I am the father of two small kids. There is nothing I would not do for them. I cherish every day I have with them.

I love my mornings with them, as that is primarily my time with them.

Getting my four-year-old daughter ready for school as my one-year-old son tears our kitchen apart on a daily basis is priceless.

One cuddle from either of them is enough to turn the most stressful day into sheer joy.

I am lucky that we have two little treasures.

Having gone through the maternity services in this country twice since 2013, the current debate around abortion is a visceral one.

Previously well-confirmed views espoused by me in my younger years have been tested greatly.

That first scan, the beating heart, the little hands, will remain emblazoned on my consciousness forever.

We were lucky.

But I know of people who were not so lucky. People who were given the devastating news of an unsuccessful pregnancy, but yet could not be adequately treated in an Irish hospital.

I know of people who were also given little hope when an abnormality was discovered in pregnancy, only for their little treasures to be treated, and grow up as perfectly healthy children.

There are no easy answers to this debate.

But if we are going to have this debate, let’s all stop being hypocrites.

In this country, whether we like to hear it, denying reality has been a bad habit.

God damn straight.

Those words above, uttered by Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday in the Dáil about the country’s attitude towards abortion, are just one illustration of our collective blinkered vision.

I am not advocating either side of the argument, to be clear, but it is undeniable that much of the debate around abortion on both sides has been grounded in wholesale denial.

“Denying realities does not make them go away. Instead it just leads to hurt and harm,” Mr Harris added.

Not only is the reality of abortion not going away, it is one that is now risking more hurt and harm to our women. We have to address that reality and it is possible to do so with compassion, with consideration, and with care.

There is a seemingly increasing willingness on the part of the pro-choice side of the debate to deny that abortion is a horrible, horrible procedure.

Physically and emotionally, an abortion is not easy, to say the least.

The forceful removal of a foetus or unborn baby with beating heart and developing fingers, toes, and brain is frankly too disgusting to fathom.

It has been the temptation of those on the pro-choice side to minimise the trauma such a procedure places on a body and on the mind of any woman who goes through it.

I find it incredible that so many pro-choice people can be so definite in their support for abortion, given what is actually involved in the procedure.

People who have sought to highlight the graphic nature of how abortions take place are often shouted down and poo-pooed, but if a real honest debate is to happen, all the facts must be known.

But there is an equal denial of reality by the so-called pro-life side.

Abortion is a fact of life in Ireland. The problem is that we operate a style of prohibition which forces those who have abortions into unsafe environments, and more commonly abroad.

We have, as a nation, decided, on foot of the 1983 Eighth Amendment, to bury our heads in the sand and allow thousands of women get treatment, whatever the merits of the case, in
London, Manchester, or Liverpool.

There clearly has been a denial, up until quite recently, as to the prevalence of the use of abortion pills by Irish women, procured on the internet and taken in bedrooms without any
oversight or safety.

The national denial has been nowhere more prevalent than in our political system, which in truth was more than happy to keep its head in the sand rather than tackle this thorny issue.

No group has more blame coming its way than our two main political parties — Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

It has been the deep resistance within these parties that has stymied a resolution to the 1983 amendment by way of law and constitutional change.

Some movement to address the failure to legalise for the X case was finally made in 2013 with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, but at huge cost to Fine Gael.

I criticise the Eighth Amendment, not to advocate one side of the debate over another, but based on the very legal advice that was given to the Fine Gael-led government of the day by the then-attorney general, Peter Sutherland.

It was bad law inflicted upon a people. End of story.

To remind you of what Mr Sutherland said: “In summary: the wording is ambiguous and
unsatisfactory.

It will lead inevitably to confusion and uncertainty, not merely amongst the medical profession, to whom it has, of course, particular relevance, but also amongst lawyers and more specifically, the judges who will have to interpret it.

“Far from providing the protection and certainty which is sought by many of those who have advocated its adoption, it will have a contrary effect.

In particular it is not clear as to what life is being protected; as to whether ‘the unborn’ is protected from the moment of fertilisation or alternatively is left unprotected until an independently viable human being exists at 25 to 28 weeks.

“Further, having regard to the equal rights of the unborn and the mother, a doctor faced with the dilemma of saving the life of the mother, knowing that to do so will terminate the life of ‘the unborn’ will be compelled by the wording to conclude that he can do nothing.

“Whatever his intention, he will have to show equal regard for both lives, and his predominant intent will not be a factor. In these circumstances, I cannot approve of the wording proposed.”

And Mr Sutherland’s words have come to pass.

The Eighth Amendment has been an impediment to safe and proper medical care.

The guarantee to an equal right to life to a mother and her unborn is a quagmire for doctors, midwives, and lawyers, who often have to make a call as to when it is legally safe to intervene.

It is a perverse situation that doctors have to wait for a woman’s condition to deteriorate to a point where her life may be at risk before they can act, when common sense would dictate much swifter action.

The Oireachtas is to clear the way for the referendum, but there is no guarantee that if the people do decide to repeal the Eighth Amendment, that this Government will ever get to legislate for it, as I was warned by a Cabinet minister yesterday.

The denial which has been at the heart of the abortion debate for 35 years must finally come to an end. Then, and only then, can we make a true and honest choice when we go to the polls on May 25.


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