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The Editorial

Ireland’s abortion vote

Crowds celebrated the ‘Yes’ vote on 25 May for abortion to become legal in Ireland.

John Benton, Editor

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I, like many others, was overcome with huge sadness at the prospective killing of new lives. I’m not sure that these days, as a man, I am even allowed to have an opinion on the issue, but I know that God is a God of life, not death. In England, we have had legal abortion for over 50 years, yet the fact that, statistically, the most unsafe place for a baby is its mother’s womb, I find horrific.

Identity and life

Women in many situations of pregnancy rightly command our sympathy. Secular society proposes abortion as the only viable option. But, of course, it is not.

Adoption can be a good solution. So it was ironic that within days of the 66.4% ‘Yes’ vote, the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, apologized to 126 people, now in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who had been illegally adopted in Ireland via a Catholic agency. Having always thought that the people who had brought them up were their natural parents, they now find that they were actually adopted. The Guardian reported him as saying: ‘What was done robbed children, our fellow citizens, of their identity. It was an historic wrong that we must face up to.’

But there was no apology to those who will now not simply be robbed of their identity, but of their lives. Had abortion been legal when these 126 people were conceived, it is highly likely they would never have seen the light of day.

Certainly what was done by the adoption agency in collusion with the Irish state those years ago was wrong. But one had a suspicion that actually this apology was taken as a media opportunity to denigrate adoption, and therefore to bolster abortion. There will now be fewer children, both male and female, for childless couples to adopt and for whom they can try to provide a good home.

Roman Catholic Church

According to those I have spoken with, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland tended to keep quiet on the abortion referendum. This would have been unthinkable in the days of Pope John Paul II. But the current Pope draws very few lines in the sand. His attitude on many moral issues is along the lines of: ‘Who are we to judge others?’ Many Catholics must have been left asking: ‘But does God have nothing to say these days?’ The Church’s mission is to be inclusive.

Catholicism in Ireland has, in recent years, lost credibility. This has been due to serious scandals such as sexual abuse involving priests and the very harsh treatment of children in some Catholic orphanages.

When a church loses its credibility it forfeits its voice in society. This is a warning that the evangelical church would do well to ponder. The best-kept secret about evangelism is that the gospel makes most impact when it is adorned by good deeds (think of Whitefield and Spurgeon with their orphanages). This is often lacking today – we want to talk about the love of God without demonstrating it.

What next?

Having won the vote in Ireland, there is now a bandwagon rolling for the law on abortion to be changed in Northern Ireland too. Mrs May, with a Westminster majority dependent on the Province’s DUP, is under pressure.

Meanwhile with abortion likely to go through in the Isle of Man, but a lack of doctors willing to do terminations, many women there are staring at DIY abortion kits. Good for women? I doubt it.