In just two days time (25th May 2018), Ireland will hold a controversial referendum to repeal article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution AKA the 8th amendment. The Eighth Amendment currently makes it illegal for Women to have an abortion unless her life is in substantial risk. The eighth amendment was passed by referendum in 1983 after ‘Pro-Life’ campaigners rallied together to urge the Irish government to hold stricter laws over terminations. The move came in the wake of the Roe v Wade case in the US Supreme Court which allowed for the introduction of less restrictive regimes regarding abortions. This caused mass fear that the Irish government would bring in a similar law. In 1981 an amendment campaign surfaced, leading to various ‘Pro-Life’ groups to rally for protection of the unborn babies. Their campaign was helped by the fact that in the political instability of the early 1980s, prime ministers were worried about alienating the dominant conservative vote. The attorney general of Ireland at the time warned that the wording of the amendment was too ambiguous and could have negative consequences for women’s healthcare. After 3 years of campaigns the Eighth Amendment was passed on 7 September 1983 with a 67 per cent majority… it was signed into law just one month later.
The Repeal the 8th referendum has come out due to number of high profile cases that have seen women die or loose their rights like Savita Halappanavar, who was refused an abortion even after she miscarried, which caused her to contract Sepsis and loose her life. The case of 17 year old ‘Miss D’ of which she was named at the time in the media, her real name being Amy Dunne, saw Amy being refused an abortion even after the scan showed her baby had anencephaly (a rare condition that prevents part of the brain and skull from developing). Doctors advised Amy that her baby wouldn’t survive even a few hours after birth.. yet she was refused by the Irish state, as she was in their care at the time, to go to the UK for an abortion. After the many cases, the Irish government assembled a Citizens Assembly to consider an abortion law reform, the 99 randomly selected citizens voted voted 64% to 36% in favour of having no restrictions on termination in early pregnancy.
The right to a choice is something I am very passionate about, every women in the world deserves the right to a safe, professional abortion and the right to choose what she ultimately will do with her body. The Repeal the 8th referendum happening in a couple of days has made me think about my stance on abortion and see points from all sides, this is why I am writing this post today.. I want this blog to be a safe space to talk about important issues as well as all the other topics I talk about.
I was reading the powerful BBC report this morning about the referendum and one picture hit me with all the force of a tonne of bricks, it was of a women at a ‘Pro-Choice’ rally holding a sign with “Would you force me to stay pregnant against my will?” written on it (shown below, all rights to the picture to the BBC). A picture hasn’t made me evaluate my whole life like this one has, maybe it’s my empathy but I put myself into the shoes of every women around the world who was forced to go through with an unwanted pregnancy, whether that pregnancy be by accident, force, rape etc, it doesn’t matter.. choice is a basic human right.
Statistically, banning abortions doesn’t actually stop abortions being placed. Thousands of women (not just from Ireland to the UK) travel abroad to have a termination, thousands order potentially threatening abortion pills on the internet and even more thousands of women all around the world die from having unsafe ‘backstreet’ abortions conducted. The repeal would simply give these women access to proper healthcare in their own country, without having to fly hundreds of miles away, and also can get professional advice without running the risk of prosecution.
I’m not trying to be a bigot, I totally respect why others only agree with abortion in serious cases (e.g rape, incest, fetal abnormalities or where there would be a risk to the Woman’s health), I get that some find all life sacred, it’s the old age argument of “does life start at conception or birth?”, I understand that a fetus is a life in the making.. but does this developing mass of cells have more rights than the woman who’s carrying it has?
Ultimately, people find themselves in difficult situations that are sometimes hard for us to understand, but in no way should we turn away and isolate these people or make it impossible for them to get professional help. Women deserve to be allowed to make the difficult and occasionally painful decision, and we as a nation need to respect them and guide them. I’m not Irish so will not be able to vote on this matter, but if I was I know for a fact I would be voting for Choice.
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