At times, you could forget what the liberal ethos associated with most universities around the world really means, and with referenda in colleges (like those in UCC last year and UCD this year) you could easily take it as meaning that universities are platforms for the so-called ‘liberal agenda’. This line of thinking, in turn, then leads to people saying things like ‘Catholic voices are silenced in universities’, and while I wouldn’t personally limit it to one religion or denomination it does get to the crux of the matter. In truth, the “liberal ethos” of universities has nothing to do with a liberal agenda or “feminism” but it has to do with a melting pot of ideas & ideals, where everyone can believe what they want to believe and, if they have the ability and platform, say what they want to say. This concept can get lost a lot of the time on both sides of the aisle, with university spaces being typically dominated by “liberals” or “feminists” leading to a derision of any other opinion than their own (aka the echo-chamber effect), but it can also lead to some justifying deplorable homophobic and racist opinions “in the interest of balance” or because they feel marginalised. Both of these examples are antagonistic to the role college campuses play in society. There is no better example of this than the abortion issue. Just look at the past copies of this paper, its full of pro-abortion rhetoric with no opportunity for rebuttal.
The 8th Amendment was brought into the Irish Constitution in 1983 following a referendum of the Irish people. The motion itself was brought to the fore by groups like Pro-Life Amendment Campaign with the help of people like Charlie Haughey (Fianna Fáil), Garret Fitzgerald (Fine Gael) and Frank Cluskey (Labour). Though abortion was already illegal under Irish law at the time, people feared something like Roe-v-Wade (a legal case that legalised abortions in America) could happen in Ireland. The vote passed by a margin of around 67%, a similar margin to 2015’s marriage referendum.
What were the arguments back then? Well, Pro-Lifers wanted to preserve the right to life of the unborn in the womb in the Irish Constitution. And what has changed there? Surely, under Article 3 of the UN Charter of Human Rights the unborn baby is guaranteed the “right to life, liberty and security of person”. This, you would think, would include babies who are discovered to have developmental disorders, disabilities or abnormalities. A case could be made for babies we know will only live a very short time, if at all, but really, who are we to say that a child doesn’t have the right to a chance, to a shot, at life? There may be, should the eighth be repealed, a risk that children who could live a long life be killed in the womb, just because the prospect of raising a child with a disability may seem daunting to the mother and father.
Some things have changed since the 1983 referendum. At the time, many Protestant communities campaigned against the amendment, with the then-Dean of St Patrick’s, Victor Griffin, publicly telling the Taoiseach that the Constitution should “steer clear of controversial and moral questions”. Issues like divorce and gay marriage have been enshrined in the constitution in the last 30 or so years, solidifying the role constitution plays as a shield for certain sensitive or controversial issues. This role is even more crucial when you consider the aftermath of a successful repeal referendum, in that the void left by the eighth amendment would momentarily leave confusion over the law, which could cost mothers and their babies dearly. After that, do you really trust politicians in the Dáil to put aside party politics and consider the heart of the matter: the lives of mothers and children in Ireland?
The pro-life argument is not one of religious dogma or moral conviction, though those may be the reasons given, it is simply a logical one based on the rationalisation that both the mother and the baby in her womb have an equal right to life, no matter what. And regardless of whether you’re pro-life or pro-abortion, you have to agree that life is more valued, trusted and protected with the current status quo, and with the eighth amendment in place.
*The author of this article requested we give them a pseudonym, and we have agreed to this request.
Editor’s Note: The piece made several references to other pieces published in the UCC Express, all of which can be found in the past issues archive on UCCExpress.ie. While we are not bound by the concept of fair & equal balance for all issues discussed, we do strive to represent as many different viewpoints as feasible within the limits of page space.
The above article is an opinion piece. The views stated in the above do not necessarily represent the views of the UCC Express, or its staff.