As WorldByStorm notes there are some surprising results from last weekend’s Irish Times poll on abortion (yes, yet another one).
A clear majority of Irish voters are against abortion on request, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll. When asked if abortion should be legal in all circumstances, only 23 per cent agreed it should, with 67 per cent against…
Those interviewed were also firmly in favour of making abortion legal in Ireland where a pregnancy has been the result of rape (76 per cent agreement) and when there is a serious risk to the mental health of the woman (72 per cent agreement). The majority view (67 per cent agreement) was that abortion should also be legal if the unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to cause death before or shortly after birth.
I must admit to being puzzled by the responses in the polling. However much I may disagree with the arguments of the anti-choice camp I do appreciate their internal logic. If one truly believes that life starts at the moment of conception, when sperm meets egg or shortly thereafter, then of course any deliberate termination of this post-fertilisation process would be abhorrent. I can even stretch that to encompass those who suggest that abortion is permissible in cases where the resultant fetus is non-viable, or certain to be loss through miscarriage or similar (though, of course, how can one be sure of this?). An intervention in a situation of near certitude could be argued on ethical grounds, with due recognition for the medical and physical needs of the mother and the unborn.
However things become more tricky when it comes to questions of embryos at serious risk of physical or mental disability. Or more dramatically, conceived through rape or inappropriate sexual relations (underage sex between minors, a statutory offence of course, or more shockingly, incest). That is when the moral quagmire really deepens and when a sort of conservative pro-choice consensus emerges. It is noteworthy that most rational anti-abortion campaigners will compromise around theses difficult questions. In the United States, and lately in Ireland, it has become the norm for politicians and journalist-activists on the right to state: I am totally against abortion; except in cases of fetal abnormality, health threats to the mother, rape or incest.
The Irish Time survey seems to indicate that this semi-anti-abortion sentiment is relatively widespread among the general public. Personally, I find the dual thinking both inconsistent and illogical. If one can admit the necessity or acceptability of terminations in several sets of circumstances then why not all? What, if one takes a moral or religious-based approach to abortion, is the difference between an unwanted child conceived through non-consensual sex and an unwanted child conceived through a lack of contraceptive care or an accident during consensual sex? If one is a pro-life Christian or other person of faith, how does one condemn the “unborn” as inherently unfit for life if brought into existence through a forcible or violent action? Is the “sin” then shared by the product of the sin?
As I said, I’m pro-choice and without restriction once an agreed set of reasonable regulations have been put in place (itself not without controversy). In that sense, I suppose, I am a mirror of the rigidly pro-life camp. It is the middle grounders, those who are pro-life except in circumstances of x, y and z, who puzzle me. Their criteria carry with them a certain, and I’m genuinely not sure if I’m articulating my thoughts clearly here, classist overtone. I suppose I find it odd that people, when given a choice in a poll, would agree that a woman or girl who has been raped should be able to avail of a termination, but a woman in poverty, however abject, must perforce go through with the pregnancy. Even if she will raise that unwanted offspring in the poverty she herself has experienced or worse?
Then, but of course, I could get into the question of a society believing it has a communal say over the physical rights of others, though I dealt with that before. If only we were as determined to control the scourge of socio-economic inequality as we are to control the reproductive organs of our female citizens?