One sign that the Catholic Church is losing its monopoly over the opinions of the Irish is the vote there in May to end the ban on abortion.
Make no mistake about it, abortion is about religious freedom.
And on this side of the pond, here in the States, the Republican Party is strongly supporting a weak president for the simple fact that he'll get them Supreme Court justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade.
One group believes that at the instant a sperm and egg combine they deserve the legal protection of a newborn baby. For them, this is the start of life. At this point we can't even see this "baby." Even months later 99% of us would be unable to determine whether we were looking at an embryo that will later turn into cattle who we will later kill to eat or a child who we would later die to protect. The belief that a sperm becomes a human life at the moment of conception is essentially a religious belief.
Because we have religious freedom in this country, the group that believes zygotes at the moment of conception are no different from children are allowed to act on their belief. In this country women are not forced to abort. Their belief about when life begins is a religious or philosophical belief. We respect such beliefs in this country.
Because we have religious freedom in this country, the group that believes that life does not begin at the instant of conception but instead begins later (whether that be in the first or second or - in some states - in the third trimester) are allowed to act on their belief. In this country women are not denied the right to abort. Their belief about when life begins is a belief that we respect in this country.
The movement to ban abortion, to make it illegal, is a movement to end the religious freedom of people who believe differently from devout Catholics and some evangelists. Belief about when life begins falls into a category more akin to religion than science.
Curiously, it's not a ban against people who believe differently than Christ. We don't have a single word of Jesus pertaining to abortion. Abortion is something added since his time by some denominations of Christians. Most Lutherans think that abortion should be legal and most Jehovah Witnesses's think it should not. (And 57% of all Americans think it should be legal.)
Religious freedom takes many forms. Abortion rights is just one and it deserves as much protection as the right to be, to start being or to stop being a Muslim or Catholic or Jew or atheist. If you dig into the philosophy of someone who wants to take choice away from women you'll find someone who - at heart - does not buy into the notion of trusting individuals with religious freedom. They don't trust women who disagree that a sperm is just one moment away from having a soul.
And finally, let's talk about sex, pregnancy and raising a child. Sex is pretty awesome. A pregnancy with the expectation that you'll bring a little person into the world is kind of magical. But having sex forced on you - being raped - is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a person. It rarely gets talked about, but it seems to me that having a pregnancy forced on you, being forced to have a child, has to be incredibly traumatic. Women know when they're ready to bring a child into the world and if this isn't that time, their lives are rocked. It's awful. Sex, pregnancy and children are wonderful ... when they're freely chosen. It's unconscionable to force them onto women.
All of progress results in more choice, more freedom. We have fireworks to celebrate national independence. We call this the land of the free. We fight for freedom. We've killed people from dozens of countries to "protect our freedom." Freedom is that cool and that important to the human experience. To deny women the freedom to choose when they bring a child into the world seems like a terribly medieval kind of oppression and one of the worst kinds of thefts of freedom, a theft even worse than stealing someone's freedom of religion.