The Irish media is alight with discussions on abortion at the moment. An independent TD, Claire Daly has submitted a private members's bill seeking legislation to permit abortion in the case of foetal abnormality, so this is getting blanket coverage with lots of hard cases being resurrected to convince the public that abortion is the only compassionate and medical answer to such sad cases. While the government will vote the bill down, it usually does so when it comes to private members's bills from opposition TDs, the Minister for Health has indicated that the next Dail should deal with the issue of abortion, ie liberalise the law/ repeal the pro-life amendment to the Constitution. At the moment in Ireland a woman can have an abortion at any stage in the pregnancy if she can get two psychiatrists to confirm she is suicidal.
I note with interest that the Minister has suggested the change come after the next election - then, it is being said, the elected government will have a mandate to tackle the issue. Perhaps I am getting too cynical, but it seems to me it is not that at all. With the possibility of an election within the next eighteen months, perhaps sooner if the government falls (there are plenty of contentious issues at the moment that could well pull the rug from under the present administration), I doubt TDs will want to face the pro-life electorate. Indeed there may be a fear that the pro-abortion TDs may well lose their seats should there be a surge in the pro-life vote in response to a more liberal abortion law. Better push it beyond the election and if they get back in liberalise the law and then have four years or so for the electorate to forget. Such is the way of politics in this green and pleasant land.
Perhaps the pro-life electorate had better get their act together now and prepare for the next election. Time, I think, for pro-life people in the various political parties to dump their allegiance to that party and turn to pro-life candidates - not pro-life members of those parties, but a party or group that are pro-life. Remember the whip system in Ireland is draconian, and while individual TDs will profess to be pro-life (how often have I witnessed their piteous confession of faith in life at the doorstep?) but few will defy the whip and will do whatever the Leader requires, regardless of conscience.
Too many good, pro-life people have stood by party allegiance for too long even as those parties no longer adhere to the moral values of these people. The Civil War is over, so allegiance to a civil war side or the workers's struggle is no longer feasible when there is a new war, a war on life, going on. Mainstream political parties have taken the loyalty of their members for granted for too long knowing that, at the end of the day, regardless of what social policies they push through, when the party faithful stand in the booth they are loath to vote for anyone else, loyalty, history, habit are too ingrained to break: the faces are too familiar.
It's time for a rethink. As men and women we need to start looking at the real issues and acting accordingly. As St John Paul II reminds us: a nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope, it is a nation that has no future. If we want a future for Ireland, a humane future, then we had better act. This is not the time to retreat to the trenches.