PRIME TIME DEBATE: On the humanity of the unborn child [CC]

Niamh Uí Bhriain, we saw there in film, the
five-day-old embryo implanted in the womb — when it’s the size of a poppy seed,
doesn’t have a heartbeat, any brain waves, doesn’t have any of the features we associate with
being human — many people would ask how that cluster
of cells could possibly be seen as a human being with a constitutional right
to life. Well, I think what’s very evident from the VTR — and it was just beautiful
to see that, to see the baby kicking and moving, to see the little hands and feet,
that little face, the nose, the eyes, and ears —I think that anybody is very
familiar with that now. You know, nowadays when you get pregnant, it’s shared on
Facebook, and everyone’s looking at your scan, your 9 or 10 or 12 week old baby.
I think it’s very evident to everyone that the unborn baby is a human being.
I would, let me — I’m asking about the five-day-old embryo. We
will jump, we will get to the 12 weeks, but at that early stage, we heard it’s the size of a poppy seed. Well again, I suppose that’s the question, then: when does
life begin? You know, really, science and medicine are united on this. They’re unanimous. If you look at Langman’s Embryology, something that every medical
student studies, they all come to their — or any of their medical textbooks — they
all come to the same conclusion: that life begins at conception. Actually, Peter
Boylan, who is campaigning for a yes in this referendum, said on The Late Late
Show that life began at conception. So just as your VTR pointed out, really, life
is a continuum after that. You know the unborn child at five days, at 15 days, or
12 weeks, at six months, at nine months — But we’re talking about, I suppose, when it becomes a human being. When it’s a fetus, then
becomes a human being. Do you make no distinction between a 5 day embryo and a 24
week old? Well, here’s why I don’t, because when do we become a human being? Because
were once an embryo, Miriam — so was Claire. So was I. We were all once a fetus in the
womb, we were all once — it just means “little one.” We were all
that little person struggling to come into the world, fighting for a right to
life, and we were all protected by the Eighth Amendment. And I think that is
something that is at the heart of this debate: we are only debating the right to
life of unborn children because they are too tiny and defenceless to speak
for themselves. One more question, Niamh: You are equating, I suppose, the rights of the five-day-old embryo with the rights of a mother. Well,
if you’ll just let me finish the point — what I am saying is that we were all once
that embryo, and we were all deserving of protection. And without
that protection, what we are saying is that the strong can punish and
can kill the weak and defenceless, and I don’t think that’s a good reflection of
what our society should be. But should that five day old embryo have equal rights, for
instance, to the right to life of a mother? I don’t think their rights
to life come into conflict, and that’s a key point in this referendum, you know,
abortion campaigners kind of pit women against unborn children, but in reality,
that’s not the case. Our laws should protect both of them, and it can protect
both of them. Claire, first of all, react to that point there. Well, I
mean it’s a hard one to react — I mean, I think this issue really is…look it: unborn
life obviously has a value, nobody is saying that it doesn’t have a value, but
the issue at stake here is is that value equivalent to the life of a fully born
woman, who maybe has other children, who has other problems going on in her
life, and who decides? What your video didn’t show is that that embryonic life
is attached to a woman, and that the woman’s life, and all of her objectives
and desires, if you like, are intrinsically tied up with that unborn life, so when — I’m sorry, Niamh, I didn’t interrupt you — so when we’re saying the balance has
been wrong by the Eighth Amendment because, I suppose, what we call
prenatal life has a value, but it’s not the same — okay,
let me ask you a few questions because I did ask Niamh a few questions, just to be fair, so we
saw on film there, at twelve weeks, with the scans — they’re
extraordinary these days — it does have arms and legs, it’s like a tiny human being, it
does have a heartbeat, even has the essential features of a human being.
Surely it is a human being. But I think she explained very very clearly that it
doesn’t have the senses of a fully fledged human, it can’t survive without
its mother, it can’t be — well even born babies can’t survive
without their mother, we need to look after them. Yet they are viable,
independent life — so the issue is is somewhat abstracted, if you like, because
it cannot be separated from the woman who is carrying it, and what’s your alter —
if I can finish the point, so, if we look at an embryo or a fetus separate to the
woman who’s carrying it, and we recognize in many very real instances, where a
woman faces catastrophic difficulties with her
health, with her life, maybe with her finances, she could be an abusive
relationship, and she feels she cannot continue with that pregnancy, if you’re
saying that her rights are equal — equal — to a fetus that’s incapable of surviving
without her, what do you do for her? Do you say that she’s forced to continue with
that pregnancy? When, then, Claire Daly, is the precise
moment that you believe the fetus becomes a human being with the right to life of
its own? Well, l I suppose international human rights law would recognize that, upon birth, the law kicks in on birth, but it’s not it’s not up to me to decide.
There is no agreement in society — okay I think [inaudible] — I think it is extraordinary
to hear anybody, let alone a legislator, say that the baby does not have a right
until they are born. I think that is deeply shocking for most Irish people
who are listening to that, and I think most Irish people would also be deeply
shocked if they realized that in this bill — in this bill that Simon Harris has
put forward — head four allows for abortion right up to viability, allows the baby to
be killed right up to viability — let me say this: it is wrong to try to pit women
against their babies. What the law should do is to protect both of them, and I
think it’s very strange, too, that as a socialist you are coming in here to
defend Fine Gael’s bill, which says to women that if they’re in an economic
crisis, “We won’t help you, we won’t give — we will only give you abortion.” That’s not a good solution.
Okay, you’re talking here about balancing rights, so let’s say we take
the 12 week old fetus, and we’ve all seen scans of our own babies — arms, and
legs, very emotional — but you do have to balance rights here, so how do you
balance that right with the right of a fourteen-year-old girl who’s raped, who’s
distraught at being raped, Niamh, and wants to terminate. How do you balance
that right with the right of the 12 week old fetus? Absolutely, there are difficult
cases, and I know people who have been in those very difficult cases,
and I know one person in particular who was brought by the state for an abortion
when she was 13, and who now says that abortion caused her
more damage. Okay, but say a 14 year old who wants to terminate? You asked me to discuss
the case, Miriam, so I’m doing that, but let me say this: this bill is not about
that, this bill this bill is about legalizing abortion for any reason at
all, until the 12th week of that baby’s life, and then it’s about
legalizing abortion on very broad grounds to six months, up to the
sixth month of pregnancy — the point is that there are many different reasons,
and each of those reasons is unique to the position of the woman who finds
herself in that situation, and many of us, and many women out there, it’s a normal
part of pregnancy that people miscarry in early pregnancy, and what they
discharge from that miscarriage is really like a heavy period — it doesn’t
look anything like a human being. It can’t react like a human being, much
of its instincts are reflexes, it doesn’t have a heart — let me finish the point — [inaudible] The law that is being proposed
protects and recognizes the interests of fetal life by recognizing
that as the fetus develops — [inaudible]— Can I just say, Claire, that you show extraordinary insensitivity to women who suffer miscarriages, many of whom are extremely
traumatized and upset with the loss of their baby — not their fetus, but their
baby — and I think we need to understand that mothers and babies can and should
be protected, and what this bill seems to do is to legalize the killing of unborn children
for any reason at all up to 12 weeks, up to six months then on very broad
grounds. We can do better than that as a society. I think — I think in this day
and age, abortion is a barbaric and medieval answer to crisis pregnancies. We should do better than that and vote no. You’re absolutely right that many women who experience miscarriage suffer the equivalent of a bereavement,
maybe somebody late — gets pregnant late in life, and that was their last
chance to have a baby, and they are utterly bereaved by that, but the point
that you’ve touched on, which you miss in this whole campaign, is that that value
is linked to its mother’s aspirations and the woman’s aspirations in this
situation, and people making the decisions about
their own body are the women themselves, and — But I think it’s very evident that you just
don’t have any regard for the right to life of the child at all, and I believe
that we can protect both mother and baby, that we should do our very best for most
both mother and baby. I think abortion is a cop-out, it’s a
symptom that we have failed women, and I think that what this
government is doing is telling Irish women, “You know what? If you’ve got a
crisis in pregnancy, you are on your own. Instead of helping you, we simply offer
you an abortion.” I don’t think that’s good. But you’re protecting nobody.
Everyday women are faced with crisis pregnancies, and everyday Irish women are
deciding to terminate their pregnancies, as are many of them deciding to keep their babies. Repealing
the 8th amendment won’t change that. It’s the only way in which those who —
Thank you both very much, and we’ll leave it there tonight — It’s the
only way you can respect all opinions, to be honest — Niamh Uí Bhriain and Claire, thank you both very much for coming in tonight.

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