On the 25th of May, the voting citizens of Ireland will be given the opportunity to make history. We will be given the chance to vote on whether we want to repeal or retain the 8th Amendment, which was voted into the Irish Constitution in 1983 and currently protects the life of the unborn.
The tension created by the upcoming referendum over the past few weeks seems to have polarised the nation, with activists from both sides of the debate playing dirty. I am aware that this topic is incredibly delicate for a lot of women and men, alike and that people have their own personal reasons for why they will vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ this day next week.
My intention is not to change the votes of those who have a firm and legitimate position in the matter, I understand that when a person’s vote is so deeply rooted in life experience, very little will sway them to the other side.
Instead, I want to help those who are unsure about the 8th and inform them on how it negatively impacts the lives of their sisters, daughters, neighbours and friends – not only when in need of an abortion, but during a continued pregnancy too.
What is the 8th Amendment?
So for those of you who don’t know, the 8th Amendment equates the life of a pregnant person to that of a foetus. It says, ‘the state acknowledges the right to life of the foetus and, with due regards to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that.’
This makes abortion services illegal in Ireland, even in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities. Irish women who need abortion are either forced to travel abroad, adding more expenses and trauma to an already emotional experience, or they can order illegal abortion pills online and risk facing a 14 year prison sentence for perpetrating a crime.
But let’s not put all the focus on abortion or forced pregnancy, the 8th Amendment also affects women while pregnant. The HSE National Consent Policy restricts informed consent and informed refusal of treatment for pregnant individuals.
It states, ‘because of the Constitutional provisions on the right to life of the unborn there is significant legal uncertainty regarding a pregnant woman’s right to consent.’
This means the requirement for informed consent is eliminated and pregnant women are often forced into procedures without the proper information or consultation. While many on the pro-life side claim to love both the mother and foetus, it is clear that the 8th Amendment favours the life of the unborn. It directly removes the person’s right to consent for any procedure during labour and birth where it is deemed to endanger the life of the foetus.
Where do I stand in this debate?
Advocating for the choice to perform an action is not the same as advocating for that action to be performed.
While I do have ethical opinions on abortion as far as gestation period goes, I personally believe that people in Ireland should have access to legal abortion services in their own country. For that reason, I identify as pro-choice rather than pro-abortion. I feel that being labelled as pro-abortion makes a false claim that I want women to have abortion, when in reality I want women to have a choice to make that decision for themselves. I think using the term pro-abortion places a significant amount of emphasis on the unborn and completely ignores female bodily autonomy.
When I say I am pro-choice, what I really mean is that I am pro-women having agency over their own bodies. When I say I am pro-choice, what I mean is that I don’t believe a person’s moral opinion on abortion should override another woman’s right to choose and when I say I am pro-choice, what I really mean is that I believe the government should not get to police my body, because forcing unwanted pregnancy on any woman or girl is a form of female oppression.
I often find myself getting riled up when I get into the politics of it all, so to avoid getting overly emotional about this – if I haven’t already – I’m going to introduce some important facts, that may help swing voters make an informed decision on voting day.
With the help of social feminist group Rosa, I was able to compile a list of common arguments from the pro-life side to do some myth-busting about abortion. A massive thank you to the lovely Una for providing me with the information to share these myth-busters with you:
MYTH #1: Abortion is used as a form of ‘birth control’
Abortion is a costly procedure, making the use of contraception much easier than having an abortion. Also, there is not just one reason to have an abortion. People usually have a number of reasons for why they wish to terminate their pregnancy. It is a decision that no person takes lightly.
MYTH #2: Adoption is a better solution
Adoption is still a forced option that puts a woman’s mental health at risk. Forcing someone to continue an unwanted pregnancy affects their mental state and overall well-being.
MYTH #3: Where abortion is legal, women are more likely to be forced into it by abusive partners
Taking autonomy away from women who need abortion will not solve violence against women. If anything, the 8th Amendment causes further damage to women who are in abusive relationships and want to access abortion without the knowledge of their abusive partner.
MYTH #4: Abortions are more dangerous than child birth
Abortion is only dangerous when done illegally and in an unsafe environment. When done under the care of a trained practitioner, they are safe. In fact, the World Health Organisation puts abortion pills on essential medication list. In regards to giving birth, a woman is 14 times more likely to die during childbirth than during an abortion procedure.
MYTH #5: Having abortion increases the risk of mental health problems
Forcing someone to stay pregnant and give birth against their will increases the risk of mental health problems. In fact, 98% would recommend it to other women in the same situation, according to Abigail Aiken Study (2016, North & Southern Ireland).
MYTH #6: Abortion is used to prevent the birth of persons with disabilities
Having a baby with a disability is not an easy thing. Since the severity of all kinds of conditions vary widely, the woman and her family should be best placed to decide if they can handle caring for such a child, not the government.
MYTH #7: Having an abortion increases the risk of infertility, stillbirths and miscarriages in the future
A properly performed abortion will not impact future fertility. It is one of the safest medical interventions. Illegal, backstreet abortions performed with untrained practitioners put women’s lives and fertility at risk, not abortion.
MYTH #8: Countries that have adopted ‘abortion on demand’ legislation have seen a drastic increase in abortion rates
The abortion rate is stable, with Western Europe having the lowest abortion rate worldwide. In fact, abortion is less frequent in countries with the most liberal abortion.
What is the bottom line?
The focus of this issue should not be on the unborn, we need to prioritise the lives and choices of women. The dialogue surrounding this debate shouldn’t be about a person’s moral opinion on abortion, it should be about women having the freedom to do what’s best for them and their family. Just because you wouldn’t have an abortion yourself it doesn’t mean you should rob another person of making that decision for themselves.
As I’ve already expressed, people will have their own reasons for why they think the 8th Amendment should be repealed or retained. But for those who are still undecided, don’t be influenced by the false arguments being made by the pro-life campaign. Don’t make this about what you would or wouldn’t do.
It shouldn’t be about you.
It should be about trusting women to make their own choices.
It should be about women having agency over their own bodies.
It is about the continued fight for female bodily autonomy.
In the words of Claire Balding, “At the end of the day Ireland, no human in pro-abortion. But in the democratic society that we live in. we should all be pro-choice.”
Vote ‘Yes’ on the 25th of May.
- 10000SLUT. WHORE. TRAMP. SLAG. These are cheap digs women have used to tear each other down, often in an attempt to make themselves feel more valuable. These are words that boys have unfairly labelled girls after being rejected by a pursued love interest. The insult ‘slut’ and other variations of its kind,…