“Our Values Are Considerably More Subtle Than You Might Think.”


Former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness (above) addressed the Joint Committee On Health And Children hearing on abortion legislation this afternoon.

This is what she told them.

Judge Catherine McGuinness “Doctors are not asking to be allowed to abort children who perhaps are suffering from Downs Syndrome or something like that, it’s not about that. It’s about questioning, the timing and when the child is already destined to death in the womb and that is still, I think it’s highly doubtful what the law will be.

Professor [William] Binchy [Pro-life campaigner who had spoken earlier] has said that if we’re going to do this, we’re going to have no requirement for due care for the child. I don’t believe that legislators are going to bring in laws that would approach it in an uncaring manner like that.

I think that you have the opportunity, if you are approaching it as you suggest you’re going to, by having an outline law and regulations that you have the opportunity to which you should do, is to look at the questions with due care for the child, as balanced, as is required against the life of the mother.

That can be dealt with in the regulations. And, in the end, when we look at the values of Irish society, and whether you’re going to change them, I think that you understand that what I’m saying is that our values are considerably more subtle than you might think, when you look at, overall, what we do about life as opposed to what is a sort of ideal, which we’ve said before is and then when we come up to the human dilemma, what do we really do about it?

And I would say that, I really do plead with you not to be too affected by a kind of bullying approach, or, from either side of the question, from either the ultra liberal who are depicted as pro-abortion or from the extreme, what describes themselves as pro-life, who are trying to narrow the law, and think about where the middle ground is and what the main, majority of your constituents feel.”

She’s 87.

Eighty seven.

Earlier: So Why ARE Women With Non-Viable Pregnancies Being Forced To Travel To The UK?

What Rhona Said


34 thoughts on ““Our Values Are Considerably More Subtle Than You Might Think.”

  1. Julo

    Something always comes to my mind in this debate : do “pro-life” campaigners think all the rest of Europe as child killers?(as abortion is widely accepted across the continent…) I am amazed how that question doesn’t come as a definite proof there is something wrong in Ireland on that point.

    1. Blobster

      Good question. The deliberate taking of human life is very wrong wherever it happens – in Dublin, Paris, Vienna or Rome. There is no distinction between human life in Ireland versus anywhere else in the world – or there shouldn’t be. I am pro-life, I would like the laws of the state I am a citizen of to be pro-life. Others will take a different view and they are welcome to it. I would liek to see the protection of human life a priority in laws across Europe and the rest of the world. Unfortunetly this is not the case at present, capital punishment, abortion and euthanasia is tolerated and legislated for, to a greater or lesser extent, in many parts of the world.

      Ireland is different in this regard and I think it’s a difference that, by and large reflects well on us. Other countries may not elect to do likewise but we certainly shouldn’t follow them in a race to the bottom in terms of hte right to life.

      1. Nikki Brooks

        So you believe that it is more important for an unborn foetus to live then a mother who’s life is in danger due to the pregancy?
        And that a woman who has been brutally raped should not have the option to abort either after such a harrowing experience?

        I just cannot believe some people’s lack of compassion in this country. It is just so saddening.

        1. Jay

          Its pretty clear that with some the level of non-sense has over-flooded but I applaud you trying to reason with them!

          1. Nikki Brooks

            I know Jay. I really don’t know why I replied. I think I just had to get it out! I think I should just run away and have a nice cup of tea and continue to hope for goodness and compassion in mankind!

        2. Nikki Brooks

          I also firmly believe in everyone’s right to euthanasia. I would not believe myself to be so self righteous and preach at people as to when they want to end their own suffering.

        3. Blobster

          1. No. Mother and child share an equal right to life.
          2. As emotive as that question is, my answer is no. Taking human life is wrong in all circumstances, even those you describe.

          Rest assured I have nothing but compassion for all human beings. I really don’t see why defending the right to life could be mistaken for anything else.

          1. Ploika

            I’d just like to point out that a foetus is not a live human being. It’s not a child. It’s a foetus.

            Of course it has the *potential* to be a human being in its own right after close to 9 months in the womb, but not before then.

            A foetus is not a full human being (like the mother is) so it’s not correct to say that an abortion is the taking of a human life.

          2. Jess

            What does an ultrasound at 12 weeks have to do with it, Blobster? If ‘looks like a person’ is enough to qualify as being an actual person, then by this very website’s own posts we have a whole lot of Irelands going spare too.

            “Rest assured I have nothing but compassion for all human beings.”
            Except women? Unless you think forcing a woman to undergo all the risks of pregnancy is compassionate…

          3. droid

            The denial of the right to assisted suicide for those who wish to die rather than live every moment of their lives in agony is not compassionate.

      2. Kilo

        I have put pro-life in quotes on purpose, and that is a very important point. I am pro choice, but does it means I am against life? The fact that so many “pro-life” campaigners have strong religious beliefs often make them think a superior force give them the right to dictate their view on everybody, and call other people very bad names… Blobster you didn’t really answer to my question!

  2. sickofallthisbs

    I am going to get some popcorn and watch the heated and hilarious debate that will ensue.

    Liberal: Loike free abortions for all, I am loike so sick of the church.
    Conservative: Abortions will be like condoms.
    Liberal: OMG you are such a paedo.
    Conservative: SHUT UP YOU SLAG

    1. ferg

      For those who wear T-shirts with witty slogans or ironic references to the 70s, it is a source of wonderment that people older than 35 have opinions and are allowed to express them.

    2. Pob

      I imagine it’s because there’s a perception out there that the older members of our society all hold particular views, or are more likely to lean to a more conservative side of things.

  3. Arbs

    She represents the very best of humanity when the abortion debate here in Ireland can often become hijacked by the most base of febrile ideologues, incapable of compassion and understanding. What resonated most with me was the fact that in the issue of abortion reform she said lawmakers should not look to the people who make robot calls, or bombard TDs with incessant letters preaching hell and damnation or posting photoshopped images of a bloodied foetus outside schools and creches. But instead to look to the people “who are more subtle, the people who might think about what happens if it is their daughter”. Look to the middle people of Ireland who aren’t after you all the time. She also pointed out that Ireland already has abortion, it just happens elsewhere highlighting the notion that we want an escape route from the absolute. As I have opined earlier, Ireland can only ever remain “pro-life”, a term devoid of substance, as long as Great Britain is pro-choice.

  4. Wallaby

    She sounds in the first paragraph like she is talking about unviable foetuses (foeti?) which is nothing to do with the A,B,C or X-cases and seems to belong to another debate. I’m pro-choice by the way, I’m just wondering about the scope of the hearings, is it in their remit to approach the abortion issue as a whole or just within the confines of those cases against the state?

  5. Claire

    My view has pretty much always been that I value people over potential-people.
    The morning after pill used to be considered murder, then it wasn’t… I don’t see how 6 weeks later there is a huge profound difference, A lot of study has been done into pain and consciousness capabilities of fetuses, and they all indicate that there is no suffering.
    It really confuses me when the same people don’t care about women travelling, country borders do not magically change anything.

    Just because you force a woman to carry that child to term, you are not making everything magically ok.

    1. Pedanto

      Weirdly, the orthodox Catholic position is that a freshly-fertilised egg has exactly the same right to life as a six-year-old child, or a grown woman. So they do still consider the morning-after pill murder, as surely as if you had stoved in Doris Day’s head with a poker.

      I think the hierarchy are in an extreme minority even of Catholics here, but that’s a guess.

      1. nige

        Yet not so long ago, the catholic church (and the hospitals it ran) treated stillborn babies as sub-human matter, to be thrown in the incinerator (with their souls destined for limbo). Bereaved parents were not allowed see the corpse of their child, were often not even told the baby’s sex and got no funeral.

        I wonder if the church still behaves this way in the poorer, less developed countries in which it still wields much power?

        1. Blobster

          I wonder if blaming the church for our history of failings towards the most vulnerable in society will make abortion, which the church happens to be against, more palatable to all.

      2. Blobster

        When you think about it, the view that life is life, from conception to natural death is more defensible than choosing arbitary points at which to deem that life is life e.g. implantation, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 24 weeks, 39 weeks, after the umbilical cord is cut, once a child is self aware, etc.

        1. Arbs

          While I inevitably disagree with you as I don’t regard a cluster of cells in the weeks following fertiliation as a human being, personhood must involve consciousness at some level, the fetal brain doesn’t begin to fire until at least 12 weeks. An immortalised cancer cell growing in a lab dish, like a fertilised egg-has all the generic potential of a human. It’s not a person. Calling an embryo a person is decidedly a theological position – and we’ll hear all about that tomorrow. I do, however, agree on one issue: the discussion on when life begins is one worth having and currently overlooked possibly because of the crude implication that it is nothing more than a non-nuanced either/or choice.

        2. Kevin

          Certainly “from conception” it is a more simple and clear – even rational – approach. It’s not very helpful though.

          While I’m at it, Ms. McGuinness mentioned not aborting foetuses diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, but if we were to receive such a diagnosis – and I’m aware of the complications and inaccuracy involved – we’d be swiftly making a trip across the water. I’d like the law to provide for an abortion in this country, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing, but I guess we all have to pretend for now that this doesn’t concern any of us.

  6. Definition

    Very impressive, but, just saying, this BL profession has robbed taxpayers with the tribunal

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