Anti-abortion activists with signs: "Vote NO to abortion on demand" © Brian Lawless
This Friday, the Irish are being called on to decide whether to legalize abortions in their country. With one of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the world, do the Irish really have women's concerns in mind??
Interviewer: The life of the unborn child is equated with the life of the mother in Ireland. The whole thing is enshrined in the Irish catch-all. But it also leads to the fact that even under great danger to the life of the mother an abortion is not possible. The law has existed since 1983. Several women have since died during pregnancy also because of it. From the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the law is called inhumane and degrading.
Germany is in principle discussing something similar at the moment, namely abortion law. The current state of affairs is that abortion of unborn children is a criminal offense in Germany, but it is not punished. How does the situation in Ireland differ from this??
Stephan Arras (pastor of the German-speaking Lutheran congregation in Dublin): In Ireland, of course, it's punished. Up to 14 years imprisonment threatened for abortion. And the degrading thing is that there is no way to have an abortion in Ireland, even if there is a medical indication, which means that thousands of women travel to England every year to have it done there. This is indeed degrading and also a certain problem for the Irish society.
Interviewer: The figures even speak of about ten women a day who travel to England just for the reason. Now one could actually say from the point of view of the protection of life from a Christian point of view that it is good that the Irish catch protects the unborn life. On the other hand, why is the United Nations so harshly critical of this??
Arras: I think the main problem with the current regulation is that it does not really take into account the concerns of women. In the case of an unwanted pregnancy resulting from rape, for example. There's also an example from the past, a rape by soldiers. The girl later died trying to have an abortion herself. The fact that women are not assisted is probably the biggest problem of the current solution.
Interviewer: Now the vote is on this one specific question: should the ban on abortion be removed from the Irish constitution? So is this a larger social ie that's behind it??
Arras: It is basically a very complex story. Actually, the vote is only about whether to remove the Constitutional Amendment. This does not officially indicate how the Irish state will deal with abortion in the future. Of course, one can guess that if it is then no longer in the catch-all, but becomes a general law, that then the law will be formulated the way the abortion advocates want to see it. That's why the argument is very emotional.
I think it's also a dispute that still has to do with the tradition of the Catholic Church or with supremacy. We are, after all, in a process of emancipation from the Catholic Church. Incidentally, the vote on same-sex partnerships in 2015 demonstrated this very well. At that time, the Catholic Church took a very clear stand against it – as did the other Christian churches, by the way – which triggered a very defiant "Now more than ever" among the population. The majority of people voted for same-sex partnership, that is, for legalization. I have the impression that this is also the case at the moment with the abortion ie.
Interviewer: One must also understand a little bit the history of the country. The position of the Church in Ireland is a special one. The country is traditionally Catholic. The reputation is crumbling, however, as there have been hundreds of thousands of documented cases of abuse and mistreatment in recent decades. As we look ahead to 2018, how do the Irish feel about religion and their church??
Arras: It must be said once again that the Catholic Church and also the other Christian churches are keeping out of this current discussion about abortion in public. One does not find posters on which decidedly the Catholic church votes for a "no". There you have learned. These times are over.
People don't listen to the church anymore. The Catholic Church in particular is in absolute crisis. I know the Archbishop of Dublin very well here. We get along well and he is very open. He says the big problem with the Catholic Church is that through all the years of English oppression, they were the institution that basically preserved Irish identity. As a result, the Catholic Church has had a very good reputation. After the founding of the state, it led to the Catholic Church being the moral authority in Ireland and that is why there used to be no need for a law on abortion at all, but the Catholic Church said there was no such thing. Item.
The problem with the Catholic Church, as far as I understand it, is that they froze and didn't see the changes in society and then the abuse stories happened. The problem was that the Catholic Church did not deal with it openly, but simply covered it up for a long time. This has destroyed trust among the population. Of course, it is very difficult to regain destroyed trust again.
Now when a moral ie comes up, like the one around abortion, people don't listen to the Catholic Church, well a large percentage anyway. There are, of course, still very, very many people who are deeply religious and who see very clearly that a fetus already represents a life and who absolutely follow the Catholic Church in this opinion.
Interviewer: As a Christian, as a Lutheran pastor, how do you actually feel about this? You'd have to be in a bit of a quandary, wouldn't you??
Arras: Yes and no. Of course I am not in favor of saying: "My belly belongs to me, and if I don't want the child, then it can be thrown in the garbage, so to speak."Because it must be said very clearly that life begins very, very early and a small human being is already very developed in the body of the mother.
I would always try it with Jesus, who got the respective humans into the view and not all over a lump licked. I think that's what Jesus would do if he were here today. He would look at each individual case and there we would be relatively close to what we have in Germany, namely that there is an obligation to counsel and that one has the goal, of course, to prevent an abortion during counseling. But there are cases where one can say with a clear conscience and for good reasons that in this case it is the only possible way.
Interviewer: How do you think the vote will turn out?
Arras: I would guess a close "yes". So for the cancellation of the abortion law.
The interview was conducted by Renardo Schlegelmilch.