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Repealing the Eighth

May 26, 2018 (1,528 words)

Yesterday voters in Ireland overwhelming decided to roll back the Eighth Amendment to their constitution, originally passed in 1983, and remove the restriction it had placed on abortion. In dramatic fashion the Irish people have finally shed the last vestige of their once-proud Catholic heritage, and joined the rest of the civilized world in allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy if she chooses to do so, no questions asked. Oh, happy day.

With the June 2017 election of a gay man as Prime Minister, and the 2015 vote in another referendum to permit same-sex marriage, one can confidently say that everything is now up-to-date on the Emerald Isle.

In responding to the landslide results in favor of repeal, the Prime Minister announced that Ireland wants a modern constitution for a modern country. And what could possibly be better than being modern? As we all know, fresh new ideas are always superior to the dusty old ones.

The outcome of this contentious question was never really in doubt, though, was it? When the issue is framed as a matter of personal freedom, in this case with respect to a woman making her own medical decisions without interference from government or religion, how can anyone expect to trump that rationale in today’s world?

In the days leading up to the tumultuous vote, one anti-abortion leader opposed to repeal summed up her advocacy with this short slogan: “Stop killing children.” In the immediate aftermath of the final tally, another such leader was quoted as saying, “The struggle to defend the most vulnerable has not ended today, it’s just changed.”

And change it must, since this election proved once again and beyond a shadow of a doubt that continuing to stress the dignity of all human life, and the gruesomeness of the procedure itself, is clearly not getting pro-life advocates anywhere.

…the need to change tactics.

The seismic shift that has occurred in recent years regarding intimate conduct of a sexual nature is not any sort of overnight development. It is not a result of the swinging 1960s. The emphasis on “freedom” that fuels these changes is a hallmark of the “classical liberalism” that long ago replaced Catholicism as the preferred operating system throughout the Western world.

The emancipation of the individual from authority, law, and tradition at the heart of classical liberalism has always meant there is no higher authority than individual conscience. Adapting to this new paradigm meant the purpose of government switched from protecting the common good, to promoting maximum freedom for the individual.

Another casualty of the paradigm shift was a regard for religious belief, which stubbornly hewed to the idea that an objective moral order should guide human affairs. Such quaint notions have lately been unceremoniously ushered off the main stage and denied any role in determining social norms.

This simple explanation may not appeal to academics, research scholars, or other professional commentators who get paid by the word, but don’t let their bias interfere with improving your own grasp of the situation.

But how does such an admittedly facile observation translate into a different strategy for those who wish to turn back the alarming trend of legal infanticide? Well, that is a bit more complicated.

First we must recognize this battle is not only a test of wills with those who feel that “women deserve a choice.” It is a test of all our wills. We all now carry the belief that we can have things exactly as we wish them to be, in many different areas of our lives. Reproductive choice just happens to be an area some of us old folks feel is not prudent to pursue.

But the principle of getting what we want in this world without outside interference – and without concern for how our advancement may impact those around us – dominates and guides the thought process of every modern voter, young and old alike, in every modern country around the world.

… getting what we want, without outside interference.

How did we arrive at such a thorny, anti-social summit? This is a complicated question with many different answers. I would submit that unfettered capitalism, which oh-by-the-way has thrived via the ideology of “classical liberalism,” is largely to blame.

Previously we commoners were encouraged to live according to an agreed-upon moral code, by political and religious leaders who routinely referenced that code without fear of reprisal. Through free will our independent individual conscience was ultimately meant to conform to this code through the application of our practical reason. This was known in philosophical circles as “choosing to do the right thing.”

But those pushing a secular, monetary agenda rejected the notion of morality as obsolete, primarily because it interfered with their grandiose project of monetizing the desires of average citizens. This selfish reorienting of society’s focus was achieved without noticeable backlash, as the body politic was predictably smitten with the resultant increase in its standard of living. Free will was thus untethered from practical reason.

The rejection of morality for monetary reasons simultaneously led to and was fueled by a widespread rejection of sexual restraint, and a mainstream approval of sexual license.

Oh, sure, this license may have initially been introduced into the culture by libertines who were clearly devoid of any sense of modesty, but who harbored no particular interest in the economic implications of their wanton behavior. And such scandal may have initially been limited to the upper echelon of social climbers, as it carried with it a certain cache as a sophisticated demonstration of free-thinking.

But the gravitational pull of sexual license was quickly incorporated into day-to-day operations by the results-oriented business community, which has never been interested in intellectual pretensions. It was pragmatically employed as the surest path to increasing sales among the proletariat.

Savvy marketers began utilizing highly developed psychological techniques to manipulate average people whose resolve was already weakened, and herd them into patterns of conspicuous over-buying based on “want” rather than “need.”

Ignoring sexual restraint and promoting sexual license has proven to be an important adjunct to our consumer economy. It’s been mighty good for business, but sometimes biology steps in and complicates matters. Abortion is the back-up plan when our sexual proclivities go awry and Mother Nature threatens to throw a wrench in the works.

This is why abortion has received mainstream acceptance, and is in fact being actively promoted as a straightforward “medical procedure.” If only the Irish people who enthusiastically cheered yesterday’s outcome had even the slightest awareness of the economic drivers involved.

… a gruesome medical procedure that is darn good for business.

Sexual license has not just been good business for the abortionists, who are making out like bandits. It’s also been a boon for all those who are able to generate increased profits from a large contingent of unencumbered women flooding the workforce. And from equally large numbers of women who have been unleashed on the world as uber-consumers.

Yes, I realize this runs counter to the approved narrative. Women want rewarding careers, rather than being stuck at home managing a meager household budget, forced to interact with little people who mumble and droll and poop all day long. (Men no longer want to be stuck supporting such an arrangement, either.)

As if being in the workplace is so magical, so grand. As if the world of work for the average male wage-earner is anything more than paid drudgery.

Pro-life advocates might want to rethink their strident calls for reversing the legal approval of this tragic, corrosive plague. Ultimately it’s not a question of making abortion illegal. It’s much more a matter of converting hearts and minds so that women decide not to choose abortion of their own free will.

And even more importantly, it’s a matter of convincing both men and women that sexual activity should be more than an exceedingly enjoyable form of entertainment when indulged in by consenting adults.

Attempting to re-introduce the latter counter-cultural concept will no doubt generate some serious flak from the cognoscenti. Our opinion makers have managed to command the spotlight by asserting we are nothing but highly advanced animals. Our biological urges must be met, they tell us, if we are to avoid an “unhealthy repression” and go on to achieve full “self-actualization.”

But there is another way to view all this. Meaning there is another way to think about what we should be doing with our bodies, and with all our sexual energy.

To the sixty-six percent of Irish voters who repealed their Eighth Amendment yesterday, here’s a piece of unsolicited advice: Start consulting sources of information that do more than unabashedly flatter your predilections and cater to your every whim, often while trying to sell you something in the process.

As to whether or not your choices and preferences are something to be proud of, here’s a hint: if one of you feels the need to discard the precious fertilized egg she is carrying inside her womb, the two of you are probably conducting yourselves in an inappropriate manner.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
May 26, 2018

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