This is a comment posted on the Irish Times website in response to an article by John Waters titled ‘Bill a further step along road to industrial abortion’. The claim in the title was so stupid that one could only look stupid by addressing it, so I addressed what he had written on the Irish Constitution instead.
What John Waters has written about the Irish Constitution here is a load of cobblers. The Constitution of Ireland is no more and no less an ‘entity’ than a John Waters column. It is a legal document that reflects the balance of forces in Irish society at a certain point in time, and its subsequent interpretation and continued legitimacy also reflects the balance of forces in Irish society.
The idea that there was an ‘original logic’ to the Constitution, ‘aimed at building and protecting a social organism on the foundations of human nature’ is complete fantasy: in so far as the document addresses matters of human nature, it is a particular conception of human nature at stake: one informed by the dominant powers, including the religious powers, of a patriarchal capitalist society that viewed women as inferior. This is borne out, for example, by the fact that women were subsequently used as slave labour in Magdalene Laundries, with the approval of the great and good. Hence also Ireland’s draconian abortion laws.
The notion that the constitution is the ‘antithesis of individualism’ is the antithesis of truth. The constitution has substantial private property provisions. Its social provisions place an emphasis on charity, which is the privilege of the private individual. And it is rich indeed to claim that the liberalisation of abortion laws place ‘the State in control of each individual’s destiny and “rights”’: the State already places itself in control of each woman’s destiny by designating them as ‘mothers’ simply because they are pregnant, whether they want to be pregnant or not, whether they want to have a child or not, and threatening them with punishment should they seek to take control of their own destiny.
Very few men would want to be designated by the Constitution as ‘fathers’ simply on account of the contents of their scrotum and the potential that they might result in a child. Perhaps John Waters is one of them, but in a democratic society he can have no right to impose such a designation on anyone else, and the same ought to apply to women.