October 19, 2018

Monica Doumit: Irish jubilation over referendum outcome is hard to understand

Protesters hold up banners on a bridge in Dublin to persuade voters as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalise the country’s abortion laws. Photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters

I have a sense that historians will look back on the 35 years between 1983, when the Irish people in a landslide referendum result voted to enshrine a protection for unborn children in its constitution, to 2018 when they voted to repeal that same protection, as an example of the rapid moral decline in the western world.

In 1983, the Irish people voted to include the following language in its constitution, and it became known as the 8th amendment:

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

Those who campaigned for the change in the 1980s had seen in other countries how judicial overreach had created so many exceptions to abortion laws that they rendered the prohibition against abortion toothless, and wanted to protect Ireland from the same fate.  They did not want to see the Irish courts impose their own version of Roe v Wade (or the NSW equivalent, R v Wald), and so sought to recognise an unborn child’s right to life as being equal with its mother’s recognised in the constitution.  By a 2:1 majority, the Irish voters agreed and so the change was made.

It is extraordinary to think that in just 35 years, the respect for the unborn and for women has so diminished that over the weekend, the Irish people voted 2:1 in the opposite direction.

A voter casts his ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Photo: CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters

It’s not just the result that I find startling, but the lead up to it, and the exceedingly jubilant response.  Anyone who followed the #HomeToVote campaign would know what I was talking about.

If you look through Twitter, you will see emotional photos and video of men and women, young and old, returning #HomeToVote for abortion.  In their thousands, Irish ex-pats returned home to Ireland to vote ‘yes’ to repealing the 8th amendment.  Many of them were able to travel back to Ireland because their flights were donated by lobby groups or their plane tickets were purchased using money obtained for crowdfunding campaigns.

Millions and millions of dollars of donations poured in to back this ‘cause.’

Media even interviewed fathers and grandfathers who said that they were voting ‘yes’ for their daughters.

Then, when the result came through, there were celebrations from parliamentarians and citizens alike, with the Labour leader even going as far to labelling the part of Ireland’s history that protected unborn life in the constitution as ‘a shameful chapter of its history.’

Fr Thomas Harrington arrives to vote May 25 at Knock National School as Ireland holds a referendum on its abortion law. Photo: CNS photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters

Fathers voting ‘yes’ for their daughters?  Protecting unborn life is shameful?  My God.

This type of rhetoric is not only disturbing, it’s diabolical.  And it’s a much worse result for the Irish people than the referendum before this one, which saw same-sex marriage legalised in that country.

As you know, I was heavily involved in the ‘no’ campaign for the marriage postal survey.  Even though I strongly and publicly advocated a ‘no’ vote, I could still understand – both here and in Ireland – the desire of ‘yes’ campaigners to change the law and their joy that they had achieved their goal.  However misguided, most of those who voted ‘yes’ were honestly doing so from a place of love, and so the scenes of jubilation after the results were announced were understandable.

That’s not the case with abortion.  Even if the law is changed to make it legal, surely there is nothing for society to celebrate.

There is nothing loving about abortion.

There is nothing pro-woman about abortion.

There is nothing to celebrate.

Former gay rights activist James Parker speaks at a debate on same-sex marriage at the University of NSW last year as his interlocutor, Marriage Equality CEO Tiernan Brady, and moderator Monica Doumit look on. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

And I think that is true whether or not you believe abortion should be legal.

Just last week, prominent television and radio star in Australia said just that: in an emotionally charged segment on The Project, Meshel Laurie told viewers that ‘nobody’ wants abortion.  She went on to say that she wished there would never be another abortion anywhere in the world.  She was not advocating a ‘no’ vote, but simply expressing what she sees as a shared value amongst usually polarised pro-life and pro-abortion advocates.

If that’s true, then I don’t understand the joyful scenes at the result of the Irish referendum.  I don’t understand those who donated millions and millions of dollars to fly ex-pats home to vote.  I don’t see how anyone can describe this as anything but a dark day in the history of Ireland, and the world.

Maybe it’s time for another St Patrick to once again drive the serpents from Ireland.

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