The Bad Luck of the Irish

By: Daniel Nardini

Imagine that you live in a country where the laws against abortion are so restrictive that no abortion can be performed even to save the life of the mother. Welcome to the Republic of Ireland. This was proven just a few weeks ago when an Indian lady named Savita Halappanavar had a miscarriage. In most other countries, an abortion would have been performed to save her life. This did not happen in Ireland. Both mother and child were left to die by the doctors. Since Savita was a legal resident of Ireland, she was denied the same thing as all Irish women have been denied—the right to an abortion to save her life. Now remember this was to save her life. Women in Ireland are not even allowed to have an abortion in cases of rate or incest—never mind abortion on demand. In 1992, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that an abortion can be permitted to save the life of the mother. However, the powerful Roman Catholic Church has prevented any attempt at ratifying a law to make this legally clear. Many Irish law makers have said that this is a “gray area.” No, since there is no law to make it legal, then abortion for any reason still is illegal period.

No amount of legal mumbo jumbo can change this. But personally, in my view Ireland is in too many ways a religious theocracy just like the Islamic Republic of Iran. If this sounds like a bit of a stretch, I should point out that Ireland still has active blasphemy laws. The Irish Constitution and the Defamation Act of 2006 allows the government to fine and jail all those who say anything bad about religion (in this case, especially the Roman Catholic Church which helped sponsor this law). Almost immediately, the organization Atheist Ireland wrote and published online all kinds of articles and cartoons that challenged the blasphemy laws. So far, the Irish government has done nothing to prosecute Atheist Ireland. But now the Irish government is in a quandary about how to pursue the blasphemy laws while at the same time protecting freedom of speech. The two cannot go together. Likewise, the pro-abortion forces in Ireland have gotten louder about at least permitting abortion to save the life of the mother in case of a life or death emergency.

I should also point out that there is persecution of the Roma (gypsies) in Ireland. Although to be fair, this is a problem in many other parts of Europe as well. There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church is resisting any change to its monopoly on power in the functioning of the state. There are a growing number of Irish who want to not only change the abortion and blasphemy laws in Ireland, but who want an end to the Church’s hold on Irish politics and society. Ireland is one of the last countries in Europe where there is no separation of church from state. There are many Irish who realize that having one religious institution in charge of the state means there is no total freedom and rule of law. Sadly, a majority of Irish still believe that the Church should be officially sanctioned and have control over most (in this case 92 percent) of all the schools in Ireland and complete and total influence over all aspects of Irish society. It is tragic that so many Irish have not reconciled their strong, zealous religious beliefs with their civil liberties. Talk about the luck of the Irish!

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