There is a strange and sad irony playing out on these islands today.
Tuam cannot have escaped your attention. The unfolding story centres round a mother and baby home in the small County Galway town operated by the Bon Secours Sisters from 1925 – 1961. It is estimated that up to 800 human remains are buried in a sewerage system of children aging from 35 foetal weeks up to 3 years old. There is to be a forensic excavation of the site in an effort to locate, identify and recommit the remains of all of the children who are buried there. It is hoped that this will bring some comfort to the many women and families who lost children and have no record or grave.
These are deeply disturbing revelations. Mother and baby homes were a response to poverty and socio-religious stigma of children being born outside of marriage. While many women found a compassionate and Christian concern for the vulnerable, as with many institutions there were systemic failings and abuse. We need to understand the context and culture of the times, but there is no doubt that these women and babies could and should have been treated better in life and death.
The Irish times notes, that the response of the Catholic Sisters was ‘less than consistent with a Catholic ethos which emphasises respect for the person from conception to natural death, and in death’. This is correct. For any of us who call ourselves Christians, there is a place for lament and repentance for particular actions and inactions now and in the past.
Thankfully much of the stigma surrounding unplanned pregnancy has gone in society today, but the issues of poverty and the inhuman disposal of unwanted children remains. The Irish Times goes on to reference an ‘acknowledgement by this State of an inherent right to dignity of those children and to a respect for them in death’. This is the same State that championed the recent change in abortion law to remove the inherent right to dignity of all children by allowing them to be aborted up to 12 weeks in pregnancy for any reason. If like me you are angered and saddened by the events at Tuam then you will be likely be confused.
Today in Northern Ireland and across the UK, pro-abortion activists are laying the ground for a new twenty first century ‘Tuam’ and telling us it is progress. They are pushing for the decriminalisation of abortion via the removal of sections 58, 59 and 60 of the offences against the Person Act 1861. The draft legislation we have seen, would allow a woman to self-abort a baby at 39 weeks and conceal its body without any crime being committed. This is not safe for women or unborn children. It also means that any woman anywhere in the UK could recreate some of the offences committed at Tuam, or worse, in their own bathroom without impediment. The deliberate death and disposal of a human baby without record, without dignity. This is an offensive and graphic image that will be dismissed with faux-horror by many who support abortion. But this is the reality of abortion and part of the reason why criminal laws are important around the ending of human life and the disposal of human remains.
You cannot be outraged about the horrors of Tuam while advocating for the decriminalisation of abortion and we cannot give babies dignity in death without first giving them dignity in life.