We’re four weeks away from a very important vote in Ireland, the vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment to our constitution. It’s too important not to talk about here. If repealed the effect will be that that equal right to the life of the unborn will be removed from our constitution.
I’ve started writing this post many, times in the last six weeks. I’ve edited, deleted and rewritten. Every time I try I feel like I’m not doing justice to this important issue and why a yes vote is vital for women. We don’t talk much about sex, let alone abortion, we keep things like that private in this country. Perhaps it’s the Catholic guilt, perhaps not. But it’s making it hard to strike up conversations about the Eighth. Abortion is illegal, people don’t talk things like that, and certainly don’t admit to it.
I’ve written lots about the legal background for this post , but you don’t need to me give you the history of the Eighth Amendment, if you want to read up on that you can ask google. So I deleted it.
I’m not qualified to write the medical bit, so I didn’t even try.
But I want to tell you why I am so passionate about the need for repeal, and why I’ll be voting yes.
I haven’t had an abortion, I don’t have a serious medical condition that would put me at risk if I were to get pregnant. I can’t imagine ever needing to terminate a pregnancy. I don’t have a personal story of abortion to share, but I do have my reasons.
Back in October 2012 I was a pregnant woman in Ireland. I had just found out that I was expecting my third baby, I was delighted and exhausted in equal measure, full of hope for the baby we would meet in the following June, joining our two boys to complete our family.
In October 2012 another pregnant woman in Ireland was admitted to hospital with back pain and suspected septicemia and following a week of agony she died. She asked for a medical termination of her pregnancy as she was miscarrying but this was refused. It was refused because doctors couldn’t perform it due to the Eighth Amendment. In November 2012 the news of Savita Halappanavar’s death in Galway hit mainstream media in Ireland.
I was pregnant, hormonal and absolutely devastated at the passing of a woman I had never heard of until she died at the hands of my country’s laws. I felt shame to be part of the system that couldn’t save Savita as the law prevented it. Despite my two previous healthy pregnancies I lived in fear of something going wrong during the rest of my pregnancy, I had fatalistic thoughts and realised then that I had no control over my healthcare while pregnant. My baby would always come first due to the Eighth Amendment. I couldn’t get my head around it. I spent my entire pregnancy worried that something like that could happen to me and my husband and sons would be left to pick up the pieces. And it could have.
Following Savita’s death and a case taken to the European Courts the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act was introduced in 2013. This watered down the abortion ban, to allowing abortion where doctor’s believe that a woman’s life is at risk. Some think that this is all we need to save women’s lives but the position is that it leaves doctors open to a prison sentence of 14 years if they misjudge whether a life is at risk or not and terminate a pregnancy. It’s the LIFE of the woman that has to be at risk, not the HEALTH. It’s not just about abortion, it’s about healthcare too. If a pregnancy could cause a condition that would cause a woman to be disabled but not die, that pregnancy could not be terminated under current Irish law.
I haven’t had an abortion. I hope I never need to. I’ve read so many gruelling personal accounts of Irish women travelling for abortion, in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities. As a mother of three I am certain of one thing, no woman should have to be pregnant against her will. No woman’s life should be put in danger as a result of her pregnancy. No healthcare professional should have to hand over their patient to a doctor in a foreign country when faced with potential tragedy. No country should consider laws that lead to all of these results to have a place in modern society.
I am pro-babies. I am pro-family. I am pro-choice. I am pro-women.
It’s not about whether you or I would ever, or could ever have an abortion, it’s about letting other girls and women make their own choices as to what is right for them. Those who can afford it and are fit to travel are doing it already. We’re exporting our abortions, and letting women order illegal abortion pills on the internet rather than looking this issue in the eye and looking after our women. We are punishing tragedy. None of this will change with the Eighth still in place.
We need to care for our women, our sisters, our friends, our daughters and trust them to make their own choices. We need to show those in tragic circumstances compassion. Men need to vote, this isn’t a women’s issue, it’s society’s issue. People need to have conversations with one another, as the campaign slogan says it’s a private matter, but it needs public support.
Voting no won’t stop abortion in Ireland, it’ll continue in the way it has, with up to 12 Irish women per day terminating their pregnancies, some using illegal drugs without any supervision others spending money to travel to another country to have the procedure.
I’ll be voting YES to repeal the Eighth Amendment for the women of Ireland past, present and future and to give them the freedom to make their own choices.
If you’re not sure what way to vote inform yourself, look behind the sensationalism and think about the people at the heart of the debate. Consider what I’ve set out. Make up your mind with all the information and vote. Don’t think that by not voting you won’t affect either campaign, not voting has the same effect as voting No -as it doesn’t count as a Yes to repeal, so you’re expressing a preference to keep the status quo, which is what the No side are campaigning for.
You can still register to vote until Tuesday May 8th- more details on how here.