Update. I tweaked this a little to make it clearer that it was the idea behind the law I was criticising and not the lawyer.

Irrelevant? Really?

The right to life of Miss D’s unborn child continues until it is dead, the High Court heard yesterday. The courts cannot engage in “a measuring exercise” about the capacity of the child prior to birth, a lawyer representing the unborn said. “This is a live foetus, that is the beginning and end of it, and the fact it has no brain and cannot survive after birth is irrelevant,” James Connolly, SC, said.

He’s the lawyer who is arguing for that side, so he has to say something, but the idea behind what he says is peculiar. The fact that it has no brain and cannot survive after birth is irrelevant. Is it? To whom? On what grounds? How could it be irrelevant to, for instance, the person who has to give birth to it? How could that be anything other than, precisely, relevant? About as relevant as any fact could be.

Mr Connolly, who was appointed by the Attorney General last week to represent the rights of the unborn in the D case, said the right to life of Miss D’s baby was entitled to protection under the Constitution. The Constitution, he submitted, did not permit the courts to measure the quality or duration of life of an unborn. Miss D’s baby has the same rights between its birth and its death as any other child under the Constitution.

Did he say that? Or did the reporter get it wrong? If he did say that, it must have been a slip, because ‘Miss D’s baby’ is not born yet, and that is the whole point.

This business of refusing to measure quality or duration of life is the heart of the matter, of course. It’s interesting because it can sound like the moral high ground, but in fact it’s cruel and punitive and coercive. It’s cruel to say ‘No you may not measure or evaluate your quality of life and decide to end it if it is nothing but intolerable suffering with no hope; no, you must stay alive whether you want to or not because we say so.’ It’s also cruel to say ‘No you may not evaluate the quality of life of your foetus; no, you must let nature take its course so that you can watch it die as an infant rather than ending its futile gestation because we say so.’ It’s a live foetus, and that is the beginning and end of it; life life life, that’s the only issue. Bullshit. Dandelions are alive, fleas are alive, bacteria are alive; so what? Cells are alive; so what? Life is not the only issue; sentience and consciousness are a huge part of the issue, and it’s just theocratic willfullness and tyranny to brush them aside in order to sashay around on the putative moral high ground.

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