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Referendum campaign continues as polling day draws near

By editor - 20 May, 2018

Ciara Ferry reports on this last Sunday before the referendum.

As polling cards began to land through the letterboxes of the nation this week, voters got what was for some the first look at the actual question on which we will vote next Friday.

Your polling card will read: “You are being asked if you agree with the proposal to delete the following subsection from Article 40.3 of the Constitution:

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 (…)

And to substitute that subsection with the following:

Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”

With Yes campaigners repeatedly claiming that the referendum is not about abortion, the presence of the words “termination of pregnancy” on the polling card is yet one more illustration on the need to insist on clarity of language when discussing the issue, something that has been sorely lacking over the past week from the Yes side.

As engagement of the question in the media skyrocketed this week, with debates on Claire Byrne Live, Prime Time and The Tonight Show on TV3, along with the documentary, Would You Believe: An Irish Solution, voters were being encouraged to look past the rhetoric for the reality of what a vote for abortion would bring.

Maria Steen voiced the fears of many on The Pat Kenny Show when she said that should a Yes vote be the result, abortion would in effect become a human right. As the proposal would replace Article 40.3 which is under the heading Fundamental Rights, “termination of pregnancy” would then be counted a fundamental human right, the first time in history a country has either allowed abortion to be called a human right, or inserted it into law by popular vote.

Steen’s performance on Pat Kenny was hampered by constant interruptions, but one exchange was picked up on immediately on social media.

Repeating the constant slogan of the Yes campaign, Pat begins: “A woman has the right to choose.” Maria: “To choose what, Pat?”

“To choose – to choose to terminate the pregnancy.”

“And how is ‘terminate the pregnancy’ defined in the government’s proposed legislation?”

Pat reads out the definition: “termination of pregnancy means a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of the foetus”.

People on Twitter quoted the exchange, saying: “If every Yes voter was to confront this line of thought, there would be no Yes voters”.

Canvassing reached fever pitch this week, with thousands of groups out all over the country determined to make sure that the truth is heard.

Mary Butler TD, whose eloquent defence of life on Claire Byrne Live was lauded by No campaigners and who joined her local canvass in Waterford, said that support was huge for a No vote, adding that “Ireland does not want abortion on demand. We want the correct supports for crisis pregnancies, we want more perinatal hospices, we want to see more wraparound supports so that they can bring their baby into this world and they don’t feel that they have nowhere to turn. There’s no doubt that there are hard cases, but the only option the government is offering at the moment for a crisis pregnancy is abortion. I could never agree with that.”

Mary’s point was backed up by the rhetoric being put forward by the Yes campaign, most notably An Taoiseach himself, who said that if a No result was returned, it would only be a matter of time before someone “bleeds to death”.

Campaigners say that this attitude, following on the heels of comments from Dr Rhona Mahony and others that doctors are currently not able to care for pregnant women under the Eighth Amendment are both alarmist and inaccurate. Dr Brendan Crowley summed it up on Claire Byrne Live, saying that abortion, which intentionally takes the life of one of the two patients for which a doctor is responsible, cannot be healthcare, as it is good for neither mother nor baby.

Leo Varadkar also said, in a statement breathtakingly dismissive of the rights of unborn human beings, that only in situations where the baby had reached viability, or the “pregnancy was wanted”, would he as a doctor have treated both mother and baby as a patient to be cared for.

Dr Louise Fuller picked up on this during a discussion on The Tonight Show on TV3, saying that the government has neither consulted with GPs on the proposed GP-led service nor taken into account the fact that 70 per cent of GPs do not want to be involved in abortion. “Abortion has one intention, and one intention only, and that is to end the life of an innocent human being.”

As voters plan when and how they will make it to the polling station to cast their vote, campaigners are urging them to encourage their neighbours to vote and ensure everyone has a way to get there. They are urging all to ask themselves – am I comfortable with the only remaining protection for the unborn being removed, and in its place leaving a blank cheque for the same politicians who have presided over the Cervical Check scandal to provide for the intentional ending of the lives of those innocent human beings?

Rhetoric and slogans, posters and online ads aside, the vote will be close, and only a No result will ensure that unborn babies and their mothers will be cherished and protected in the Ireland that we are choosing.

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