Ireland: When 'Freedom' Becomes Coercion
The recent abortion vote strips religious liberty and conscience rights from Catholic hospitals.
In late May, Ireland voted to legalize abortion by a 66% majority. The vote not only reveals voters’ desire for abortion on demand, but more specifically, Irish citizens repealed their constitution’s Eighth Amendment, which secures human rights to pre-born children. Worse, those who oppose abortion — even on religious grounds — will be forced to provide them.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion partly under the guise that a baby before birth is “just a blob of tissue.” However, with the advent of the 3D sonogram, this argument no longer holds scientific weight. Most people no longer question, “Is it a baby?” but rather, “Does the baby have rights?”
In repealing the Eighth Amendment, the people of Ireland said, “No.” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar wants new abortion laws for Ireland by the end of the year. Proposed legislation makes unrestricted abortion legal for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 24 weeks in some cases.
This process, however, has already produced more far-reaching consequences. The repeal vote not only strips rights from pre-born babies but compromises conscience rights for Catholic hospitals. The Irish prime minister made it clear that Catholic hospitals must perform abortions if they want to keep their government funding. While individual doctors and nurses can opt-out of performing abortions on conscience grounds, whole institutions (i.e., Catholic hospitals) cannot.
Varadkar stated, “It will not … be possible for publicly funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil [lower house] and Seanad [senate].”
Varadkar further added, “Hospitals, like for example Holles Street, which is a Catholic voluntary ethos hospital, the Mater, St. Vincent’s and others will be required … to carry out any procedure that is legal in this state.”
Wesley J. Smith, in his National Review article “Pro-Choice Authoritarianism is Coming to Ireland,” notes that while the government compels Catholic hospitals to perform abortions today, it may later compel them to perform other morally questionable procedures such as sex-changes, sterilization or euthanasia. Smith asserts that this could yield many doctors and nurses who take early retirement or students who avoid the medical field altogether.
Prior to the vote, the Guardian characterized Ireland as “one of the world’s strictest regimes” that forced women to flee the country to have an abortion. However, the paper failed to mention that a pro-abortion Ireland would create a far stricter regime by forcing Catholic hospitals to violate their moral convictions.
Ironically, pro-abortion advocates claimed the legalization of abortion to be “freedom.” However, this purported “freedom” for some means coercion and conscience-rights violations for others. True freedom focuses on human rights for all. No “right” exists for the strong to infringe on the rights of the weak. When the strong overpower the weak, that’s called totalitarianism, not freedom.
Abortion, which places the life of one human being at the mercy of another, at its core, stands as a type of totalitarianism. Not surprisingly, allowing totalitarianism in one area (legalizing abortion) creates totalitarianism in another (forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions).
Some people argue that abortion should be legal because “the government shouldn’t tell you what to do.” Now, the government threatens Catholic hospitals that they must perform abortions or lose funding, which stands as an even greater example of the government “telling you what to do.” Ireland’s legalization of abortion strips the pre-born individual of rights, grants the decision-makers super-rights, and disenfranchises Catholic hospitals who object on religious grounds.
The foundation of a civil society rests on laws protecting human life. Laws that deny rights to human beings lead to exploitation. Legalizing abortion in Ireland has granted favored status to the majority pro-choice group while disenfranchising the minority pro-life group. Equitable legislation ought to account for both groups, granting conscience freedom, not coercion, to institutions with religious objections.
While this article discusses abortion on the policy level, it can be a sensitive and heartbreaking issue on a personal level. If you or someone you love is hurting from an abortion, you are not alone. Please reach out for help from those who understand: