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Friday, November 27, 2015

Abortion and "healthcare": dispelling the myths

by Clare Cromie

Recently I stopped to have a conversation with a young man raising funds for Amnesty International on College Green. We bantered back and forth about what it really meant to be a person, and why babies didn’t make the cut. His response was telling and it put me on the back foot.

He summed up Amnesty International’s recent push to introduce abortion to Ireland as not rejecting the essential humanity of the developing fetus, per se. Instead, he insisted, it was just “really all about healthcare.”

It’s easy to find yourself on the back foot when abortion is introduced as simply a “healthcare” measure. Healthcare, you see, has such immensely positive, humanitarian connotations. How can a person really argue against providing access to healthcare?

It’s important to recognize that the “abortion as healthcare” line is not new to the political discourse. But, is it true? Can abortion really be called healthcare?

If we look at the definition of healthcare in any number of established dictionaries, the answer has to be - absolutely not. Cambridge defines healthcare as “the set of services provided by a country or an organization for the treatment of the physically and the mentally ill.” Abortion is factually the exact opposite of healthcare; rather than treating ill health, it purposefully takes the life of a human being.

The concept that abortion is healthcare because it serves the health and mental well-being of the mother (rather than preference or convenience whether her own, her partner’s, or society’s) also deserves scrutiny. Treatments that ended a pregnancy that were necessary to save a woman’s life were always permitted in Ireland.  We also know that there is no medical evidence to suggest abortion as a treatment for suicide or mental health problems, in fact quite the opposite. We know that post-abortive stress syndrome is a significant threat to women’s mental health.

It is our duty to call attention to these fallacies and carefully and respectfully steer the conversation back towards objective truths. Truths about what abortion is - the termination of the life of a human being - and what it is not. We know for example that abortion is not an evidence-based treatment for suicidal ideation. We know for example that abortion does not eliminate the pain of an infant’s life-limiting diagnosis for his or her mother and father.

We know that all of us at some stage in our lives will receive news of life limiting diagnoses for either ourselves or for our loved ones. While this will never be welcome news, we know that all human beings, regardless of their age or diagnosis, deserve respectful, end-of-life palliative and hospice care. We also know that meeting your baby and holding him or her in your arms is not accurately described as “torture.” We know that Ireland tops global statistics for excellence in maternal health.

Playing around with the meaning of the term “healthcare” is not a small matter of semantics. Abortion advocates are attempting to shroud abortion in the same positive humanitarian halo with which actual healthcare is rightly associated. Let’s challenge this misappropriation, arm ourselves with the facts and have the courage to add our voices to the conversation.