Irish Eighth Amendment

I kind-of get the feeling that there can’t be many people with this view, but I’ll write it and you can shoot me down in flames….

The background is that the Irish constitution was amended so as to recognise that a pregnant woman is effectively two lives, and to give them equal status under the law. This amendment effectively banned abortion in the state of Ireland. There are exceptions here, but I’m talking generally. The referendum, tomorrow, is on whether to repeal this amendment to the constitution.

The reason I am interested in this question is largely just because I take a keen interest in Irish affairs, although I live in the UK myself. So I might well have an interest, but I won’t be voting tomorrow.

So my view on this matter is that Irish women are, today, able to hop onto a plane and fly somewhere (nominally, to the UK) to get an abortion. So the current law is simply a matter of geography – an Irish woman in Ireland is bound by the law, but an Irish woman outside of Ireland isn’t. So I think the current law effectively says “if you wish to stay here, then you must keep your baby, but if you’re able to travel….”. So I’d argue that the law currently discriminates against people who aren’t able to travel. This could be for many reasons, including the obvious one of somebody’s ability to afford the cost of a flight and a private abortion. In that sense, we could see it as economic discrimination.

And even though someone might be able to travel, that’s far more onerous than going to a clinic in the next street, plus, of course, it doesn’t remove any soul-searching from the process. I’ve only ever experienced one pregnancy myself, and the baby was healthy and very much wanted, but I can imagine that other parts of the process must be far harder than getting on a plane. But I don’t see this issue as particularly critical to the debate. I’m more concerned that, under the current law, the Irish medical profession needs to be careful about “promoting” certain avenues over others – I know from my own situation that I’d expect full disclosure, so as to be able to come to the best decision. But today, resources such as the internet undermine this argument too.

Having decided that the current law is discriminatory, I would get rid of it – the issue becomes a no-brainer for me. It doesn’t really really matter what the content of that law might be, I think that we as a society need to use laws to make a level playing field, and not say to some women that they can have an abortion, and to other women that they can’t. I’d maybe be happy for there to be a further discussion, and maybe we’d discuss not just whether we’d prevent abortions, but how we’d prevent them without prejudice – if you say abortions are banned, then how do you stop somebody jumping on a plane and having one anyway? Is it reasonable, these days, for the state to even have a view? But this referendum is about repealing the Eighth.

The road to gun control

Like many of my fellow Europeans, I look on in disbelief at the USA, where a guy who has a beef with society can wreak such havoc. That there are such people seems to be a “given”, I suspect we have them everywhere, yet the USA will not take hard action to limit the amount of damage they can do. But frankly, I have no time for friends who’ll lament about how bad this situation is. The real question is what you do about it.

I think you need to split this question into two parts:

  1. what do you do about sales of new guns?
  2. what do you do about the guns that are already at large?

For the first of these questions, I don’t even think that the issue has anything to do with guns. If you ask about promoting gun sales, you’ll often hear the answer “NRA”, as if it doesn’t really matter what people think, but the NRA has decreed the rules. But no matter how powerful the NRA is, it doesn’t have a vote. Sure, it can fund (all) politicians’ campaigns, but it doesn’t have a say in its own right.

So I think if you want to push the legislators into taking action, then you need to limit the amount of pressure that can be exerted by groups such as the NRA. And, of course, you can’t just pick on the NRA – if you bring in new rules they have to be applied to all pressure groups. Politicians need to know that if they were to take an anti-gun stance, that their re-election pot won’t just evaporate. But right now, it’s not even clear that America wants gun control. We hear a lot about it in our [UK] media, but the UK knows only too well about extremely vocal minorities, and it’s not unkeard of to hear of media companies pandering to the whim of their audience.

But for that reason, I think you’re looking at the bigger issue of political funding. I haven’t really thought about how you’d do this, I don’t much have a preference, but the aim would be to have politicians unable to be bribed by pressure groups.

This, in turn, would take the NRA out of the equation, as an excuse for why gun legislation doesn’t happen. I mean, it could well be that America does want guns, but at least then the politicians have a free hand to reflect the views of their constituents.

To the second question, I’m afraid I see no solution. I have heard it said that some people carry arms so as to defend themselves from excessive behaviour by the state, I think that this was the rationale behind the Second Amendment in the first place. Even putting the legitimacy of this belief to one side, I think it is fair to say that you’re not going to persuade these people to give up their weapons. So I’d predict bloodshed.

Who knows? Maybe the argument comes full-circle and that’s why politicians don’t take action? Although I’ve never heard that view expressed.

I really think that, on that point, the genie is out of the bottle and there’s no going back. I despair for the USA.