THE rabid dog that is the abortion debate in Ireland is sleeping soundly at the moment. No other issue has the potential to get people here foaming at the mouth, pit brother against brother, pit sister against sister (or more aptly, pit parent against offspring).
The battlefield of some of Ireland’s fiercest conflicts in our modernisation wars of the eighties and nineties is dormant. Not a dicky. Not a peep.
No marches. No A, B or C cases. The struggle is frozen perfectly where we left it last, at a failed referendum in 2002.
This referendum was on foot of a Supreme Court ruling that in cases of suicidal feelings the mother was entitled to an abortion. Our legislators, in their cowardly good sense, have refused to put into law the Supreme Court ruling. What sane politician would want the hassle after all?
Which leaves Ireland with no legal abortion. I haven’t heard of any legal abortions since the Supreme Court ruling and nobody on the Pro-Choice side of the argument seems to want to challenge the Government on the issue.
So Ireland is effectively a place where abortion remains banned in all cases.
And then along comes the Pro-Life Campaign and sticks the boot into our snoozing hound with an announcement that it is to start a lobbying drive for a new referendum to overturn the Supreme Court ruling.
Odd, because on the one hand they have a de facto no-abortion regime, and on the other hand the fact the the political wind is not blowing in their direction. The trend in western societies is to allow abortion even if there are debates stirring on late abortions.
Ireland is getting more like other western societies not less. We are becoming more secular with each passing year.
The passing of the two referendums in 1992 on the right to travel for an abortion and the right to information about abortion services abroad, together with the defeat of the last proposal shows that opposition to abortion in Ireland is not hard line. Poll evidence also show a more flexible attitude to various abortion scenarios.
Add into that the new found Irish ability to accept change, whether it be through enthusiasm or apathy, and you have fertile ground for a proposal which would allow abortion up to, say, 12 weeks of pregnancy.
In the past, the pro-life movement had whole swathes of the country to themselves, with nary a whisper of opposition. Those days are gone.
And again, the pro-life movement has been unable to prevent new services like IVF and the morning-after pill which clearly do not respect their fundamental belief that life begins at conception.
Despite all these political realities the Pro-Life Campaign is prepared to re-ignite the abortion debate. Perhaps this is proof that they are true fundamentalists, that they won’t accept any compromise on abortion at odds with their fundamental beliefs.
And so they wish for a new referendum. As they say, be careful what you wish for.