Around the turn of the 12th century, Muirchertach Ua Briain, grandson of Brian Boru, had plans to become High King of Ireland. He couldn’t risk the Rock of Cashel, the traditional seat of power, being taken by his rivals while he was out campaigning in Leinster. No man who lost Cashel could call himself King of Munster. Nor did he feel like babysitting a massive rock whilst he could be subduing other kingdoms.
His bright idea was to hand the rock over to the Bishop of Limerick, who began the construction of a magnificent abbey, a project that continued for more than three hundred years. But as far as Muirchertach Ua Briain was concerned, all that mattered was that the rock was someone else’s problem. He absolved himself of responsibility and did so without losing face.
An Taoiseach is asking you to do something similar:
“A doctor-led, safe and legal system for the termination of pregnancy will be introduced. Safe, legal and rare. No longer an article in the Constitution, but rather a private and personal matter for women and doctors.”
Doctors are generally a clever bunch. If you throw a complex problem at a load of doctors, you’ll probably get a more thorough and reasoned answer than you would from the average individual, internet forum, or golden retriever. That doesn’t make doctors the ultimate arbiters of what is right and wrong. What the Taoiseach is encouraging you to do is close your eyes, sit back, and let someone else take over. The experts will handle it, you need not concern yourself.
Maybe there’s some part of you that isn’t entirely happy about this. Perhaps hearing “reproductive health”, “bodily autonomy”, “life-limiting condition” and other similar euphemisms for the umpteenth time hasn’t entirely eradicated your instinctive revulsion. Perhaps that Kafkaesque red heart emblazoned with Repeal in a font reminiscent of sherbet and lollipops hasn’t completely convinced you that abortion is just a sweet and lovely thing altogether.
If so, Leo is offering you an out. Just take your hands off the wheel and leave it to the doctors and the women. No, not the pro-life women you idiot, they’re traitors. No decision-making, no guilt.
You shouldn’t buy it. When it comes to questions of right and wrong, this is it. This invisible, unwanted, friendless, entirely dependent human is the moral question. This being is where every value system, every philosophy, every religious denomination, and every ethical axiom crashes together in a bloody mess, yet in that bloody mess lies something which looks suspiciously like a tiny version of your own hand.
Anthropologists have long searched for something that every human everywhere agrees is wrong, a set of universal taboos. If any exist, murder is not one of them. In general, it seems that the default position of humans is that murder is only wrong if it’s one of your in-group or your family. Outsiders get a club over the head and nobody bats an eye. So why is it that we in functional societies don’t have the freedom to kill each other?
After all, we have no evidence that being dead is in any way unpleasant. Some methods of murder are rather painful but somehow we’re all still pretty sure it’s wrong to kill people even if you do it painlessly. It’s wrong to walk into an ICU and unplug someone’s life support, even if they only have a slim chance of recovery. It’s wrong to kill someone even if they have no friends or family and literally nobody would notice they were gone.
For all that, there’s no objective proof that murder is wrong. We’re not going to find instructions carved into one of the moons of Jupiter by a hyper-intelligent alien race, telling us what is or isn’t acceptable. It’s a decision to be taken by society.
Now of course the state doesn’t have the right to tell anyone what to do with their own body. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with anything. Have you ever encountered this thing called the state? This is the same divine entity that commands you to spend 14 years of your childhood and early youth sitting still, crammed into a small room with 20-35 other people, after which you may not even have learned how to read or how to speak Irish.
We’re talking about the same beast that helps itself to the tune of 40 odd percent whenever you can be persuaded to do something productive. Then it takes even more when you die. The state that tells you how much force you’re allowed use if you’re attacked in your own home. The state that openly aims to import a million individuals by 2040, whilst is simultaneously unable to provide housing for those who already live here.
The state has no right to do most of the things it does. It does them anyway. The personal liberty ship sailed long ago. Would you like it to come back? Would you like it back even if it meant I got to decide that not one red cent I ever make in future goes to the funding of so-called ‘free’ abortions? Would you like it back if it meant other people had more control over their cash and gave loads of it to the nearest bishop?
For you can certainly chop your own arm off or draw on your face in permanent marker. Your body. Your choice. However if you want to remove junior from your body, you’re going to require the assistance and assent of a whole host of other people. The people that are to be found in the pharmaceutical industry, the medical profession, nursing, and the government.
These people will then have to be paid by everyone else. Everyone else ends up living in the kind of society that results. The kind of society where there are no people with Down’s syndrome, perhaps. The kind of society where one in six unborn babies are killed in the name of compassion.
According to the proclamation of the state which governs us, “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland.” The people of Ireland have every right to make the rules.
In fact, the people of Ireland have a responsibility to make the rules.