I write as the father of a daughter, Siobhán, who lived only 26 days, during which she was given exemplary nursing care in Galway Regional Hospital. The same excellent level of care was given to my wife. I also write with a copy of Bunreacht na hÉireann open in front of me.
I urge the Assembly to retain the 8th Amendment to the Constitution for three basic reasons.
- Ethical. Unborn children are human beings. The current discussion in the higher courts has described the unborn as a “human person”. The recent rise in utilitarian ethics (e.g. by Peter Singer) has suggested someone does not become a “person” until they are considered useful. This definition is fraught with danger as the conferring of personhood is left to some third party, which would be quite repugnant to the Constitution. Just because we can take someone’s life does not mean we should.
- Legal. Various proposed changes to our Eighth Amendment have used comparisons with other countries. These international analogies should instead be warning signs. Notably, UK law has enabled over 90% of unborn Down Syndrome children to be aborted. Other European countries (e.g. Denmark and Iceland) are actively pursuing the elimination of all Down Syndrome cases. Even more regrettably the life of healthy unborn children in many such countries are being taken at the whim of a father or mother.
- Personal. Our daughter was as human as we are. She deserved the State’s protection of her right to life.