It is now 2013, and groups such as Women on Web no longer ship home abortion kits to addresses in the Republic of Ireland. Instead they suggest identifying a suitable address in Northern Ireland for delivery, requiring that their customer make a trip to collect. Customs interceptions have decreased as a result: they seized 671 in in 2010 and 635 in 2011. Does this mean that women are no longer performing abortions alone, isolated, and with a threat of prison sentence should they dare seek medical help?
I used Google trends to chart the popularity of searches for 'abortion pill' in England, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland:
As a nation we're consistently more likely to be searching for information on abortion pills than are the citizens of Scotland and England. Northern Ireland spikes from highs to lows, a function of its lower population more so than rapid cultural change. And the point that must be emphasized is that increased customs seizures have not reduced this desire for knowledge. If anything it has grown.
Ironically named pro life groups have constructed a grotesque façade around these shores. They strive for approval by presenting us as a nation without need or interest in abortion when a dozen women a day travel for exactly this purpose. They say abortion does not happen on this hallowed island despite potentially thousands of home abortion kits crossing the Irish sea annually. They claim we value the health of people but block legislation requested by doctors. They feign compassion for women while forcing on those with unviable pregnancies the indignity of leaving their country for another, where the pro lifer's UK based compatriots will harass, throw condoms and shout insults. They paint themselves as the voice of the Irish majority when polls and referendums disagree and their followers are found mainly in the US Bible Belt. This approach grants them the appearance of piety. Its cost is the ability of the Irish to have a mature conversation on abortion.
What can we make of this favouring of false impression over reality? Of prioritising an appearance of conforming to their own rules over compassion? Why is there no interest and in some cases antipathy to providing sex education, easy access to contraception and childcare, or shaping a society which discriminates less against single mothers, or anything else that's likely to actually reduce unwanted pregnancies?
As an atheist I'm likely to feel self-conscious when leaning upon Christian writing, but it's hard to find a more apt text than Matthew 23:13:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.