On May 25, voters repealed Ireland’s abortion ban, which had been in place for 35 years. The Irish Times reported exit polls showed 68 percent voted “yes” on a referendum to repeal the ban and only 32 percent voted no.
The former law had essentially made abortion illegal, except when the mother’s life was in danger from her pregnancy. In light of the repeal passing, here are five predictions for our friends across the pond, based on statistics and experience.
1. More Moms Will Experience Mental and Emotional Pain
Based on the mantra that it’s “my body, my choice,” women in Ireland largely supported the referendum: 70 percent voted to repeal the ban. Unfortunately it’s women who will suffer the most emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. While studies that show women suffer mentally following an abortion were rare decades ago, they have been increasingly common and relevant.
In a study titled “Women Who Suffered Emotionally from Abortion: A Qualitative Synthesis of Their Experiences,” Patricia Coleman tried to capture the thoughts and emotions women experience following their abortions. As my colleague A.D.P. Efferson explained, “One interesting result was the increase in women seeking mental health care and prescription drug use pre- and post-abortion. Prior to their first pregnancy resulting in an abortion, 13 percent of those surveyed reported having visited a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor, compared to 67.5 percent who received mental health services after their first abortion.”
In a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, abortion was “tied to [a] sharp decline in women’s mental health.” The authors of the study wrote, “Results indicate quite consistently that abortion is associated with moderate to highly increased risks of psychological problems subsequent to the procedure.”
While it was once common to believe abortion was “only” harmful for the baby being aborted, it’s now obvious abortion has long-lasting and often devastating psychological effects on many women who choose it. Sadly, many women of Ireland who voted to repeal their country’s abortion ban will discover these negative results firsthand.
2. An Increase in Unintended Pregnancies
In 2016, 3,265 women living in Ireland sought abortion services in another European country. But that number that has declined every year for more than a decade until this year, the lowest it has been since 1980. To say that another way, every year that abortion has been illegal in Ireland, the number of women who sought abortion elsewhere in Europe peaked in 2001, then steadily declined for another 15 years.
Amazingly, the birth rate in Ireland hasn’t increased that much during that time. From 1916 to 2012, overall births only increased by approximately 8,000. By 2016, the overall birth rate had fallen, just as with every other developed nation, nearly all of which allow abortion. Clearly banning abortion did not force Irish women to have scads of children. In 2016, reports showed the number of teenage pregnancies had fallen a whopping 64 percent in 15 years.
This is likely to change over time. In the United States, which has allowed abortion on demand for several decades, half of all pregnancies are unintended and half of those end in abortion. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the U.S. unintended pregnancy rate dropped 18 percent between 2008 and 2011, to its lowest level in 30 years, likely due to the increase in abortion restrictions and overall decrease in abortions.
The opposite may well happen in Ireland. With abortion now readily available, the use of contraception may increase as it has here in the United States, but so will abortion and thus, possibly, unintended pregnancies and sexual promiscuity. Studies have found that abortion availability increases unintended pregnancies by encouraging riskier sexual behavior by providing a “fail-safe” to circumvent the natural consequences of sex.
It will take time, but over the course of the next few months and years, the availability of abortion will seep into couples’ subconscious ideas about sexuality, promiscuity, contraception, and pregnancy. Without abortion, all of those things bore consequences. Now, these consequences can be reduced to the parents of a child by killing the child.
Because of this, Ireland is likely to see a huge shift in contraception use and unintended pregnancies, particularly among millennials and younger generations.
3. Medical Advancement and Care May Decrease
One of the reasons the pro-life campaign in Ireland believed so strongly in “Saving the 8th,” as their slogan read, is because the abortion ban strengthened Ireland’s medical industry. While pro-choice Irish claimed abortion was medically necessary, the opposite had actually proven to be true.
Since abortion was not a legal option, Ireland became a world leader in medical care for women and babies. According to the Maternal Death Enquiry, Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby. The maternal death rate is extremely low compared with the United Kingdom and United States, both of which boast abortion on demand.
Ireland’s law, which at first seemed restrictive, helped neonatal medicine flourish because there was no other option—the baby must be saved. The survival rate of babies born prematurely rose. For example, little Ailbhe Byrne was born in 2012 at Holles Street Maternity Hospital at 23 weeks of gestation and weighing less than one pound! Saving her life was a record-breaking achievement at the time. Today she is four years old and doing well.
Widely available abortion may decrease this focus on neonatal and maternal care. If more and more women simply decide to abort their difficult pregnancies, Ireland may eventually lose their impetus for developing such a robust medical focus.
4. More Babies Will Die, Of Course
Because abortion has been legal for so long in America, it’s almost hard to imagine this culture without it. Many no longer even flinch at the word or even the description of this ghoulish act. Still, that doesn’t change that abortion is murder and a particularly gory kind. The fact that Ireland has always had an abortion ban means they have yet to fully realize this fact.
So far, Ireland’s repeal only addresses first-trimester abortions. Here is a description from the World Health Organization, ironically entitled, “Safe abortion.”
An abortionist uses metal rods or medication to dilate the woman’s cervix and gain access to the uterus, where the baby resides. The abortionist then inserts a suction catheter to vacuum the child from the womb. The suction machine has a force approximately 10 to 20 times the force of a household vacuum cleaner. The procedure is completed as the abortionist uses a sharp metal device called a curette to empty the remains of the child from the mother’s uterus.
While it’s not nearly as traumatizing as a second- or even third-trimester abortion sounds, a first trimester abortion still causes a baby with a beating heart to feel pain and die. There is no such thing as a safe abortion, only a childless mother and a dead baby.
Also, let’s not pretend that just because this repeal didn’t cover second- and third-term abortions, Ireland won’t soon decide to allow those later. The likelihood of them stopping at first-trimester abortions, especially since the repeal passed with such a large margin, is small. Second-trimester abortions are particularly awful for a baby who has developed nerve endings, feels pain, and can recognize the sound of his mother’s voice. Abortion is cruel, inhumane, and demoralizing, both for mom and baby, and the citizens of Ireland will soon know this horrible truth.
5. Ireland’s Culture Will Degrade Its Respect for Life
This might seem like an obvious point, but it’s different than the loss of unborn babies. It’s hard to underestimate how big of a hit to its general culture of life Ireland will take now that they have legalized abortion. While much of the rest of the world has been slaughtering babies in utero, Ireland stood firm to defend the most defenseless amongst them. Now that that has changed, the rest of the defenseless in Ireland—the aged, the infirm, the mentally ill—will be next. That’s how it has happened everywhere else across the world. Abortion first, then other types of euthanasia.
Currently, it’s illegal in Ireland to assist with someone’s suicide, even with their consent. This carries a penalty of 14 years in prison. As the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other countries can attest, when a country is free to murder babies, the slope toward doing likewise to other people who seem ill, defenseless, or a burden is a lot more slippery. The same logic applies towards killing them as it does to killing the unborn.
In the United States especially, abortion paved the way to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Seven states now allow the latter here. The U.K. is arguably worse, what with cases like Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans—ill toddlers whose parents lobbied for medical care elsewhere and were denied despite offers across the world—because the culture of life in England has devolved so much.
The devaluation of life is not only clear in both the fact that Ireland voted to repeal this ban but how they reacted when it happened. Irish citizens came home in droves, voted to allow for their own people to devalue and demoralize other humans made in the image of God, then celebrated as if they had experienced a joyous event.
Devaluing life in all its stages, particularly that of the youngest and most defenseless among us, is not moral or joyful. As this act trickles down to other kinds of demoralizing laws, Ireland will soon discover, like the United States did long ago, it’s very hard to go back.