Abortion is probably the most controversial issue in Ireland. Debates are generally heated, find passionate, physician dramatic and often sensational. In this context, the L&H’s debate on Wednesday the 5th, on the motion of “This House Believes It Is Right to Kill an Unborn Child” was something of a damp squib.

The proposition made repeated use of the ‘kidney metaphor’. This is that if someone will die if they do not receive a transplant it would be nice if you gave them your kidney but you have no responsibility to do so. Likewise it would be good of you to help starving African children but you have no moral obligation to do so. Similarly, you have no moral obligation to carry a foetus in your womb.

The opposition based their arguments on emotional appeals to the house’s sense of morality. They argued that there is no difference between a foetus and a living child, so the pro-choice arguments could be used to justify killing children. Their arguments did stray into the sensationalist however, such as when Liam Gibson from the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, casually linked the pro-choice side with Nazi war criminals and said they had the same views as the current Tánaiste. Will Courtney continued the theme by graphically described the “dismemberment” piece by piece of a “child”, in “human abattoirs”. He claimed that the legalisation of abortion in America had led to “50 million dead babies” and began clicking his fingers, each click representing an abortion.

The Q&A that followed soon descended into complex philosophical technicalities on morality and the value of life. There was a lot of confusion and little insight. The brief exception was one man who pointed out that the debate was irrelevant because women could have abortions in the UK regardless of whether it was legal in Ireland.

See this debate in full on the L&H Facebook page.

Robert Nielsen