Professor William Binchy appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on abortion yesterday. Professor Binchy, an expert in constitutional law, is one of the main architects of the pro-life clause of our Constitution. In his testimony to the committee, he defended the right to life of the unborn and challenged the idea that under our international law commitments, we must liberalise our abortion regime.
Human rights, he explained, are based on the inherent and equal worth of every human being. “Human beings have human rights, not because they are given by legislators or courts, but by reason of their humanity.” Commenting on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, he claimed that, if accepted, they would make lawful to take the life of a child on request, with no restriction as to reasons, and also where the child has a significant foetal anomaly. “If human rights are to have any meaning, one human being should not be entitled to choose to end the life of another, innocent and defenceless, human being. The idea that our law should authorise the taking of a child’s life with “no restriction as to reasons” is, frankly, abhorrent to any civilised society.”
Speaking of children with disabilities, professor Binchy remarked that “terminating the life of a disabled child because of the child’s disability is not consistent with respect for the child’s equal right to life.” Our society has been founded on the value that no one has the right to choose to hurt, let alone kill, another innocent human being – professor Binchy claimed -but the “right to choose” philosophy, fully embraced by the Citizens’ Assembly implies, the right to take the life of another human being, with “no restriction as to reasons”, on the basis of the supremacy of choice.
The international human rights treaties which Ireland has ratified do not provide for a right to abortion, according to the Trinity academic. If they were in conflict with the Irish Constitution they would not have been ratified. Any comment from the monitoring committees of the international treaties does not change the meaning of the treaties. Their members, Professor Binchy maintained, are earnest supporters of the “right to choose” philosophy and Ireland doesn’t have to change its Constitution to get it in line with their views.
Commenting on the submission of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, of which he was a member for two terms, he noted that if the proposals were implemented, they would involve abortion with little or no restrictions in practice, i.e. a regime of abortion on demand. “Throughout its Policy Document, the Commission never addresses the entitlement of children before birth to be protected from having their lives ended. It offers no reasons why such a profound discrimination against them should be proposed. Alarmingly, it presents no objections from a human rights perspective to late term abortions.”