Rights are tricky things, especially when it comes to the ‘right to life of the unborn’ and the ‘equal right to life of the mother’…

I get a distinct feeling of unease when I hear an individual or a group on the media complaining that their ‘rights’ to something have been infringed. I wouldn’t necessarily have thought that these people can make any such claim, but they are often vocal in their assertions. A group, for example, may take over a vacant property and ‘squat’ there; when there is an attempt at eviction they will claim that they have ‘squatters’ rights’. Perhaps they do have a moral right of occupation, but in the UK they have no legal (or civil or statutory) right — unless they can claim ‘adverse possession’.

Rights are tricky things; they may be natural or legal, they make a claim or demand, be positive or negative; and such rights may come combined with obligations. What might be rights, on what basis rights are claimed or denied, to what extent there are legal, societal and moral or ethical dimensions are all areas of considerable disagreement.

To illustrate: throughout Ireland we have the legal, positive right to vote, and we also have the (parallel) negative right not to vote, that is to abstain. In Australia, where voting is compulsory, there is no negative right. (To get around this, you can ‘spoil’ the voting paper.)

You may, as a liberty right, walk or march upon the public highway as the mood takes you; but you may not walk upon private property if another claims the right to that property; your liberty, your freedom extends only as far as the claim of another.

You may have the liberty right to free speech, but you cannot expect that another is obliged to listen to you or even to assist you in your expression, and your right to freedom of speech may be legally limited by the obligation not to incite hatred or violence.

You can expect, as an adult, to have the natural or moral or inalienable right to life, the right to exist: often expressed as ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ (’self-evident truths’), or ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’. This right may be manifested in formal statements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the European Convention on Human Rights. The right of liberty, of freedom, is not absolute; your liberty may be removed upon conviction for criminal acts; and you may even lose your right to life through the legal act of execution.

I say all this as a preamble to indicate just how complex the ideas around ‘rights’ are, and to reiterate that there is much disagreement and little if anything in the way of absolutes.

The eighth amendment of the Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na hÉireann, was incorporated as Article 40.3.3, and reads:

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.

My argument concerns the ‘right to life of the unborn’ and the ‘equal right to life of the mother’. Can we be certain that the unborn and the mother have an equal right to life? It may say so in an official document, but merely by saying so doesn’t necessarily make it so, and it may seem so blatantly obvious and self-evident as to be not worth discussing; but is it really so?

Consider first the mother. Any healthy adult human is capable of breathing to allow oxidation of the tissues and respiration at a cellular level, and to eliminate carbon dioxide. Any such adult can provide entirely for itself; it can forage for food to sustain itself, as all our ancestors once did, and it can fashion shelter if necessary. (Of course, going to a supermarket is more convenient, but that’s not my point.) It can eliminate waste by itself. The only obvious obligation this adult has is not to invade the territory of another, and to forage there to the detriment of the neighbour, that is to make a demand on the neighbour. In the final analysis, this adult makes no claim on others for its own right to life.

And the unborn, the foetus? Within the womb the lungs are functionless; the foetus does not breathe. It obtains all its oxygen from the mother through the placenta and via the umbilical cord, through which carbon dioxide is eliminated. Likewise, the foetus obtains all its food from the same source, and waste products likewise pass to the mother. The foetal bowel does not normally act when the foetus is in the womb.

On this reasoning, the right to life of the unborn is a demand or claim against the mother. It is not, in these terms, an inherent or natural right to life such as the mother has. Whether this claim by the foetus is inalienable, whether the mother is absolutely obliged to accede to this claim is another question entirely.

Is the Constitution or Bunreacht completely correct when it asserts that the right to life of the unborn and the right to life of the mother are ‘equal’? Or do their expressed rights to life, whether equal or not, ultimately derive from different conceptual frameworks? Is the Bunreacht more than a fallible artifice of Mankind?

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  • npbinni

    The basic pro-life message is that an unborn child is a person whose life has value and deserves to be protected by society. You gotta wonder, can a society which permits and encourages the killing of so many of its unborn children be called civilised?

  • file

    “The only obvious obligation this adult has is not to invade the territory of another, and to forage there to the detriment of the neighbour, that is to make a demand on the neighbour.”

    Another obvious obligation this adult (the mother) has is not to kill the foetus, or any other human being.

    Also, the Constitution states that the mother’s right to life is equal to that of the unborn child, not the other way around.

  • Korhomme

    Let A be the mother’s right to life, and let B be the unborn’s right to life.

    The Constitution, as you say, says A = B.

    But if so, they why B ≠ A ?

    Is the Constitution infallible?

    You say, an obligation the mother has is not to kill another human; I can’t deny this, for another adult self-sufficient being.

    Do you not agree that the unborn’s life is a demand on the mother?

  • Korhomme

    Is the value of the unborn a present or a future value?

  • Myreve Chambers

    Can I take things in this discussion to a personal and human level my niece is at present in RVH maternity at 30 weeks her little one has a big problem and doctors don’t know exactly what is wrong but have told her and her family that it is most likely that the baby will not probably survive the birth. Her baby’s life at the moment like all unborn is depending on her but the effect of the problems with the baby have meant that she has had to be confined to a hospital bed and we all wish that things were different and that she would be having a beautiful baby at the end of this but that may not be the case. May those who take lightly the life of the unborn reflect what they are actually talking about is a living human life with a heartbeat from a matter of about 3 weeks after conception and that
    they have no right to terminate a human life for their convenience.

  • George

    I posted this already but it seems to have disappeared. The question of “equal” right to life was answered in the Supreme Court case of X. The Constitution is a living document, not written in stone.

    “The right of the girl here is a right to a life in being; the right of the unborn is to a life contingent; contingent on survival in the womb until successful delivery. It is not a question of setting one above the other but rather of vindicating, as far as practicable, the right to life of the girl/mother (Article 40, s.3, sub-s. 2), whilst with due regard to the equal right to life of the girl/mother, vindicating, as far as practicable, the right to life of the unborn. (Article 40, s.3, sub-section 3)….

    It is not a question of balancing the life of the unborn against the life of the mother; if it were, the life of the unborn would virtually always have to be preserved, since the termination of pregnancy means the death of the unborn; there is no certainty, however high the probability, that the mother will die if there is not a termination of pregnancy. In my view, the true construction of the Amendment, bearing in mind the other provisions of Article 40 and the fundamental rights of the family guaranteed by Article 41, is that, paying due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, when there is a real and substantial risk attached to her survival not merely at the time of application but in contemplation at least throughout the pregnancy, then it may not be practicable to vindicate the right to life of the unborn. It is not a question of a risk of a different order of magnitude; it can never be otherwise than a risk of a different order of magnitude.”

  • Ryan

    The Constitution is not interpreted on a strict basis. Rather it is looked at as a whole and there is a balancing exercise carried out. I do not believe that the rights of the unborn can be separated from that of the mother due to the reliance on the mother whilst in the womb.
    Thus this is where the balancing of conflicting rights appears and on the hierarchy of rights the mothers right to life would trump the Childs.

    Hopefully I have explained that right…….

  • file

    1) I did not claim B ≠ A. I am just pointing out that the comparison made in the Constitution is from the right to life of the unborn to the right to life of the mother, not the other way about. A lawyer, but not me, could use this to suggest primacy of A.

    2) The Constitution is indeed infallible in Ireland – that is what it is for: to ensure that laws or actions which contravene it do not happen,

    3) You are bringing in a separate issue about the definition of a human. And even by your definition – but who died and gave you the right to define what a human is? – the mother still has an obligation not to kill adult dependent beings, like adults with physical or mental disabilities.

    4) to answer your query to npbinni above, it is a present value, exactly the same value as that of the mother (as evidenced by the tense usage in the Irish version of the article, which has precedence over the English one in the case of doubt).

    5) I certainly do not agree that the life of an unborn child is any more of a demand on the mother than the life of a born child is. It is a privilege. And it is a demand on the father too.

  • New Yorker

    It is a present value to those who believe there is a non-physical component of the person which many call the soul.

    There may be some confusion on the term “natural law” as it often has different meanings in physical sciences and philosophy and theology.

  • Gavin Crowley

    The unborn child has natural rights that imply obligations on the mother and the state. But the obligations are limited by the practical possibilities.
    A demand is something that the state in its wisdom can accept or refuse. (We might help you with your right to life)
    Art.8 recognises (We must help you with your right to life, but if we are not able, we can’t)
    The end result may often be the same, but not always.

  • Croiteir

    There are two types of right. One is negative, cannot kill, cannot steal et cetera and have a very ancient and universal acceptance. The other right is of more recent provenance, having developed since the 2nd World War. These are rights to something, they are claims. They reflect a new conception of human rights, these rights are above nations and governments, these rights put restrictions on what governments could or can do. However they soon went further than that. Egalitarians did not accept that rights were confined to the negative, as these rights did not concern themselves with the balances of power, social status and such. These egalitarians started pushing for positive rights, they started to claim rights were previous there were no rights, such as a right to benefits for example. This has recently went further in the rights for non discrimination. The most recent manifestation of this I can think of was the gay cake row. Which also is a manifestation of another new development, group rights. This is the astonishing claim that because someone belongs to a certain sub section of the populace I have more rights, or different rights, than others, gay rights, transgender rights, women rights, walkers rights and so on. All competing against others in a competition of whose rights are more worthy than others.

    In the new vision of rights some rights are more right than others.

    The beauty of being able to claim a right is that it supercedes a law, as it has become accepted that rights supercede governments it follows that a right is stronger than a law. It reduces the protection of the law to that of an interest that is lesser than the right. It also imposes a solution which does not allow for any compromises or circumstance – the right either exists or not,

    This leads me to ask – just what exactly are rights and what are claims? Surely the claim to have a right does not necessarily mean you have one, any more than I claiming to have a right to housing means that I should have a house. To me the new rights are nothing more than ideological orthodoxy or political and social agitations with no a priori substance.

    I would say the newer version of rights that have developed over the latter half of the 20thC to date are claim rights, and any claim comes from an action, I sell you my house and I get a claim on the cash, the cash is my right. It should be no more than a claim that a court of law would hear as a tort. A right on one side leads to a duty on another, the legal burden of which can be enforced in law.

    Now if we look at the abortion question. People who say that you have a right to abortion claim so on the basis of other so called rights. These rights include such nonsense as a right to a career, a right to a standard of living, and so on. These are not rights, they are claims that are based on nothing more than wants. But what they are trying to ignore is the basic right to life – and that is why abortion is a very dangerous right to allow. It destroys not builds. It is a very regressive thing. It destroys not just the child but also the very basic right of us all on which all other rights are dependant. The right to life. We see the irony – in trying to increase rights beyond the basic society is destroying the very foundation stone of all rights,the individuality of the person, abortion destroys the sovereignty of the individual.

  • Barneyt

    The problem with this debate is that it becomes very emotive. Once we take that path we ensure the debate continues without resolution for years to come. I don’t think it’s right to compare a child that is born and with us at 30 weeks and can only survive with assistence to an embryo that is not much beyond the blastocyst stage. Ironically if you make such equations you open the door to the most extreme pro choice people to argue that termination is legit right up to prebirth.

  • Dan

    No one takes it lightly, but this country needs a sensible abortion policy, nor to remain forever in thrall to religious dictat whilst quietly turning a blind eye to the cruelty of making vulnerable girls travel to England.

    Best wishes to your niece.

  • DOUG

    “This is the astonishing claim that because someone belongs to a certain sub section of the populace I have more rights, or different rights, than others, gay rights, transgender rights, women rights, walkers rights and so on. All competing against others in a competition of whose rights are more worthy than others.”
    I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite. The people of those subsections have long had less rights than others, so they basically just want parity.

  • hgreen

    Does an embryo in an IVF facility have rights as well? Rights not to be destroyed or for its support services to be removed. If not why should an embryo in a woman’s body have rights if she can also choose to withdraw support for it.

  • hgreen

    Or a society that forces a victim of rape to go through with a pregnancy.

  • Korhomme

    There’s another take on the 8th in the on-line Journal.ie today:


    It was always a terrible idea to address abortion using the Constitution

    Whatever one’s views on abortion, it was always a terrible idea to
    address the issue using the Constitution. A Constitution, as a very
    particular kind of law, is only meant to contain the fundamental
    principles based on which the State operates.

    By its nature – and because it is quite hard to change – it can’t
    include the level of detail that’s necessary to address complex social
    issues such as abortion.

    And when we enshrine vague principles – such as the “equal rights to
    life” of the “mother” and the “unborn” – this leaves a pall of doubt and
    uncertainty about what they mean in practice, leaving this to be
    cleared up, reluctantly, by judges who are understandably loath to take
    over the role of law-making.

    In the original debate on the amendment, Mary Robinson correctly
    predicted that the vague wording that was being inserted into the
    Constitution would lead to unforeseen and chaotic circumstances,
    including injunctions against crisis pregnancy counselling.

  • Korhomme

    I did say that rights are tricky things. You have a classification into two types; I printed out the classification on Wikipedia — there are four pages of this.

    We’d agree, I think, that a lot of pressure groups today advocate for ‘rights’, hence my shudder. Some of these can lead to absurdities. Thus, there are ‘animal rights’, but these hardly extend to the ‘rights’ of disease carrying insects, or the ‘rights’ of pathogenic germs. There is a ‘right’ not to be enslaved, but don’t we enslave domesticated animals for our food production? And in every cell of our bodies there are ‘enslaved’ bacteria that we call mitochondria. What of their ‘rights’?

    You state, ‘The right to life’ as if it were a self-evident truth, and perhaps it is. I tried to suggest that the right to life of the mother and of the unborn could be traced to differing concepts or ‘rights’. Euclid’s Elements of mathematics starts with 10 axioms, 5 common notions and 5 propositions — including the infamous 5th postulate about parallel lines. For around 2000 years Euclid was the only mathematics, until it rather fell apart in the 19th century with the realisation that spherical and non-euclidean geometry didn’t fit into it. Then, in the 20 century, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem showed that there were things that were true, like the 5th postulate, but which could neither be proved nor disproved. Perhaps the ‘right to life’ is something similar, true not just by assertion, but neither needing nor capable of proof.

    What then of the squatter?

  • Korhomme

    Perhaps I misunderstood your first point.

    However, surely a Constitution is a fallible document. It’s man-made, it reflects opinions etc at the time it was made, and while it can be amended can it be totally rewritten? (And it’s different to the ‘rights’ in the Declaration of Independence.)

    Look at the Constitution of the US and the contortions the Supreme Court there sometimes goes through to apply it to modern-day problems, problems inconceivable to the original framers of the Constitution.

  • Korhomme

    You need to define what ‘natural rights’ are, why obligations or demands are necessary, and what the role of the state should be in all this.

    What is ‘the state’? Is it a convenient way to express the wishes and desires of all citizens? Or does ‘the state’ take on a life of its own as a non-natural person; can the state act against members of that state?

  • Korhomme

    This is similar to the difference between ‘being alive’ and ‘life’ which was the basis of the judgement in the pre-war Bourne case in England.

  • Fraser Holmes

    Well indeed – I think humans, on behalf of all eukaryotic organisms, should apologise for the enslavement of the ancestors of mitochondria and chloroplasts – it happened along time ago but it still doesn’t make it right.

    Rights along with iconic, are two of the most over used words ever.

    In GB a human foetus is allowed to develop in vitro for seven days in medical research laboratories before being destroyed. Is this murder? Do the hundred or so cells at seven days have the same ‘rights’ as a full term foetus?

  • Croiteir

    Then the want human rights not gay rights, womens rights, cyclists rights or whateveer

  • DOUG

    Yep, and they put their particular subset ahead of the word ” rights ” to highlight that thus far, said group has been denied them.

  • file

    why would they go through contortions if the Constitution was not infallible? They could just ignore it? But it is infallible UNTIL amended. But anyway, why are you promoting abortion?

  • Korhomme

    The Supreme Court in the US has to rule at times if a law is ‘constitutional’ or not. Often there is no obvious basis in the Constitution, and the justices are ‘reduced’ to an interpretation of, say, the ‘freedom of expression’.

    I didn’t set out to ‘promote’ abortion; rather it was to try to discover what the ‘right to life’ was about.

  • file

    But then you started redefining what a human being is … and excluded anybody not able-bodies and able to forage for himself from your definition in an attempt to make foetuses not human beings. The ‘right’ to life is a joke – have a look at human history, and human current affairs.

  • file

    Why does it have to be religious? Can it not just be logical and humanist? As in, a foetus will turn into an adult if you do not kill it, just as a two year-old will turn into an adult if you do not kill it. Neither the foetus nor the two year-old can look after himself or be self-sufficient, but that is no excuse for killing them.

  • Korhomme

    You may have thought that I was redefining what a human is. This wasn’t my intention, and is to miss the point.

    Rather, I tried to show that an adult human could be self-sufficient in a way that is impossible for the unborn human foetus.

  • file

    Good man, croieir. The latest of the spurious rights is the ‘right’ to be offended, which is actually a choice, not a right. Equally I have the right to ignore the fact that someone is offended.

  • file

    Kick him out.

  • file

    but quite a lot of human adults are not self-sufficient, and do not have the capacity to develop self-sufficiency that a foetus does.

  • Korhomme

    Kick him [the squatter] out.

    I gave this rather outré example of a ‘right’ quite deliberately. It shows up how the law works in the UK, and I guess in the Republic, though I can’t be so sure of that. A squatter commits a civil wrong or tort simply by being in your house or on your property; but there is no law against trespass. Rather, we can expect that the squatter will vandalise your property and that would be considered a criminal act. You could also claim that there will be a ‘breach of the peace’ when you try to remove him, in which case the constabulary must attend.

    It’s also an example of how the law is often said to favour the ‘rights’ over property to ‘rights’ in connection with personal injury.

    Pregnancy is a normal, biological, physiological condition — even if many (male) doctors have tried to make it out as if it were a disease. I have been totally unable to think of a comparable physiological condition in men.

    So, I’m reduced to this rather extreme, imperfect, and you might well think faintly ridiculous analogy. What is the difference between a woman who becomes pregnant through rape, and a man who finds that his house is occupied by a squatter?

    As things stand in Ireland, the woman has little recourse in either jurisdiction unless she becomes gravely ill. And the man in whose house the squatter is? Can the squatter respond to your demand that he get out by saying that the Constitution gives him a ‘right’ of abode for nine months, with the expectation, the demand, that you will feed and nourish him for this time? Of course not, you would reject this argument as ludicrous. Yet is that not similar to the position of the pregnant woman who also has a ‘squatter’? Except that she can’t do anything about it.

    There’s also a more general point. The 1861 Act which is still in force throughout the British Isles, was formulated by male politicians. The 1937 Bunreacht was formulated by men — rather curiously, the original draft was in English, and this was then translated into Irish. The 8th Amendment in 1983 may or may not have been intended as an anti-abortion device, but it and the 1861 Act and the 1937 Constitution were all formulated when women were, in the eyes of the law, the property of their husbands, they were ‘things’ or ‘chattels’. (Unmarried women were under the protection of, usually, their fathers — hence the ‘giving in wedlock’ bit in marriage services.)

    Women are only now emerging, in the view of the law*, as people rather than property. Ought they then to have similar ‘rights’?

    * An aside: in both German and French, the word for ‘law’ and the word for ‘rights’ is the same — droit and Rechte.

  • Korhomme

    That some human adults aren’t self-sufficient is correct but irrelevant. You cannot know in advance whether the foetus will (eventually) be self-sufficient.

  • file

    look, it was you that defined humans as having to be self-sufficient. And the majority of foetuses, as you well know, eventually become self-sufficient.

  • file

    You are getting a bit ridiculous now with the examples. A baby in the womb is not a squatter, no matter how it got there. Get me some statistics about how many rapes result in pregnancies so that we can see the size of this spurious argument for abortion. And what about ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ signs? Is that just a bluff if there is nothing to prosecute them about.

  • Katyusha

    Does an embryo in an IVF facility have rights as well?


  • Korhomme

    Suggest then a better analogy.

    Trespassers cannot be criminally prosecuted for trespass alone; if they do damage that’s another thing. You may choose to take a civil suit against a trespasser. To ‘prosecute’ means not only to bring a criminal case against someone, it also means to pursue a case in the courts. So the ‘trespassers will be prosecuted’ sign is accurate but (intentionally) misleading.

  • Korhomme

    I took as an example a single self-sufficient adult human; that does not redefine what a human is. (And our ancestors almost certainly foraged in groups, as some societies still do. If a member of a present-day nomadic tribe is too weak or frail to keep up with the group, they may be abandoned — and they apparently accept this. None of that is relevant to my argument.)

  • Korhomme

    Why? How?

  • file

    What is your argument?

  • file

    An analogy for the creation of life? Planting a seed in the soil (as a trespasser), and waiting and watching while the seed benefits from (steals) the nutrients and protection of the host soil to grow and develop and become a plant. Why do you want an analogy for it anyway? The thing is what the thing is – there is nothing else like it.

  • Korhomme

    No. An analogy for ‘male pregnancy’ in general, and specifically, ‘male pregnancy after a criminal act’.

  • Korhomme

    That an adult can be independent in a way that the unborn in the womb cannot be.

  • file

    And an adult can also be dependent in the way that the unborn in the womb is. So what is the argument?

  • file

    What in the name of all that’s holy is ‘male pregnancy’? On another thread (or maybe this one) I said I was giving up English because someone had used the abomination of a term that is ‘person up’. But ‘male pregnancy’ is a contender too.

  • Korhomme

    When comparing things, it’s important to try to compare things that vary in only one parameter, otherwise things get lost or obscured in complexity.

    Thus, if an unborn is entirely dependent on the mother, it is also the case that all unborns are dependent. Agreed? (Whether some of the unborn will be dependent after birth is not relevant.)

    Most adults are not dependent. If we were to say that all adults were dependent we could come to a ‘barber’s paradox’. We could pick a select group, smaller than the majority, of dependent adults to compare to the unborn; we cannot however compare this group of adults with a similar group of the unborn because we can’t reliably say whether the unborn will be later dependent or not.

    We should, should we not, select all of the unborn, and the group of adults which most closely matches them, that is those adults who are independent.

  • Korhomme

    I think you know exactly what I mean by ‘male pregnancy’ even if the term is ugly.

    So, what is an analogy that applies to men for a woman who has become pregnant through criminal activity. Indeed, is there one? And if not, how is it possible for a man to fully understand what it means to be pregnant as a result of a crime if no analogy is possible?

  • file

    They could just understand it without the use of analogies? By using thier brains?

    The term is not just ugly, it is an offence to logic and style and I would appreciate your putting it where the sun don’t shine. If you want an analogy, watch the metal room scene in Shawshank Redemption.

  • file

    No you should not set up false divisions of human being at all in the first place, with the aim of assigning different sets of rights to the divisions you artificially create. All 1 week-olds are entirely dependent on their mothers too … compare them to the unborn if you want. But again, why do you want to? What is your point? tell me straight put that you are not advocating abortion and I will believe you.

  • Korhomme

    Language changes and adapts, it is not static.

    If we could all understand things by reason alone, then experience would be entirely unnecessary.

  • Korhomme

    Neonates are certainly dependent; the article in the Constitution doesn’t refer to them; that is a red herring.

    I am ‘pro-choice’; is that a sufficient answer? (And I came to this position through evidence-based pragmatism.) Is pro-choice really identical to advocating abortion?

    The Constitution refers to the ‘right to life’ of both the unborn and of the mother. It does not refer to the ‘right’ to bodily autonomy that the mother can be said to have.; it does not refer to the ‘right’ to health that the mother might be expected to have. I have only argued from the ‘right to life’ and didn’t refer to these other ‘rights’. It can be said that the ‘right to life of the unborn’ trumps any and all other ‘rights’ that the mother may be said to possess.

    Further; while I have heard and read much argument from people who do not agree with abortion, I have never seen a convincing reason why abortion should and must be criminalised. It is to me quite acceptable for people to intensely dislike abortion on whatever basis, but such people can’t or won’t say in rational terms why it must be an offence.

    Can you offer any cogent argument which would and must make abortion illegal?

  • file

    Killing people is illegal; fertilised eggs are people from the moment the egg is fertilised, in my opinion. They are as human as 24 day-old babies (and some 24 year-old babies I could mention, in terms of dependence) . That is cogent enough for me.

    You are spending a lot of time above on things that are NOT in the Constitution. Bit of a pointless idea.

    Pro-Choice? When people choose to have sex, they know that one of the possible consequences is pregnancy. If they wish to avoid that consequence, choose not to have sex, or choose to have sex with adequate protection. And while I know the rape example is not clear cut, I remain to be convinced that a sizable number of pregnancies result from rape. And also abortion can be as traumatic for women as rape sometimes.

  • file

    But imprecise language is both a symptom and a cause of imprecise thinking. And ‘male pregnancy’ is right up there with ‘person up’ and, presumably ‘person hole’.

  • Korhomme

    ‘People’ are defined in law as those who can breathe for themselves; but it is a hair-splitting argument.

    A fertilised egg has the potential for life as a human, but only the potential.

    As for protection, alas, even the pill is not a 100% reliable method of contraception.

    The usual estimate is that it takes around 30 acts of intercourse before a woman (reliably) becomes pregnant. I’m dubious that this can be extrapolated to say that only one in 30 women who have been raped become pregnant.

    Whether rape is more traumatic than an abortion, or whether continuing the pregnancy is even more traumatic, as I understand it, very unclear.

    None of this, or your previous statements makes it clear to me why abortion must be criminalised. You clearly don’t like abortion, you can support your dislike by argument; but why must it be a criminal act?

  • Korhomme

    I said ‘male pregnancy’ because at the time I could not think of a more appropriate alternative — I still can’t. It’s clearly a provocative phrase, and is meant to be; to make you stop and think ‘what does the writer mean by this’ rather than to reflexly say ‘this is crap English, therefore I need not respond’.

  • file

    It’s clearly meaningless.

  • file

    it is an immoral act, an unethical act, an abomination and a disgrace ot humanity. If some states want to make it a legal act, I am powerless in that regard. But I do not have to agree with it. By the way, the European Union is defined as a person in law, and it cannot breathe.

  • eireanne3

    well Lads (for they seem to be mainly men on this here thread about a female issue – for example – Korhomme, george, Dan, barneyt, Fraser) – I hope you have enjoyed dancing around on the head of a pin for 2 days.

    THE ROI CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY has voted to recommend that the Eighth Amendment be replaced or amended, not repealed.

    The assembly voted by a majority of 57% that the constitution should authorise the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion.


    In any case from a woman’s point of view abortion is already available as long as the woman has the price of a ticket, accommodation and procedure etc in the UK or an EU country other than Ireland.
    The issue is a problem only for poor women and for poor women with “difficult” pregnancies.

    Enjoy the dance lads – some day your feet will touch the ground, your heads will emerge from the clouds of knowing all and you will address the real practical problems that your wives, girlfriends, sisters and daughters, workmates and neighbours face.


  • Korhomme

    Indeed, you need not agree.

    You say it is immoral, and many would agree with you. But such a statement naturally leads onto the question of where does this morality come from? You are not powerless, you do have influence; as here, you may express your opinions quite freely. Whether they will be taken heed of is another matter entirely, but at least you will have tried; and is it not better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all?

    The European Union, as with a limited liability company is defined in law as a ‘person’. This is of course a legal fiction, and further, the EU or the limited company is also a ‘non-natural’ person. It is a convenience within the legal framework, no more than that. That such a legal fiction does not breathe is another red herring.

  • Korhomme

    It is indeed a curious phrase. It is something that you might well say, as you do, that it has no meaning, and proceeding from there you draw the conclusion that it need not be interrogated, and thus even if it has meaning, that meaning can be entirely discounted.

    Alternatively, a mind might be receptive to such strange constructions. After all, it can be said that the phrase ‘male menopause’ is meaningless, though today it is recognised that there can be meaning behind it, even if it is arguable that the ‘male menopause’ actually exists. Further, such a strange form of words might signal an unusual concept, an idea which isn’t commonplace; a mind that is curious might want to consider this for a while before dismissing it. Ideas which we today find unremarkable, even when we do not agree with them, were strange and incomprehensible in the not so distant past; ‘evolution’ is an obvious candidate. And ideas which once had some currency, such as ‘eugenics’ are today discarded. But does this all not relate to the condition of the mind that approaches them; for such a mind might be open and receptive, though it might later be closed; or it might well be closed ab initio, for it chooses not think; or perhaps it is enslaved and thus dare not think; or even, alas, that it cannot think?

    Perhaps the phrase is ‘unreasonable’; and if so, doesn’t progress depend on the person who, not accepting the status quo, that which is ‘reasonable’, prefers to be thought ‘unreasonable’ and wishes to change?

  • file

    If your mind is too open people use it as a skip. Are you, by any chance, trying to imply that I personally do not know how to think? Or that I have a closed mind? A ‘male pregancy’ as a term for an unwanted pregnancy as a result of rape is meaningless because it does not signify what you want it to signify; therefore, as well as being meaningless, it is useless. And probably ambiguous. as someone might imagine you are talking about an alternative universe in which males have wombs. Non-consensual pregnancy might be closer to your needs. (All pregnancies have a male source, so leave that out of it.) I see the Mexicans have voted for Christmas by telling the Dáil to come up with a specific replacement for article 40 3 3.

  • file

    If your conscience does not tell you that killing unborn babies is wrong, it is probably faulty and needs repaired. As for it being better to have tried … why do you think I have spent so much time opposing your justifications for abortion on this thread? For the good of my own health?

  • Korhomme

    My superego prefers inputs from reasoned arguments.

    Like you, I have tried, ignoring what Einstein said, to get others to see that there is an alternative, not one that they should agree with, but one that they should accept as reasonable. And I have failed so often.

    Perhaps we should declare a 1-all draw.

  • file

    You do know that your superego does not exist, don’t you? (Although there is no doubt you have a super ego.) It was done away with at the St Andrew’s Agreement (to get slightly back on track). I will continue to write poems pointing out that any Western outrage about human rights abuses in other countries is a bit rich while the Western countries continue to kill thousands of their own unborn children. I do not expect anyone to listen, though.

  • Korhomme

    1. Apart from moral outrage, do you have any other grounds for wanting abortion to remain criminalised?

    2. What benefits do you expect from abortion being criminalised? What is the aim, what is it hoped that criminalisation will achieve? And are there any disadvantages?

  • file

    I though we had called this match off? Ok then, extra time, penalty shoot out:
    1) Yeah, for the physical well-being of the non-aborted and for the mental and spiritual well-being of the mothers. And it is NOT criminalised in most western countries; it is practically a compulsory option.

    2)a) fewer people being killed; b) fewer people being killed; c) there will be more people in the world, which some see as a problem

  • Korhomme

    More like injury time I’d say.

    I’ll accept (1) for the present.

    I do have problems with (2), the aims and achievements. It’s clear that criminalising abortion does not reduce the demand for abortion. It can influence the circumstances under which abortion is performed. Thus, women from all of Ireland can order the pills on-line; though these pills are safe, they may be intercepted by Customs. (Though described in prosecutions as ‘poison’, the pills are both used therapeutically in other situations.)

    Or, women can go to Britain for a procedure; the NHS does not pay for women from N Ireland, so it’s expensive. And if they can’t afford to travel, can be be sure that they can afford a further child? And, following changes to Child Benefit/Child Tax Credits in the UK a third or subsequent child is no longer eligible (with some exceptions).

    Further again; if there is not a (free) safe and legal option, then women may turn to unofficial procuresses, for a ‘criminal’ and unsafe abortion. (Criminalising things for which there is a ‘social’ demand, such as alcohol or drugs, seems inevitably to lead to criminality.) This is hardly a good outcome.

    More people/too many people in the world is best countered by education and contraception.

  • Korhomme

    What more can I do?

    And why aren’t women here, shouting from the rooftops?

  • file

    My view is more a whole-world one than an Ireland-specific one: I do not want abortion anywhere.

  • Korhomme

    Even at the cost of the lives of some women who go for an illegal and unsafe abortion?

  • file

    Win some lose some.

  • Hugh Davison

    Nothing logical there, file. A foetus requires a home inside the mother’s body until born. Woman, your body belongs to us. A two-year old can survive outside the mother’s body, and has lots of options for survival.
    And a fertilised egg?Is that a human being?

  • Hugh Davison

    Let them be born then kill them. Shoot them, starve them, enslave them etc. That’s us.

  • Hugh Davison

    Forgive me for asking this personal question, but have you ever been pregnant? Your answer might help me interpret your responses to Korhomme.

  • file

    No, Hugh, I am a man.

  • file

    A two week-old cannot survive by itself.

  • Croiteir

    I look on it like this. As I said there are two types – let us call them freedom rights – the rights that say you cannot do – they are based on your sovereignty as a person, your freedom from someone imposing on you or indeed you on them, then the claim rights, the right that you claim from others that usually cannot be claimed from the individual, they are only able to be claimed from a society. A freedom right imposes a quite specific duty, it may have its origin from nothing specific, and it may not be very specific on what it demands but by not doing anything they tend to respect it, it is not compulsive. For example – I have the right to property, by not stealing you observe it, I have the right to life, by not being killed you observe it. The duty to observe it places no onerous imposition on you or me either. You respect them by non-invasion, and the duty to respect them falls clearly and unambiguously on everyone.

    Claim rights are quite different. The expansion of the list of human rights to include claims to non-specific benefits like health, education, a certain standard of living and so on. Who exactly do these rights apply to, Do I have the duty to provide you with books and a computer for your assignments?, a house with a nice TV and settee? do I have a duty to provide for your health? I don’t have the duty to buy your pills Sir, so no, I have no duty and you have no right to health.

    So claim rights have no claim of liability to provide them to an individual, they can only be provided by a large body such as a state, and increasingly necessitate a large amount of intervention and also a large amount of surrender to the state of responsibilities that were previously invested in the individual. Which may explain the reason why socialists are invariably supportive.

    This does not mean I am against the provision of health and education for example, in fact I am very enthusiastic about the continuance of state involvement as I see that as the best method of ensuring universal deliverance. This makes it a concern of policy, not of the courts, unless it needs the court to enforce the policy. These are matters of legislature, not of any Court of Human Rights. This is why I support the English in their war on the ECHR, it has conferred on extra-territorial courts the power to undermine the entire social and legislative inheritance of the nation states of Europe.

  • Korhomme

    When I said I thought that ‘rights’ were tricky things I wasn’t being facetious. They really are a very difficult area, and there is little agreement as to what they are.

    You talk of ‘freedom’ rights; it’s your typography. And yet, when you interrogate this, there are immediate problems. If there is a ‘freedom’ to life, as many would accept, what then is ‘life’? That leads us into very murky waters.What exactly is ‘life’? Is it more than being ‘alive’? And here, and I apologise in advance for my descriptions, it’s not my aim to be offensive, rather I wish to clarify: is being what is vulgarly called a ‘cabbage’ life, or is there more to it than this? Is ‘life’ more than existing, does it include or imply a degree of health and autonomy?

    You say there is a right to property. I live in east Tyrone; the land on which my house is built was almost certainly once owned by The O’Neill, the Earl of Tyrone. Is my land actually mine, or do the descendants of the Earl have rights over it? I’m not so much of a Marxist that I think all property is theft, though I see where Marx was coming from.

    I can’t and don’t agree with your description of ‘claim rights’. I don’t see such rights as simply a claim against (civil) society or the state — but I accept that this is an interpretation. I can see them as a claim against another person.

    If I claim the ‘right’ to education, this can be provided to me through the state acting as a communal body on my behalf; and yes, I’d agree that this is a ‘right’ that should be exercised for all, that is, all of us acting through the state to provide it. I’m enough of a socialist to accept this.

    But I don’t accept your concept of the ECHR; to me this speaks of narrow nationalism, ideas from the 19th century, which we ought to have outlived today.

    To return to the origin of all this, the 8th. I didn’t express this in the original post, but is it not clear that the wording denies to the mother notions such as the ‘right to health’ and the ‘right to bodily’ autonomy? That is, the unborn holds a trump card? To look at this another way, using ‘rights’ as a concept to further our arguments rather falls apart when we look behind the actual words towards the meanings and the concepts?

    My inclination at present, unless you can present compelling reasons why I should change, is that using ‘rights’ in these arguments is, while superficially impressive and final, actually a bottomless pit of dissension form which no very clear and unambiguous answer emerges.

  • eireanne3

    the other half of society have better things to do with their time than dance around on the head of a pin!

  • Croiteir

    I thought I gave a fair stab at defining what a right is. If we look at rights in this way, as instruments which safeguard sovereignty, and so make free deals between sovereign partners into the cement of society, then we see immediately why freedom rights have the best claim to universality, and why claim rights and non-discrimination rights – detached from any history of responsibility and agreement – should be adopted, if at all, only with caution. A claim against another, if expressed as a right, is an imposition of a duty. If this duty arises from no free action or chain of responsibility that would provide a cogent ground for the claim, then by expressing it as a right we over-ride the other’s sovereignty. We say to him: here is something you must do or provide, even though your duty to do so arises from nothing you have done or for which you are responsible. This is simply a demand that you must satisfy.

    And therein I would postulate lies your problem as to why rights are tricky. You accept that claim rights are valid rights. Whereas I say they are not, they may be good, they may be moral, but they are not rights. Your claim on the “right” to an education falls with any investigation, For I could simply say I have a right to an education, irrespective of my ability, my contributions or indeed capacity to learn a subject, but as a right you have to fund it. Clearly that is wrong. Education is a social good which I accept should be made by public funding, but only based on criteria and not as a right.

    To say that my concept of the ECHR smacks of the 19C does me a great disservice, in English Law it dates from at least 1689, or indeed Magna Carta in statute law but its real origin is in common law, it springs from the people, it is a bottom up approach, whereas the ECHR is a top down approach, again it is an imposition. Once we accept this as a valid source of law we are truly in danger.

    As far as abortion is concerned we have many competing rights. Some are not rights but claims. The strongest argument to me is the one for bodily autonomy. As this is indeed a true right not a claim. Which is why I suggested to you in a post some time ago that if I was pro abortion I would push the argument that accepting the child is an offence on me which constitutes an assault. However that is probably too theoretical for an effective PR campaign. Anyway Even that fails as to remedy that claim means that you have to act on another’s bodily autonomy. Two wrongs do not make a right. The child in the womb holds no trump card, It only has an equal claim. So to me there is no ambiguity.

    I do not know what you would consider a a compelling argument, but I do know that once you accept that claims that require a positive intervention on another, which means you impose a duty on another, you simply create a massive problem of competing claims. That is in itself an indication that a right is not a claim.

  • Korhomme

    I follow your reasoning. You start from a slightly different position than others who include a ‘claim’ as a ‘right’. I’m not saying that you or they are right or wrong, rather that you differ. (And in future, I will always think of ‘rights’ as having scare quotes around them.)

    You set out good arguments for being pro-life and ‘against’ abortion, and you mention the ‘right’ to bodily autonomy. I’m unclear whether you think that your (personal) view should prevail, that is abortion should not be available, or that while you would disapprove of others who seek one, whether you would strive to prevent them. Can a right of bodily autonomy for the individual include the ability to access and have an abortion? Is pro-life synonymous with anti-choice?

  • Croiteir

    Of course I believe that the pro life argument must prevail as it is the only one which has, at its root, a right which is clear. That right is the right not to have their life taken from them. And it is a right. The most basic of all the rights.

    There are no grounds whatsoever that gives anyone a choice on whether to end the childs life.

  • Korhomme

    I understand your pro-life arguments. That’s not my quibble. I still don’t understand your position on the bodily autonomy of the individual. If bodily autonomy is a right, one that I am free to utilise, how can you say that I can’t? How can you demand that I can’t exercise this right?

  • Croiteir

    you can, but if you wish to deny another their bodily autonomy then you have no right. Their autonomy is equal to yours.

  • Korhomme

    You’re saying that a pregnant woman can’t use her bodily autonomy for an abortion because that negates the bodily autonomy of the unborn.

  • Croiteir


  • Croiteir

    Because they do not support it?

  • Korhomme

    Perhaps; perhaps they find discussion with men tedious.

  • Croiteir

    Perhaps they don’t