrying. He was charged and found guilty of murder. The conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court. They ruled that a person can only be charged with murdering a person and they said that the foetus didn’t become a person until the moment of birth. I happen to agree.

    This doesn’t mean that abortion can we justified at any time in the pregnancy. Like most other countries, a third trimester abortion can be carried out in Canada only in very exceptional circumstances.

  • NornIrony

    Is there any argument that can’t just be reduced to a difference of opinion on when the foetus does or doesn’t constitute a human life?

    The distinction between no rights one minute and rights the next is a bit arbitrary (including conception), and while I have never been able to fully reconcile that (in my head), I see no clear alternative.

  • TruthFinder

    When a woman says she have a right to do what she wants with her own body, we must ask: Where did you get that right? Lets get the fundamentals right before we even get into the detail. There is a world of difference between an animal and
    a human. Everyone intuitively recognises and affirms that in our attitudes and conduct e.g. even the most ardent pro-abortionist recognises that to run over a cat is very different from running over a child and reacts instinctively to affirm that. The law of most countries reflects that very fact also.The unborn child is not a mere appendage to the mother in the womb. From the moment of conception, he has: his own unique set of genes, his own circulatory system, and his own blood type. Evidence can be seen that the differentiation of the embryonic cells begins on the day of conception. Indeed, the unborn can live or die independently of the mother and vice versa.

    This child is a separate person with a separate identity. It is nonsensical to believe that human personhood is bestowed merely by location – inside or outside the womb. We all instinctively recognise that the child in the womb is no mere collection of tissues, like an appendix, but a living person. A pimple is a mass of tissue yet no one believes that there is any moral or ethical issue with the dermatologist removing a pimple by a laser. Even abortionists do not call a dermatologist an “abortion doctor!” Even abortion advocates struggle to formulate consistent terms in this debate. They talk about “termination” which implicitly refers to the termination of a life. You don’t terminate inanimate objects! So what precisely is being terminated?

  • “There is a world of difference between an animal and
    a human.” – humans are animals. So, one fundamental down.

    “pro-abortionist” – pro-choice includes people who personally would never undergo abortion, but recognise the right of others to choose differently.

    A cat isn’t a child, and a child isn’t a foetus.

    “The unborn child is not a mere appendage to the mother in the womb” – it is in the case of anencephaly. Another fundamental down.

    “From the moment of conception, he has” – and also she, and intermediate. Interesting that you should default to one gender.

    “Evidence can be seen that the differentiation of the embryonic cells begins on the day of conception.” – quite untrue, or you don’t understand the term differentiation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_embryogenesis#Cleavage

    “This child is a separate person with a separate identity.” – says who exactly?

    “We all instinctively recognise that the child in the womb is no mere
    collection of tissues, like an appendix, but a living person.” – the article cited pro-lifers as unscientific in opinion. Your appeal to emotion supports that argument.

    “A pimple is a mass of tissue yet no one believes that there is any moral
    or ethical issue with the dermatologist removing a pimple by a laser.” – what has this got to do with anything?

    The above post is a rambling, opinionated mess. It is factually incorrect in numerous points and meets the criteria of the OP – scientifically deaf and blind.

  • tanyaj

    The polarity of this comment thread illustrates dramatically why we need to get beyond these two ideological positions:
    either from the moment of conception there is a human being with
    equivalent rights to those of its mother, siblings etc. or up to the
    moment of birth there is nothing but a collection of cells. Those
    positions are, as has been shown, entirely incompatible, and neither is
    consistent with the actual experience and opinions of most people, especially women who have experienced pregnancy and birth. Abortion of an embryo at the point of implantation and of a healthy foetus at thirty-nine weeks are not the same thing, and both sides do women a disservice by claiming that they are. The current situation in Northern Ireland is the worst of both worlds, making availability of abortion dependent only upon the financial resources and connections available to the woman concerned. Less shouting and more conversation might reveal common ground, in empowering women to make genuinely free choices in all aspects of their lives, in supporting children and families, especially single parents, and in coming to an adult compromise which, while lacking ideological purity, would demonstrate real compassion and justice.

  • BaldyBapTheBarber

    James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a nonprofit institute dedicated to researching and publishing verifiable facts about public policy. He recently published this essay titled “The science of abortion: When does life begin?”

    In his essay found here http://www.justfactsdaily.com/the-science-of-abortion-when-does-life-begin he states the following, which would seem to undermine your comments:

    Agresti points out the “conception” and “life” are ” words [that] are clearly defined in science dictionaries and widely used in scientific literature.

    To cite just a few examples, the American Heritage Science Dictionary defines “conception” as “the formation of a zygote resulting from the union of a sperm and egg cell; fertilization.” (For reference, a zygote is the first stage of a human embryo.)

    Likewise, the entry for “life” in the American Heritage Dictionary of Science states that life is “the form of existence that organisms like animals and plants have and that inorganic objects or organic dead bodies lack; animate existence, characterized by growth, reproduction, metabolism, and response to stimuli.””

    Argresti continues to hammer home the point, by explaining that the statement – “human life begins at conception”… “is consistent with both of these definitions, because human zygotes display all four empirical attributes of life:

    Growth – As explained in the textbook Essentials of Human Development: A Life-Span View, “the zygote grows rapidly through cell division.”

    Reproduction – Per Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia, zygotes sometimes form identical twins, which is an act of “asexual reproduction.” (Also, in this context, the word “reproduction” is more accurately understood as “reproductive potential” instead of “active reproduction.” For example, three-year-old humans are manifestly alive, but they can’t actively reproduce.)

    Metabolism – As detailed in the medical text Human Gametes and Preimplantation Embryos: Assessment and Diagnosis, “At the zygote stage,” the human embryo metabolizes “carboxylic acids pyruvate and lactate as its preferred energy substrates.”

    Response to stimuli – Collins English Dictionary defines a “stimulus” as “any drug, agent, electrical impulse, or other factor able to cause a response in an organism.” Experiments have shown that zygotes are responsive to such factors. For example, a 2005 paper in the journal Human Reproduction Update notes that a compound called platelet-activating factor “acts upon the zygote” by stimulating “metabolism,” “cell-cycle progression,” and “viability.”

    Furthermore, the science of embryology has proven that the genetic composition of humans is formed during fertilization, and as the textbook Molecular Biology explains, this genetic material is “the very basis of life itself.”

    In accord with the facts above, the textbook Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects directly states: “The zygote and early embryo are living human organisms.” This may be controversial from a political perspective, but the sciences of embryology and genetics leave no doubt as to when human life begins.”

    In finishing Argresti finishes by claryfing what Science is;

    “What is science?

    There is a lot of posturing about science in the world of politics, but some of what is reported as “science” is actually just the claims of selected scientists, which happen to be at odds with the facts of science.

    Science, in the words of Webster’s College Dictionary, is the “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” Notably, this does not entail parroting the assertions of someone with scientific credentials.

    In the realm of science, what matters is facts and logically inescapable conclusions that flow from them—not opinions, no matter who voices them or how prevalent they are.”

    In the end it looks to me that you’re the one who is substituting your ideology for science in the public debate for abortion!

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’d go further. pro-choice includes people who themselves do not agree with abortion, but believe that their views should not be imposed on others.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You’ve already lost this argument. The prohibition on abortion in Ireland simply results in women who can afford it travelling to a country where it is legal.

    Personally I’m not at all interested in the matter of whether abortion is right or wrong; but the question of why the pro-life lobby are so strong on trying to prevent it in Ireland knowing that prohibition does nothing to prevent abortions from taking place.

  • Newman

    Are those who support the pro choice position of the view that an abortion under 24 weeks is like a tooth extraction or the removal of a gallstone and that there is no moral significance to a child in the first two trimesters.? I think we need some clarity before the debate can get anywhere.

  • The JustFacts site also seems to be a mouthpiece of the Religious Right – I note their spin on the Hobby Lobby decision. A useful source, thanks. Anyone citing that and pointing the finger at others about ideology…well…

    As one Redditor said:
    “Users here (including myself) have noted multiple instances of cherry-picking, facts presented out-of-context, and speculation based on unrealistic assumptions in projections in multiple sections of this website. I have not seen any strong arguments to refute these findings (or any arguments at all, for that matter).

    As such, unless someone comes up with a good counter-argument in the next few days, I’m marking this one as “confirmed”, inasmuch as it is an untrustworthy source that is indeed “not completely honest”, although I make no comment as to whether or not this means the website is

    Full discussion here: http://www.reddit.com/r/politicalfactchecking/comments/1vea9x/is_this_fact_checking_website_biased/

    Now that we’re done with JustFacts, on to the biology:

    When one studies organisms and structures such as viruses and prions (and I have), it becomes apparent that it isn’t always easy to distinguish life from non-life. I would characterise neither as alive, but they’re very close.

    The human zygote does not arise from non-living matter. The sperm and egg do not qualify as discrete organisms, but they are alive – tissues of their parent organisms. I’d agree that fertilisation is the origin of a new organism, but it is a continuation of living constituents.

    “Furthermore, the science of embryology has proven that the genetic composition of humans is formed during fertilization”
    – the genetic composition of a zygote is formed in Meiosis I in the reproductive tissues of the parents, producing the haploid gametes. At fertilisation, the two halves of the genome meet.

    I cite the example of the foetus with no brain. During pregnancy, it is living tissue, with some low-level response to stimuli (not requiring the upper cortex which is absent), but it is not, and never can be, a human individual. This gets us beyond the ‘what is life’ sideshow, onto personhood, which is quite different.

    There is no consensus at all on when this begins, because I would posit there is no discrete beginning. One must take a best guess, and hedge on the safe side, factoring in risk to the mother, viability etc. – the sort of things that should be between a pregnant woman and her doctor.

  • Mister_Joe

    It’s not so simple, Newman. As someone else above alludes to, a person Can find abortion abhorrent yet support the right of the woman to decide.

  • Newman

    It’s certainly not simple Joe but I do think there is a proliferation of slogans and a failure to think through the consequences of various positions. Compassion for the woman who has made that choice is one thing, but that is not how the debate is framed by those who consider choice and preference the supreme virtues. There is a failure to see the tragedy that a potential human being has been denied the chance of living.Bill Clinton once fastened on to the slogan “safe legal and rare”in the midst of delicate presidential campaign, but that is not the reality. If the vast majority of abortions are for social reasons do we not need to set the hard cases aside for a minute and deal with, for instance, abortion being used as a means of contraception.The debate always seems to be driven by the hard cases at the expense of the reasons in the vast majority of cases.

  • Mister_Joe

    I did like that slogan/suggestion by Clinton.

  • Katie-o

    Well said.

  • Newman

    How do we make it rare Joe if the emphasis is on choice?

  • Mister_Joe

    Promote contraception. Make the morning after pill readily available.

  • Newman

    It’s not so simple Joe and the evidence suggests otherwise. We have more widespread contraception than ever before and the availability of the morning after pill is well publicised. The primary mischief is seeing abortion as a means of contraception…that will entail confronting the mentality.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Two points I would like to make.

    First… It is my understanding that civilizations have grappled with abortion for centuries before Christianity. As for the Greeks, the original hippocratic oath prohibited abortion, specifically. No other specific procedure has been mentioned. So this idea that the Greeks were fine with it is a nonsense. There’s an obsession amongst faux liberals with religiously informed morality. I’m waiting for a Chris Morris style skit on good morality vs bad morality. Everyone gets their ethics from somewhere and the abrahamic religions are beyond reproach on most ethical issues.

    Second… The pro life lobby has science on its side to a much greater degree than the pro choice lobby. The concept that life begins at conception has much more logic than any other point. Certainly taking birth as the point is the very definition of arbitrary. It’s ironic that the pro choice lobby has to rely on philosophical concepts akin to ensoulment when the “religious nuts” can point to atleast the most verifiable scientific facts.

    Third… If there is a human life there then it must be accepted that we cannot morally leave that life completely subjugated to the wishes of another. On the other hand, if we do take it that the embryo or foetus is not a full human, does that make it without value at all. And what value is sufficient to warrant requiring the woman to continue with the inconvenience of a pregnancy and in what circumstances pertaining to the woman is it impermissible to require that continuance.

    From my point of view, there is a life there. And the right to life must take precedence over the right to choose. There is one right that takes precedence over life and that is the right not to be subject to inhumane or degrading treatment. Or cruel and unusual punishment. Pregnancy is none of those in and of itself. But some physical or mental side effects can be. Abortion is permissable to prevent inhumane treatment being done to the woman.

  • Croiteir

    You may as well say the same about paedophilia

  • Lionel Hutz

    So legalise euthanasia for the same reason. Lower the age of consent because children ager 14 can have sex on the continent. Legalise drugs. Even as someone who on balance is on the pro-life side, I can recognise that there are some good arguments for abortion choice. Comrade’s reason is so nauseatingly bad. The peer pressure argument.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You might. I couldn’t.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It is a simple fact that women can travel to almost any other country in Europe except Poland to obtain abortions, and therefore its prohibition here is a policy which does not work in preventing what pro-life advocates describe as mass murder. Spending all day wringing your hands about whether abortion should be banned and arguing about when life actually begins or not is all a waste of time.

    The law in neighbouring countries is relevant because Ireland’s policy on abortion is a luxury which is afforded in the first place by the fact that abortion is easily obtainable elsewhere. If there were an imaginary scenario where Irish women were not able to travel abroad for abortions, we’d have the same problems that European countries had before they relaxed their policies on it – that is high death rates among young women due to botched abortions.

    BTW I certainly think the debates on drugs should be informed by the fact that there are different levels of tolerance elsewhere. Euthanasia is a bit more tricky; there’s only one other place where it is legal; and the age of consent is much more complicated (and nobody really believes that 14 year olds are queueing up to jump on planes to have sex elsewhere). There is no point in having laws that are de facto unenforceable and ineffective.

  • Comrade Stalin

    it is my understanding that civilizations have grappled with abortion for centuries before Christianity

    There’s no evidence whatsoever of this.

    The RC church only started becoming actively vocal on abortion something like 250-300 years ago. There’s little or no mention of it before then.

  • Lionel Hutz

    I just gave you evidence

  • carl marks

    This non profit organisation you mention, who pays for it, where does it get its funding from. can you show me the details of the scientists working for it, does employ them doesn’t it how else can it make scientific statements, is its work peer reviewed?

  • carl marks

    Aw pedophilia, now there is a point that the religious right ( 100% pro lifers) should try to avoid, recent history has proved how the church’s treat children after they are born, which makes all these claims its about protecting babies a nonsense.
    lets be honest boys, this is about keeping women in their place!

  • BaldyBapTheBarber

    Hi Carl this is from Just Facts “about us” section:

    “Mission and Vision


    The mission of Just Facts is to research and publish verifiable facts about the leading public policy issues of our time. To accomplish this with impartiality and excellence, we abide by Standards of Credibility to determine what constitutes a credible fact and what does not.


    Our vision is to equip individuals throughout the world with facts that empower them to make truly informed decisions. This requires authoritative facts that accurately convey big picture realities, not half-truths or talking points.


     Guarantee of Integrity


    Just Facts is passionate about finding the truth and making it known, and thus, we diligently work to ensure that our research is scrupulous and comprehensive. If, however, you should ever find an error in our research or feel that we have missed a critical fact that alters the implications of any matter we have addressed, please contact us, and we promise to make it right.


    We strive for continuous improvement and thus encourage rigorous critique, but we do not have the resources to investigate unsupported claims, so please fully substantiate any assertions that you make with exact quotes from reliable primary sources.


     Serving Organizations and Individuals


    Research from Just Facts has been cited by a wide variety of organizations and individuals. A brief sampling of these includes:

    major media outlets, such as CBS, PBS, the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, the Huffington Post, and Roll Call.

    educational institutions, such as Pepperdine University, Vanderbilt University, West Virginia University, and numerous grade schools and high schools.

    government entities, such as the Wisconsin Legislature, the Oklahoma Department of Labor, and the education ministry of Northern Ireland.

    academic publishers and publications, such as Gale Cengage Learning, Encyclopædia Britannica, Lexington Books, and the Journal of Global Faultlines.

    think tanks, such as the Hoover Institution, the Pacific Research Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and Instituto Liberdade (Brazil).

    political and advocacy groups, such as the Liberal Democratic Party of Australia, the Fulton County Republican Party (Georgia), and the Washington State Education Association.

    prominent companies, commentators, and organizations, such as IBM Corporation, Rush Limbaugh, and the American Nurses Association.

    Furthermore, millions of people from more than 150 countries have directly accessed the research on our website. Some of them have also sent us notes of appreciation that highlight the value of this research to them.


     Who We Are


    Just Facts is a non-profit research and educational institute that began as a website in 1997 and was formalized as a 501(c)3 organization in November 2007.


    James D. Agresti, the president and primary researcher, holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University and has worked as a designer of jet aircraft engines, a technical sales professional, and chief engineer of a firm that customizes helicopters. He is the author of Rational Conclusions, a meticulously researched book evidencing factual support for the Bible across a broad array of academic disciplines.


    Stephen F. Cardone, the vice-president, holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Brown University and has 20+ years of private industry experience in corporate management, operations, logistics, accounting, and customer service. Additionally, Just Facts’ board of directors, supporters, and contractors are all an integral part of our organization.


    Nearly everyone has personal political views, especially those involved in policy research and journalism. In the interest of transparency, we think it is incumbent upon such individuals to straightforwardly disclose this information, despite the fact that they often fail to do so and claim that this lack of disclosure is a mark of objectivity. As is the case with any thoughtful group of people, the staff and board members of Just Facts have some varying opinions, but we overwhelmingly subscribe to these defining principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence:


    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


    In general parlance, we are conservative/libertarian in our viewpoints, but unlike many organizations and media outlets, this does not mean we give preference to facts that coincide with our opinions. Quite the contrary, we are committed to objectivity and will report any fact that meets the criteria below, regardless of the implications.


     Standards of Credibility


    * Clarity: Just Facts uses language that is precise and unambiguous in order to minimize any potential for misinterpretation.


    * Primary Sources: Just Facts makes extraordinary efforts to identify and cite highly credible primary sources instead of secondary ones. This is because secondary sources often misrepresent primary sources or neglect to convey their nuances or caveats. Since 2001, all of our research has been conducted under this standard.


    * Transparency: Just Facts is committed to documenting the facts we publish far more thoroughly than standard academic practice requires. Hence, all of our research since 2001 contains footnotes with direct quotes and/or raw data from the cited sources. This allows readers to quickly verify that we accurately represent these sources. Our goal for every fact is 100% transparency.


    * Raw Data: Within reasonable constraints of time, Just Facts strives to present data in its rawest comprehensible form. Under the guise of sophistication, academics can tinker with classifications, statistical methods, and other variables to obtain the results they want. By providing unadulterated data, Just Facts aims to curb the methodological trickery that besets public policy debates.


    * Comprehensiveness: Facts that paint a distorted picture of reality by virtue of what is left unsaid are an anathema to Just Facts. For example, many journalists and commentators have cited the rise in national debt under various U.S. Presidents without mentioning the role of Congress and numerousother variables that affect the national debt. Just Facts rejects such reporting and seeks to present the whole truth, because half the truth can sometimes amount to a total lie.


    * Estimates and Minor Discrepancies: These are handled by giving preference to figures that are contrary to our viewpoints and by using the most cautious plausible interpretations of such data.


    * Balance: Our goal is comprehensive accuracy, not balance. Press outlets often provide quotes from people on opposing sides of an issue. This, in our opinion, is a charade. First, there is nothing to prevent a news source from quoting the most compelling argument from one side and the weakest from the other. Second, such sound bites are often loaded with rhetoric and misinformation. Our purpose is to publish verifiable facts regardless of the views they support, not to circulate falsehoods and propaganda.


     Our Challenge


    While today’s news media can be entertaining, ask yourself, “Does it give me the information I need to make quality decisions in my life and in the voting booth?”

    Make the effort to gather credible facts and ponder their implications. Your views and your vote impact not only your life but the people around you. Refuse to allow misinformation or irrationalities to manipulate your thinking. Form your own opinions based upon serious thought and broad knowledge.


     Support Our Work


    Producing quality research takes time and money. Please help us shift public opinion to reflect reality instead of rhetoric by making a secure tax-deductible contribution today.”

  • the /r/politicalfactchecking subreddit found there to be some quite slippery use of statistics on gun control (the religious Right love their guns as much as they hate women):


    That BBTB quoted from the site to prove the credibility of the site is telling. It’s like apologists reading from the Bible to claim the Bible is true.

  • Lionel Hutz

    There’s a difference between learning from the experience of other countries and following them just because they do. Ireland can only govern itself. It’s limited but it’s all it can do.

    Anyway, there is another issue. Ireland cannot legislate a lie. Most countries with easy access to abortions do so on the basis of a lie. The 1967 act is a farce. It’s one thing for the UK to turn a blind eye to the perhaps unforeseen consequences of that legislation but they are foreseeable to us now. Few countries actually have legislated for choice. The UK legislation is not about choice. roe v Wade is about limited choice (first trimester) and it’s an awfully reasoned judgment anyway. It remains law only because no US government will legislate for choice.

    They are wringing their hands. Ireland is one of the few countries that has attempted to legislate honestly in respect of abortion. Making a judgment call on when life begins and all else flows from that

  • Mister_Joe

    Lionel, I don’t understand what lie you are referring to. Can you elaborate?

  • Lionel Hutz

    The 1967 act requires a medical reason for abortion. that could be risk to the mother o the child being seriously handicapped. There is no right to choose in the UK or so says the law. But in practice there is abortion on demand. Now you could argue that Westminster could not have foreseen the floodgates being opened so wide that abortions occur because of cleft palate but we can see it. And it would be a lie to pass such legislation.

    Everyone tries to find the middle where most people reside. But there is no way to legislate for the middle ground. The experience has shown us that you can either open the floodgates or keep them closer.

    The Republic is trying to open them slightly and has such substantial safeguards for that reason. I don’t know whether it will work but it has the potential get closest to that middle ground, erring on the side of pro-life.

    And it’s honest. It’s also transparent. The public have been given the opportunity to vote on this on several occasions. It’s laughable that the OP described it as fascist. Where was the democracy when the US Supreme decided that their constitution implied abortion rights despite the fact that there were anti abortion laws in the US when the constitution was written. Where is the rule of law in the UK

  • carl marks

    so no details on who funds it, and no peer review, no more reason to accept the ” facts” of Just facts then there would be to accept the Daily Mails “facts”.
    Nice mission statement but you find out more following the cash than reading self congratulatory bumf!

  • Croiteir

    There’s gratitude, step in when the state is unable and society is incapable, do the best possible with very limited funds and support, suffer the consequences of that lack of state support and resources and then get blamed for it.

  • Croiteir

    No – it is keeping the child in its place – the womb until it is ready for the cot

  • Croiteir

    Contraception is widely available. People make choices and then expect other to pay for ut

  • Croiteir

    Never hear of Colin McDonald from County Down? Here’s a link and legal confirmation of the rights of the child to be protected and indeed be called a child. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1300345.stm

  • Croiteir

    Ignoring the gratuitous and disgusting slur on Bernadette Smyth are you suggesting that if abortion is legalised a troubled pregnant woman would not be institutionalised?

  • Croiteir


  • Mister_Joe

    Not everywhere and not well promoted in various places. Not to mention the Catholic Church trying to forbid its members from using it.

  • kensei

    Generally liberal but two things I have been been able to reconcile. One, the earliest point you could kill me – as a distinct entity, not my mum or dad or grandad or something else – just me, then that is conception. People will say a foetus is not a baby, but a baby is not a child and a child is not a man. Second, if a woman has a unwanted termination – a miscarriage – then you’ll often here the phrase “lost the baby”. Doctors will work hard saving premature babies that the more extreme pro choice people are happy to abort. Is it only a child is you want it? That’s a troubling argument.

    There are difficult moral argumens on the other side too, but none so strong to me. I don’t think I could vote in good conscience to lift the ban, but I’m not sure I could vote either for banning it completely if it was already in place.

    One thing I’m sure is wrong though, is any attempt to dismiss it as just a procedure or some post pregnancy form of contraception. I read an article on the Guardian once where the author stated they’d had four abortions and it was just a minor inconvenience. That horrified me. It’s a world that has lost its moral compass and respect for life I don’t want to live in.

  • Croiteir

    Damn those ketlicks

  • Mister_Joe

    That’s very harsh. Are you condemning them all or just opposing the Vatican’s position on contraception?

  • Croiteir

    Lets go the whole hog – why hold back

  • Mister_Joe

    I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I sincerely hope your imagination is not running amok.

  • Croiteir

    I was drawing attention your silly sideswipe at the Catholic Church

  • BaldyBapTheBarber

    Hi Carl, my pedantic side got the better of me- so I decided to contact Just Facts to see if they could advise on funding and peer review like you said. Below is the transcript of the reply from James D. Agresti on Funding and peer review. I’ve also attached a screenshot of the emails in case you doubt my
    word. (I’ve only deleted my email address and real name for privacy)

    “Hi ________,

    Nice to make your acquaintance.

    In reply to the critiques on the message board, I would say that our
    research is meticulously documented with reliable, primary sources. This is why
    it has been widely cited by major media outlets, educational institutions,
    government entities, academic publishers, and think tanks from across the
    political spectrum.

    In sum, any claim that our research is not reliable is just empty
    bluster unless the claimant can put forth concrete evidence that some aspect of
    it is wrong.

    Incidentally, I find it ironic that someone who impugns the integrity of
    our research cites Reddit as an authority.



    “Also, regarding peer review:

    A PH.D. economist and authorities on other issues sometimes review our
    research before we publish, and our readers (which include university
    professors, government agencies, leading thank tanks, and major media outlets
    that and cite use our work) keep us honest though our Guarantee of Integrity.

    More importantly, it is a naïve to believe that just because something
    is peer-reviewed, it is factual and honest or vice-versa.. This recent paper
    in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides a mere inkling
    of the scope of the problem: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/42/17028.

    To quote Austin L. Hughes, Carolina
    Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of South
    Carolina, “the high confidence in funding and peer-review panels should
    seem misplaced to anyone who has served on these panels and witnessed the
    extent to which preconceived notions, personal vendettas, and the like can
    torpedo even the best proposals.”

    Regarding funding:

    Just Facts does not accept donations from governments or political
    parties. All others are welcome to support our work, but as a matter of
    practical reality, our donor base has been quite limited. This is partly
    because we refuse to pursue any agenda but unvarnished truth. I know this
    because potential funders have told us that they would consider supporting us
    if we took the organization in other directions, which we refuse to do.

    As a matter of personal privacy, Just Facts does not share specific
    personal information about our donors, but I can assure there is no wizard
    behind the curtain. I left a secure career and took a major pay cut to pursue
    Just Facts, and I have since been offered more than double my current salary to
    do other work. I and others work for Just Facts simply because we believe there
    is a great need for honest and unbiased facts about public policy.



    Now given your scepticism before I have a feeling this is still probably
    not going to be enough to satisfy you. And if this is the case; then as the man
    stated can you put forth concrete evidence that some aspect of their
    research is wrong.? Or are you going to be like Matt and use a source such as Reddit
    as an authority to try and call into question their research?

    Furthermore, do the wide range of organisations that have cited Just
    Facts, to name a few:

    CBS, PBS, the Wall Street
    Journal, the Huffington Post, the
    education ministry of Northern Ireland, Encyclopædia Britannica, & IBM Corporation, – And that
    they were formalized as a
    501(c)3 organization in November 2007, confirming their not for profit status;
    does this not give you a little more confidence than the daily mail? Come on
    man be reasonable now. I know we differ on the argument but credit where
    credits due, no? As I said if you doubt
    their research in the sections that I quoted I’d be pleased to look at your
    concrete evidence that is peer reviewed
    etc etc and discuss this with you further. But until you show me concrete facts
    to the contrary the ball is your court.


  • BaldyBapTheBarber

    Emails from Just Facts

  • carl marks

    well i can only repeat my previous concerns, the attitude shown in the email towards peer review is worrying, (if your information is unbiased and in line with that which has been proven by scientists then peer review should not present problems), bit woolly on the funding thing as well.
    I would also like to know more about the “citing” of Just facts on BBC etc, ( Esther Rantzen used to cite a lot of people on her show but you wouldn’t want to boast about it!).and what exactly is their relationship with the education ministry of Northern Ireland (by the way they got the name wrong, doesn’t inspire confidence)
    so we have an email which admits that peer review is a system they only use occasionally (presumably when it suits) , no info on funding but a lot of “we are great guys” so excuse me if i tell you i will need a lot more than that before i could accept Just Facts (or any “non profit group” for that matter) as a reliable source of info.
    and i should point out that the scientific method is for someone presenting what they claim as facts is for that person/group to prove they are right in a evidence based manner.
    I had a good look at the site and in both the abortion and firearms section are very weak, i would be a lot happier with it if they give reasons for dismissing info they disapprove of instead of just dismissing it.,

  • carl marks

    by the way do you think the Daily Mail is one of the media outlets that use the “facts” supplied by Just Facts, Just asking!

  • Abucs

    Agree completely. But then so does the above narrow minded opinion piece…

    “……The fact that she doesn’t want to carry her rapist’s child does not suffice