Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign wrote an article for TheJournal.ie yesterday, in which she voices her opposition to abortion legislation. Unsurprisingly, the article is largely fallacious and shows women nothing but contempt and a complete lack of respect.

Here is  my response.

“There are no clinical markers for suicide. It is not something which can be predicted with any degree of certainty. Yet we are expecting psychiatrists to carry out this test accurately…”

By this logic, I can assume that Sherlock feels that when a professional diagnoses a person outside of pregnancy (say, one of the many men and women in Ireland who take their own lives) with suicidal intent, that doctor’s opinion should be assumed to have some sort of “degree of uncertainty”. After all, “there are no clinical markers for suicide,” so why should we trust any diagnosis of suicidal intent, right? Or should we just let suicidal people kill themselves so we can get an accurate result and find out if they were really suicidal?

Absurdity aside, I’m sure Sherlock would agree with me in saying that we should trust doctors and their patients to diagnose and work through suicidal intent, and that, obviously, we should not just take a wait-and-see approach when someone presents with suicidal intent. Assuming she does agree with this, why does she feel that suicidal intent in pregnant women is different to – and should be approached differently to – non-pregnant suicidal people?

If someone presents with suicidal thoughts, that person must be treated with trust. The person must be assumed to be telling the truth, so the situation can be worked out. A wait-and-see approach cannot be taken if someone is suicidal.

“There is no evidence to show that abortion treats suicide ideation. This has been accepted by many on the pro-choice side of the debate.”

This is a strawman argument; an argument somewhat “invented” by anti-choice people and presented in a manner that implies someone actually said that it is a treatment for suicidal ideation. Nobody ever said that an abortion will “cure” a person of suicide ideation, and to my knowledge, nobody ever said that it will not cure it, either. To say such is to misrepresent reality.

The point that the pro-choice side are trying to make is something like this: If someone has cancer, and is depressed and/or suicidal because of their tumour, removing the tumour will take away the main source of that person’s suicidal intent, and help them recover and begin to get back to living a full life with their family and friends. But the removal of the tumour is not a cure for the intent, nor is it ever considered to be. There is more – a lot more – to helping someone work through mental illness or suicidal intent.

Part of treatment for mental distress is to remove the stressed person from the stressor. If an unwanted pregnancy is the stressor causing suicidal intent, then that stressor should be removed.

The anti-choice side are being completely misrepresentative when they say that “abortion is never a treatment for suicidal intent”: you cannot necessarily treat a mental health issue with a physical intervention. There’s a whole lot more to it, and for anti-choice people like Sherlock to imply that someone said abortion is a treatment for suicidal intent, is a complete misrepresentation not only of the reality the pro-choice side are trying to get out, but of medical practice itself.

Following this, Sherlock then goes on to use the “floodgates” fallacy.

“In truth, these psychiatrists are well aware that once this ground is legislated for, there will be no way to control or regulate it.”

I’d like to find out how she knows what psychiatrists are thinking. Either Sherlock has mastered the skill of telepathy, or she’s jumping to conclusions. I’m pretty sure it’s not the former, if you ask me.

There seems to be an obsession lately with abortion laws in other countries, including the UK and USA, and anti-choice people try to use these statistics to sway their argument. Sherlock states that 60,000 abortions took place in three years after legislation was introduced in California. Another one that often comes out is that 200,000 abortions take place in the UK each year.

Anti-choice people are using these figures to imply that Ireland will have tens or hundreds of thousands of abortions taking place yearly, but they conveniently leave out facts such as populations of the countries, the numbers of women of child-bearing age, economics, healthcare systems, other legislation, and so on. Take for example, the Czech Republic, which has abortion allowed for mental health reasons yet has a lower abortion rate than the UK. Why are anti-choice supporters quick to ignore abortion laws in other countries?

Ultimately, the number of abortions taking place in whatever country is a pointless argument that distracts from the real crux of the matter: a woman should be allowed to have an abortion if she needs one.

If no woman in a country needs an abortion, so be it. If every single woman in a country needed an abortion, so be it. By pointing out the numbers of abortions in other countries, anti-choice people are effectively stating that there should be a cap on the number of abortions allowed, and once that cap is reached, nobody else can have an abortion, even if she desperately needs it.

Having made full use of the pointless rhetoric about floodgates and stuff, Sherlock then goes on to use it as a basis for her next fallacy.

“We will be creating a statutory basis in Irish law for what may be a direct and intentional termination of an unborn child’s life.”

Note how Sherlock uses the words “may be”. This is because for her unfounded conclusion about “direct and intentional termination” to actually be true in the way she means it, her previous speculation that abortion will be uncontrollable must first be true.

Moving on. This direct and intentional statement is more old rhetoric from anti-choice lobbyists. They use cognitive dissonance to trick themselves into believing that abortion is not abortion if the foetus’s death is “unintentional”. Newsflash: a termination in this sense is an abortion, whether or not it’s direct or intentional or whatever.

If an abortion will save someone’s life (it could be threatened by suicidal intent, infection, ectopic pregnancy, etc.) then the intention is to remove the foetus to save the life of the mother. You can’t save someone’s life with an abortion and then pretend that you didn’t “intend” to end the life of the foetus.

“There is no obligation on the Government to legislate in this way. Under the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the ABC Case, we are obliged to bring clarity to the law.”

Again, Sherlock is wrong. Regardless of obligation, legislation is the only way to provide clarity.

The 1983 amendment to the Constitution that puts the life of a foetus on par with that of the mother is exactly why we ended up with A, B, C, and X. In the X Case, the Supreme Court basically said “yes, they’re on par, but not when the mother’s life is in danger, and an abortion should be allowed”.

In order to clarify the law, as ECHR ruled, we must pass legislation. Remember, the law that exists on this matter is Constitutional law, Offences Against the Person Act (1861), and the Supreme Court judgement. Everything is at odds with everything else, and there needs to be legislation to clear it up. Saying that no legislation is needed and clarity can be found in the Medical Council Guidelines is ridiculous.