Prolife Ireland talking bollocks

Yesterday in Ireland 25,000 people [or 15,000] gathered to support the important ethical principle that when a woman in Ireland needs an abortion, she should have to go overseas. (Rumours that Ryanair was one of the major donors to “Vigil4Life” unconfirmed.)

This well-funded “vigil” was in response to the Irish government’s announcement that they would legislate for legal abortion in Ireland where the woman would otherwise die. Savita Halappanavar’s parents have said they would welcome the law that would have saved their daughter’s life to be named after her.

The prolifers in Dublin were so confident of the ethical case for outsourcing all abortions overseas at the patient’s expense that they did not stoop to lying about it:


The leaflet says:

“An Abortion Truth. A six-month-old aborted baby had his testicles transplanted into a 28-year-old Lebanese man who had been unable to become fully sexually active. The surgery was successful, the donor baby was killed.

If a man has been “unable to become fully sexually active”, no doctor in the world would recommend a testicle transplant. Testicular transplant is not a cure for impotence nor for infertility. Serge Voronoff was wrong.

While “Can I get a testicle transplant?” turns out to be a common question on online forums, the Straight Dope is:

Noting that we’ve received letters essentially identical to this one from readers Walsh and Kurt Buchmann as well, let me just say: Guys, I sense that there may be some underlying issues here, but I’ll stick to the questions you’ve asked and leave Freud out of this. I’m sure we all prefer it that way.

There are three kinds of transplant procedures. The first is allogenic transplantation, the transplanting of tissue or organs from one person’s body to another’s – what you might think of as a “normal” transplant. Tissues and organs that have been successfully transplanted this way include adrenal glands, thymus glands, bone, bone marrow, cartilage, corneas, fat, hair, hearts, kidneys, lungs, small intestines, and skin. There are also xenotransplants, where tissue from another species, such as a pig’s heart valve, is implanted into a human. Lastly there are autologous transplants, also called autotransplants, where tissue or an organ is removed from its location and transplanted into a new location within the same person’s body.

The only type of testicle transplants done in humans are autotransplants, performed to treat certain types of a condition called cryptorchidism, or undescended testicles [or to treat sterility after chemotherapy]. During the development of a male embryo, the testicles grow in the area that will eventually be the abdominal cavity near the kidneys. Normally, they move downwards and forwards, and then drop into the scrotum. An undescended testicle is one that has failed to complete this trip. In some cases, the testicle stays high in the abdomen, and autotransplantation is the surgical procedure to correct this. An untreated undescended testicle can lead to increased chances of infertility or testicular cancer later in life.

There is a proper, ethical argument to be had about the validity of a woman who is giving birth to a baby that cannot live giving consent to the infant organs being donated to save others. It need not be said that lies and urban myths are not the way to have this argument.

There’s a case in the US in the 1990s, of parents who knew one of their triplets would be born ancephalic and a grandparent who had died while waiting for a donor organ, who had spontaneously raised the question with the hospital about whether the anencephalic baby – whom they knew could not live – could be an organ donor:

The Ms raised the issue of organ donation with their obstetrician. Shortly afterward, the obstetrician telephoned the local hospital’s transplant team to refer the Ms. One of the transplant coordinators contacted the Ms and was initially positive about the possibility of using Baby Avery’s heart as a donor organ. The Ms’ understanding of their conversation with the transplant coordinator was that the transplant coordinator “would send a [transplant] team over” when the babies were born. “We felt good.” Knowing that Baby Avery could be an organ donor gave the Ms “a little peace of mind.” During the pregnancy, Mr. and Mrs. M met a mother whose child was in need of a donor heart. While they knew Baby Avery’s heart would not go to that particular child, it made them feel better to believe that a child who needed a heart would benefit from Baby Avery’s short life.

The whole article by Jennifer S. Bard in the Western New England Law Review Volume 21 21 (1999) is well worth reading for the thoughtful discussion of how the medical profession must balance ethics, law, and the emotional needs of bereaved parents: but it has nothing to do with the junk literature that prolifers were passing out in Dublin yesterday.

From Paul Reynolds (“I was photographing the rally for rabble.ie and snapped these plus one from the stage on my phone and uploaded”):
Claim that a couple had the woman's pregnancy aborted so that the father could use foetal tissue for a transplant

If you want to read a proper, thoughtful argument on the ethics of organ donation, you may appreciate G R Dunstan’s article from the British Medical Bulletin 1997 (No 4) 921-939:

The ethics of transplantation can be expressed in certain requirements or duties. The first is medical integrity. Patients and the public must be able to trust their doctors not to sacrifice the interest of one to that of another, from whatever motive. Individuals may make that sacrifice, but not their doctors. The second requirement is scientific validity: the basic biology and technology must be sufficiently assured to offer a probability of beneficial outcome, case by case. The third is consent, based upon information adequately presented, weighed and understood, and unbought, unforced. Without this, the contract is unethical: the tension between self and other is skewed.

It says something about the view of Irish prolifers of Ireland’s doctors that they appear to believe that if abortion was legal in Ireland, doctors would instantly lose all ethics about organ donation.

By the way, you can register with the NHS as an organ donor here, and help the women who travel from Ireland to get an abortion by donating to the Abortion Support Network. If there was an honest ethical argument to be made for making woman who need abortions travel overseas from Ireland, it’s hard to see what it might be – given that even the supporters of the ban on legal abortion in Ireland aren’t making it.

11 Comments

Filed under Healthcare, Human Rights

11 responses to “Prolife Ireland talking bollocks

  1. Jane

    All I can say is, being an Irish person, we are not all as backwards as the pro-lifers would have you believe. Please, don’t judge our country based on these morons! Also, before anyone argues, I am well aware the author never stated that the whole country believes this nonsense.

  2. I am quite simply aghast at some of the information being peddled by Irish anti-choice campaigners. Is it ignorance, dogma or quite simply a warped life view dominated by conspiracy theories? I have been discussing the abortion debate with a couple of lovely anti-abortion people whose arguments I can respect and who in NO way perpetuate this kind of shite. #prochoice all the way

  3. Also found at this event, was a leaflet, with one side showing skeletons of gibbons, gorrillas, chimps, humans, and orangutans, with a caption of, evolution makes a monkey out of you.

    the reverse, claims that the rise of “pro aborts” mentality in ireland is indirectly linked to evolutionary indoctriation in schools.

    quoting the use of haeckels embryonic diagrams as why educated people accept such a concept.

  4. Galactor

    I cannot understand why people don’t understand that they will be called out on their dissemblance and that it will disadvantage their aims.

  5. Pingback: Oh, Youth Defence: Roundup of the weekend that was | Consider the Tea Cosy

  6. John

    Ireland cannot into science.

  7. Cylux

    Is it even possible to transplant an aborted foetus’s organs into a fully grown adult anyway? There would be quite a size difference at the very least I’d have thought.

  8. I’m stunned that the prolifers imagine that rational humans would believe this nonsense. I’m also insulted

  9. Stunned and appalled. Thank you for your rational, informative and incisive article. I’m showing everyone.

  10. Bluecat

    I was raised Roman Catholic (in England, and I am English) and into my early teens I heard horror story after horror story about abortion – the foetus that screamed Mamma! when being put in the hospital furnace is one that lingers in memory. I certainly heard more of that kind of stuff than I did about the functioning of my own body.

    Most of this came from adults. Whether they believed it or not I’ll never know.

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