Catholic Ireland is More progressive Than America About Abortion
I can’t help but notice that the six Supreme Court justices who criminalized abortion were all raised Catholic.
It’s quite galling (the mildest adjective I can conjure) that they’ve overturned settled law and relegated American women to second-class status by unleashing their worst theocratic impulses. It’s the kind of arrogant fiat you might expect to see in a traditional backwater where Catholic diktats rule the roost – a country like, say, Ireland.
Wait. I need to amend that. Compared to America, Ireland in 2022 is a land of secular enlightenment.
On the issue of abortion, Ireland makes us look exactly like what we’re on cusp of becoming: a reactionary theocracy that threatens to impose forced-birth policy on half the population.
To fully appreciate how far the Irish have come, let’s set the scene. In 1995, when I was a foreign correspondent, I spent two weeks in the Irish Republic, writing about the scads of devout parishioners who were fed up with the Irish Catholic Church. One such lady was Mary Heffron, a mother of seven in the tiny County Mayo town of Moygownagh. She ran the local church choir and prayed in a pew every Sunday. The church had always relied on the Mary Heffrons of the land, and her stolid presence would’ve seemed to indicate that all was well. But no.
She told me: “I’ve had quite a crisis of belief. It’s a bit of a curse to be more educated and aware than ur parents were, because it makes it harder to go to Mass now. I’d love not to go. It’s just gotten very stale, old-fashioned and boring…Last Sunday our priest went after abortion again, and really personalized it, he said how selfish women were for wanting to kill babies. Nothing at all about the circumstances women often find themselves in, or how there were men involved as well. And I sat there, looking around, betting that some of the people there had had abortions, and what was he saying to them? What about mercy and the love of God? How can those women keep coming to Mass and listening to that?”
This was a quarter-century ago, when Ireland – by dint of a constitutional amendment engineered by the church hierarchy – banned virtually all abortions; even rape and incest victims were out of luck. But progressive western thought was beginning to weaken the church’s grip, and the seeds of grassroots discontent were already sprouting, particularly among the young.
Fortunately for Irish citizens, their lives (unlike ours) are not held hostage by unelected judges with absolute power and lifetime sinecures who lie under oath about promising to uphold settled law. In the Irish system, by contrast, the judiciary can be checked-and-balanced by the people – who have the right to vote in national referenda.
And so it came to pass, in 2018, that the people had the opportunity to decide for themselves whether abortion should be legal – in essence, whether conservative church doctrine should still be permitted to dominate policy. A referendum was held.
And legal abortion won in a landslide.