The Protection Of Logic



All I know is that I don’t know nothin’. And that’s fine.

There’s a certain peace and restfulness that comes from admitting that the more you learn and more you know, the more aware you are of just how much you don’t know.

Each bit of knowledge and education only opens up a whole other area of knowledge and information about which you are ignorant.

At this point you could insert one of numerous Richard Feynman quotes on learning, life and everything like, “Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.

He’s right, it doesn’t matter. It is much more interesting to have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned (Feynman again). Sorry seems to be the hardest word, but it isn’t as difficult a phrase as “I don’t know.”

All politics, all ideologies and all religions are all about easy answers. You can rest easy because we’ve done the difficult thinking for you and here are our answers. All we ask is your unconditional support and belief.

Except, it turns out that they don’t have the answers either.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (PLDA) 2013 was supposed to be an answer. But what was the question? It wasn’t how do we protect unborn life and it wasn’t how do we protect the life of women after Savita Halappanavar.

The question was how we protect doctors when making a decision that might conflict with the Constitution. Doctors shouldn’t need the enactment of legislation in 2013 to help them make a judgement on what is best for the life of the patient. And yet they insisted they did.

But the Supreme Court insisted they didn’t.

In its decision on the X Case, the Supreme Court discussed at length the conditions that would permit abortion under the Constitution. For 22 years doctors had some clarity that where there was a real and imminent risk to the life of the mother, they could perform an abortion.

The death of Savita had nothing to do with lack of legislation and was all to do with doctors not wanting to make a decision.

The PLDA was bad law enacted in haste and yesterday we saw that doctors still won’t make a decision, even when the Supreme Court and the law says they can. Suicide is a risk to the life of the mother, PLDA allows for this and for an abortion.

Except if someone is suicidal and a genuine risk to themselves, then they should be committed to a mental institution. The former requires three medical opinions, the latter just one.

Oh, but not when you jump in a river and actually try and kill yourself. Then you’re grand. No risk there.

The problem with narratives is that when you have them, they become like a hammer and everything looks like a nail. It’s easy to read a lot into what the psychologist did in committing the girl to an institution. We’ll probably never know and so shouldn’t speculate.

But to repeat an old mantra, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

The problem with narratives is that we can’t discuss abortion as we should. Not religion, not ideology, just ethics. Unfortunately, we’ve let ethics become synonymous with religion.

We’ve allowed a situation where one specific branch of one specific religion gets to be the dictator of ethics. We need a debate free from that. Unfortunately, no politician would be brave enough to have that discussion.

If you were to do a list of who has an abortion and why they have an abortion, the results of that list might be swayed by your views on abortions. Are the women old or young? Married or single? Is the abortion due to their health or the foetus’s?

Our only basis for answering this is to look to the statistics from those countries that do have legalised abortion. Great Britain (not UK as many in the UK have realised recently due to legislation not being enacted in Northern Ireland) is probably the best comparison.

Any legislation is likely to be the same where abortions require medical approval and a similar set up. From the statistics available, we know that in 2015 185,824 (3,451 from Ireland) abortions were performed.

· Based on 2015 births, approximately 20% of pregnancies were terminated in England and Wales.*

· 80% of abortions are performed in the first 9 weeks and 98% within the first 19 weeks (69% and 97% respectively for Irish women)

· 70% of women are in a relationship (65% for Irish women)

· 77% of women are white.

· 54% had been pregnant in the past through to delivery (47% Irish)

· 38% have had previous abortions (19% Irish)

· 98% have abortions on the grounds of Category C “risk to the physical or mental or mental health of the mother” (96% Irish)

· 86% of women are over 20 (52% aged 20-29, 34% 30+) (91% Irish, with 46% 20-29 and 45% over 30)

· 3% of abortions were for serious abnormalities or disabilities to the foetus (Category E) (4% Irish)

· 3 abortions (number, not percentage) were performed in emergency situations to save the mother’s life (due to mental or physical harm).

· 629 (0.3% of abortions) were because the foetus was diagnosed with downs syndrome (1.1% Irish)

*very rough approximation

How do we interpret this? I don’t know. Looking at the statistics above: it’s complicated. It isn’t, as Leo claims, like the lads popping off to Amsterdam.

This is mature, rational women, in a relationship, many who have seen a previous pregnancy through to birth.

They are 98% of 185,824 who have weighed up the pregnancy and its consequences and a doctor has agreed an abortion is necessary. Over 180,000 individuals like the population of County Limerick.

There is no single group mind behind their decisions. The only common feature is they live in a state that allows them to make that decision in consultation with a doctor.

In Ireland, we’ve legislated for the three abortions that were medical emergencies. But someone had to die before we even did that. We haven’t addressed the issue of suicide risk, but then we haven’t addressed the issue of suicide risk in general.

Under the PLDP, it isn’t enough to be diagnosed with cancer; it needs two doctors to confirm the cancer. With mental health, we want three doctors to confirm your state of mind before anyone will make a decision.

Twenty two years after the Supreme Court said it was permissible without legislation, that suicide risk was a risk to life, that you can take the threat of suicide at face value, you do not have to wait until they are pressing a knife to their wrists.

One doctor can do that. One doctor can believe the woman and act. The constitution does not prohibit that. Doctors did not need to wait 22 years, we didn’t need legislation. Doctors didn’t need to lobby our legislators so that it required three doctor’s opinions.

You can make of the statistics above whatever you want. You can use them to support pro-life or pro-choice. But they are what they are.

All I know is that I know nothin’. It’s complicated. Life is complicated. Somehow, we’ve managed to make complicated the bits that aren’t complicated when it comes to permissible abortions under the constitution..What hope do we have with the bigger issue of abortion in general?

The only thing I can say for sure is that it’s time to listen to those who have had experience here. Not those who want to insert an ideology into other people’s decisions.

There are over 180,000 of them in Britain, over 3000 in Ireland. Maybe listen to them, not me.

Listrade can be found on Twitter @listrade  where he mainly steals jokes from Keith Chegwin.

Yesterday: Tony Groves on The Three Doctors

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29 thoughts on “The Protection Of Logic

  1. Liam Deliverance

    Great commentary again Listrade. Of course this is a complex issue but so are a lot of other issues. They are not insurmountable despite what they tell you about the constitution and ethics and human rights. If you put the right people and resources on it, it can be solved. It doesn’t take two decades. Political reform is the answer here I believe, the government needs to serve it’s people and not itself like it has been doing for so long. The balance of power must shift back to the citizens if we want a society that we believe in, we need the word republic in Republic of Ireland to mean what it says. If we sign petitions, ministers scoff. If we email TD’s and they bother to respond (which is a rare thing and that alone says a lot) they trot out the usual waffle. Even when we take to the streets to protest they look for ways to silence or placate us (citizens assembly, water charges farce). Now it may sound like I am trying to advocate violent protest here, I’m not, but we are running out of options. Pressure needs to be applied somehow.

  2. nellyb

    Devil’s advocate, if you don’t mind.
    When LGBT community pushed for change – it happened. LGBT is about, what, 10% or around that – ?
    Women are roughly 50% of population. If half population pushed for change – wouldn’t have that happened already.
    Perhaps majority of women believe in fetal primacy over themselves and do not value or even understand own personhood. What keeps 8th in constitution is women themselves.

    1. newsjustin

      Many people do believe that aborting a living foetus is wrong. That’s the reality that Listrade fails to address in his otherwise considered piece.

      1. nellyb

        newsjustin – I believe many people believe and they are entitled to. But they are not entitled to make profound decisions for other people. It’s called God complex. Legalised fetal personhood is not a moral issue, it is ideological and profoundly religious. Infamous Christopher Hitchens was personally against abortions, but was staunchly pro-choice on social policies level.
        If you and your partner go ahead with unplanned pregnancy – it is great and I believe brave people like you deserve all the support required to bring up well rounded and happy kids. No questions there. But don’t turn girls into farm animals for adoption industry because they are young, full of life and distracted by the novelties like sex.

        1. newsjustin

          Of course society is entitled to make “profound decisions for other people”. We do it all the time. Our laws enshrine it. For example, no matter how much you really, really want to murder your neighbour, for whatever temptingly valid reasons, society says you can’t.

          People have no trouble understanding this but are baffled when it’s suggested that a lassez faire attitude to aborting a foetus is wrong.

          1. edalicious

            I sincerely doubt that anyone has ever had a laissez faire attitude to getting an abortion.

          2. Listrade

            If murder was legal would you kill your neighbour? If theft was legal would you steal?

            It isn’t the law stopping most people from murdering an annoying neighbour. The current Irish law puts women at risk of death and prolonged trauma. “Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” I think that was in a Steps song or something.

            Let’s also not use the comparison of annoying neighbour with the reasons for abortion. As I state above, there were probably 180,000 reasons for the abortions. I hazard a guess very few were from annoyance.

            There is no equivalent, that’s why it needs special consideration. Over 80% of abortions were in the first 9 weeks. Is my neighbour a collection of cells with no more sentience than a kidney?

            Is my neighbour a threat to my recovery from cancer? Am I suffering from one of numerous physical conditions that my neighbour puts me a risk of dying from? They’re all listed in the statistics.

            We have laws to say it isn’t murder when my I perceive my life is in danger. So your comparison fails.

            It isn’t black and white. The stats show that. Many are women who have had pregnancies before, in many cases complicated pregnancies, stillbirths, miscarriages, and they don’t want the trauma or risk of that again.

            We have degrees of murder, we have degrees of manslaughter, we have justifiable homicide because it isn’t as straightforward as you suggest.

            And neither is this.

            No more false equivalents. I can be against a person being put to death for a crime and for another human being allowed to make a very difficult choice on their own mental and physical well-being without being hypocritical. No matter how much you try to reduce an argument to absurdity.

          3. newsjustin

            “If murder was legal would you kill your neighbour? If theft was legal would you steal?”

            No. But that doesn’t mean some people wouldn’t. Are you proposing we have no laws?

            “There is no equivalent, that’s why it needs special consideration.”

            I agree

            “I can be against a person being put to death for a crime and for another human being allowed to make a very difficult choice on their own mental and physical well-being without being hypocritical.”

            I don’t think so.

    2. nellyb

      I referred to same-sex marriage (campaigning, self-mobilization and referendum victory) when I said ‘LGBT’.
      It was magnificent display of self-respect and determination to fight for equality. Amazing stuff.

    3. Listrade


      I don’t think that’s the case. There is at least just as much campaigning for abortion reform as there was Gay Marriage. The difference is the political will to accept change or at least put the vote on change to the public at large.

      @newsjustin, despite appearances, I do edit my pieces before submission. One of the bits that I took out was talking about that issue. I have friends who are not in favour of aborting a foetus and not on religious grounds, however, they don’t feel that their choice should limit the choice of others. They remain pro-choice. That’s a different debate though.

      1. newsjustin

        Thanks Listrade.

        I think being pro-choice about abortion is as defensible as being pro-choice about the death-penalty or homocide.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          Pro choice about homocide? What, you mean it’s like being ok with murdering people? Does that mean you think women who get abortions should be charged with the same crime as a murderer? If not, why not?

          1. newsjustin

            Yes. Yes. No. It’s bad enough someone has taken the dire step of aborting their child, it would be very harsh to lump them together with murderers.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            But you *just* said being pro choice on abortion is the same as being pro choice on murder. They’re either the same thing or they’re not. So if a parent kills their child after its born, you’d be against murder charges in that circumstance, right? Because it’s hard enough for them already dealing with the death of their child like you just said?

          3. newsjustin

            I said those pro-choice positions were as defensible as each other. I didn’t say one is the same as the other.

            We’ve had this exact conversation before Moyest. You’re baffled that a pro-life person won’t conform with the stereotype in your head and want to lock up women who have abortions and throw away the key.

            I’m just not that black and white. Abortion is a crime in this country – rightly so. Parents killing an infant is also, rightly, a crime. Both situations call for compassion and mercy rather than knee-jerk prison sentences.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            “I said those pro-choice positions were as defensible as each other. I didn’t say one is the same as the other.”

            So defending abortion is just like defending murder but murder and abortion are not the same thing, except they are but the punishment should be different. Ok then.

            “You’re baffled that a pro-life person won’t conform with the stereotype”

            No, I’m just usually pretty good at seeing through a BS artist. I’ve said a few times, here and elsewhere, that there plenty of anti abortionists who have honest, moral convictions; people who genuinely see a foetus as a baby. I just don’t think you’re one of them. Your penchant for manipulating language and insistence on the usage of certain words tells me you’re not coming at this from empathy, you’re coming at this from a tribal angle. Keeping Catholic ethos as law makes you feel like you’re part of the ruling class.

          5. newsjustin

            “So defending abortion is just like defending murder but murder and abortion are not the same thing, except they are but the punishment should be different. Ok then.”

            Where did I say they were the same thing?

          1. newsjustin

            Yeah. Or anything else that is clearly wrong. Something that it’s non-sensical to be ok with a “whatever you’re having yourself attitude” to.

      2. nellyb

        thanks Listrade, but as far as i remember – there wasnt much political will for same-sex marriage at the start either. The ‘will’ had changed because pressure was kept on. Imagine women everywhere in Ireland (Republic of, naturally) went on strike for a day or three? All pro-choice women. It is that kind of unified concerted action that will swing “political will”. Human rights are never given, they have to be fought for and taken – you know that! And why is it no woman, let along man, in the government had called for Varadkars resignation or at least a bloody apology for the ‘amsterdam’ comment? Is dignity thin on the ground? Is human dignity not valued? I am at a total loss of why women allow that.

        1. Listrade

          I’m sorry Nelly, but they did go on strike, this year. There have been frequent protests and marches, numerous bills proposed in the Dail by TDs (some of them women).

          The citizens assembly has voted in favour of amendment and a referendum. But we still wait.

  3. scottser

    ‘The PLDA was bad law enacted in haste’

    enacted in a late night of drunken fumbling and groping more ya.

  4. Frilly Keane

    poor oul’ Justin News must be fla’ed out with all this overtime
    Ruth Coppinger being a spoilsport and not licking the arse of the Simpleton Edna
    and now this

    tell ya wha’ Justin
    they’ll be naming a roundabout after ya

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