Dr Hanley wrote as follows:
‘… In six years of writing, there is only one issue that I have never addressed for fear of the hysterical retribution that will follow. This topic appears to inspire irrationality in the most educated of minds and base hostility in others. … I have decided this week to discuss the most contentious subject in the world of Irish medicine – the one that inspires referendums, street protests and occasional riots. God help me, but I’m going to write about abortion.An interesting approach, as Dr. Hanley – from what he says at another point in the article – does not appear to be what we might call ‘totally pro-life’. He admits that ‘in a country where contraception is universally available, even after potential conception’, he instinctively finds it difficult ‘to accept the need for facilities to terminate healthy established pregnancies.’ However, he believes that ‘there is something breathtakingly appalling about bringing an unwanted child into the world.’ He suggests what he calls ‘a simple solution’ – ‘another referendum calling for the introduction of abortion facilities in Ireland broadly similar to those in the UK. Let both sides explain why they are either in favour or against this proposal and advance their arguments accordingly.’
‘Let us begin with the facts. It is beyond dispute that several thousand Irish women travel to the UK every year to have a termination of pregnancy. It also appears that the overwhelming majority of these are not performed for medical illnesses. In effect, for personal, financial or social reasons these women do not want to have a child.
‘Their legal right to travel and avail of this service in another state is beyond dispute. However, to carry out such procedures in Ireland is a criminal act as the unborn is protected by the Constitution.
‘The “pro-choice” movement believes that this country should provide a similar service to that in the UK, and that this is a basic right of women. The “pro-life” organisations, meanwhile, believe that the unborn child is a living person with a right to existence, and that termination of that life should remain a crime. …
‘Unfortunately, in Ireland this fundamental issue cannot be debated honestly. Thus we have a situation where the discussion appears to centre around rare medical conditions that might put a pregnant woman’s life in danger. These unlikely clinical scenarios are highlighted by the pro-choice movement as alleged examples of where Ireland’s lack of abortion services puts women’s lives at risk.
‘I admit this type of discussion makes me angry due to its fundamental intellectual dishonesty. Maternity related deaths in Ireland are among the lowest in the developed world, so to somehow suggest that the existence of abortion clinics would lower this figure further is not supported by any scientific or medical evidence. …
‘I believe that to suggest such interventions [e.g., in the case of an ectopic pregnancy] are in any way comparable to social abortion is to engage in extremely manipulative behaviour. The pro-choice movement is well aware of this, which begs the question why they spend so much time talking about the incredibly rare, medically necessary abortion rather than arguing the case in favour of the right to choose?
‘It has occurred to me that such tactics are being used for a very cynical reason. Pro-choice activists may have concluded that they cannot win a fair democratic debate in a conservative country such as Ireland. So they might have decided to confuse the issue, in the hope that their ultimate aim will be introduced by stealth. I believe this to be disingenuous in the extreme. …’
A dangerous precedent to set, I would suggest?