Here is the speech given to the Irish parliament by the young Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton on why she no longer supports abortion. Ireland is currently considering legislation to legalize abortion. Creighton covers a number of important points in her speech. She addresses whether she is anti-woman for being against abortion, discusses how this is a human rights issues, and explains that as an elected official, it is her duty to exercise her freedom of conscience:
I’ve had people contact me in recent months condemning me for having a “moral” or ethical concern about abortion. Some demanded that I leave my morals or conscience aside in order to support abortion. Now I must say that I find this bizarre.
There is an emerging consensus in Ireland which suggests that having a sense of morality has something to do with the Catholic Church. It is automatically assumed that if you consult your conscience, you are essentially consulting with Rome. This is deeply worrying. It is a lazy way of attempting to undermine the worth of an argument, without actually dealing with the substance. This is not just a Catholic issue, any more than it is a Protestant or Muslim issue. This is not a religious issue. It is a human rights issue.
I wonder what one should consult when voting on a fundamental human rights issue such as this, if not ones own conscience? My personal view is that all I can do, when making a decision on life and death, and that is what we are considering here, is consult my conscience, which is based on my sense of what is right and what is wrong. What else can I consult? The latest opinion poll? The party hierarchy? The editor of the most popular newspaper?
I mentioned groupthink, which is a corrosive affliction in this country. We saw it in the Haughey era, we saw it during the Celtic Tiger era, and we see it on this question of abortion. It is easy to understand why people in positions of responsibility want thorny issues to simply disappear. It is far easier than risking conflict, unpopularity or worse; paying the price for speaking up…
Wouldn’t the country have been much better served in the 2000s, had more people on the Government benches, in academia, or in the media been prepared to raise their heads above the parapet? I am sure that there were many conscientious objectors who realised that what was happening was wrong, yet they all remained reticent to avoid the wrath of their colleagues, the public, their bosses, the media and so on. Conscience lost out, and the country suffered greatly.
We all have the right to conscientious objection. It is enshrined in Article 18 of the United Nations, Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states :
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion….”
I contend that this freedom of conscience is not just a right, but also a duty.