These past few weeks have been an especially important time for women in Ireland. International Women’s Day, March 8th, seems to always bring up a lot of opinions from both men and women, sometimes surprising ones. Abortion is a very sensitive issue for a lot of people, and while it can stir deep emotions in people on both sides, I feel that it should be approached sensitively and respectfully in order for a worthwhile discussion to take place.
Therefore, I was deeply shocked to find an article in my own college’s publication which was the most insensitive and reckless treatment of the eight amendment issue that I have come across in a while. In this ‘Open Letter’, the thirty-year-old American male author (as he declares in his opening line) outlines his arguments against repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution.
For those who have not read it themselves I would urge you to, as there is no way I could do it justice here, only to say that it was one of the most appalling and insulting pieces I have ever laid eyes on (but that’s just my opinion).
With abortion being such a hot topic, most people have heard the major arguments from both sides. I am not writing this to outline all of the arguments we have heard before, but rather to highlight what I find so disturbing about this kind of approach to one of the biggest women’s rights issues facing our society today.
Throughout the article, the author uses violent and sinister language to describe abortion procedures, which feels like propaganda from someone who clearly has no idea what such procedures truly entail. Words like ‘murder’, ‘scraped from the womb’, ‘removed in sections’ and ‘killed’, as well as comparisons to the holocaust should not be acceptable terms to use when speaking about a woman’s choice to safely and legally end her pregnancy.
The letter also displays deep paranoia about the future of abortion. The author expresses fear of a culture of repeat abortions (up to six times in a woman’s lifetime) and that things may even go so far as abortion replacing contraception. While these things are, in my view, up to the woman herself, I really find it difficult to imagine women embracing the whole medical process so much that she consciously decides to forego contraception. While I am sure there are some legitimate concerns on the Pro-Life side, I cannot help but notice that this paranoid mentality can be a common thread in arguments—assuming that as soon as abortion is introduced that it will become as common as going to the supermarket. Claiming that this goes on in other countries as being a fact is not enough reason to limit the rights of women here.
The most offensive aspect of this piece may be the continuous reference to this idea that women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy have “already made a choice”. What this choice is in fact is never specified but I can only imagine that this refers to the choice to have sexual intercourse. Such an outlook suggests that it is a woman’s own fault if she becomes pregnant so they should have to suffer the ‘consequences’. This ‘reasoning’ suggests that when a woman decides to engage in sexual intercourse that this is where her allowance for decision-making ends. Once this initial choice has been made, women are not entitled to react to what happens after, even when it concerns their own life, body, and entire future.
Both women and men engage in sexual intercourse with no intentions of conceiving and even with responsible contraception use there is still a risk. However, according to the author, the men seem to get no blame whatsoever for this ‘choice’. The only time the author discusses the man’s role in this is in the context of their rights pertaining to the foetus itself, with the unsupported statement that: “The man never gets to choose” when it comes to whether to have an abortion or not.
It seems in this person’s mind that the decision to get pregnant is entirely the women’s, while the decision to abort should equally involve the man (only logical I guess?).
As with the recent Marriage Equality referendum, which thankfully passed, this is about more than personal opinion about certain ideals—repealing the eighth is about equality. Firstly, it is about equality for women. Irish Law’s current stance on abortion, no matter what way you want to look at it, in fact infringes upon every Irish woman’s rights to control their body, in a way that men have never been faced with.
Secondly, it is about equality in terms of class. While it is currently legal to seek abortion abroad, this is not an option for many women in terms of finances. Therefore, we have a system whereby women who need and can afford abortions have access (and at that not ideal access) and those who cannot even afford to travel for an abortion have to somehow magically be able to financially and emotionally afford a child. Or, alternatively, these women are forced to seek an abortion outside the law without any aid, and then face major health risks or even 14 years imprisonment for doing so. In this context, it is hard to deny that these laws have a largely discriminatory effect.
In conclusion, the statistics show an increasing support for repealing the eighth amendment. The fact that over 150,000 Irish women since 1980 have reportedly travelled abroad to procure and abortion is evidence enough of the need to provide legal and safe abortions at home. With the over-whelming support for the women’s march this month, I cannot help but feel positive about the future of Irish women’s rights.
Despite what is hopefully going to be an issue of the past within the next few years, still I think it is worth speaking out against this kind of unsupported, train-of-thought type public expression when it concerns such an important human rights issue. I truly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. Think whatever you want about anything you want! However, I do not agree that opinions based on (for lack of a better word) nonsense should serve as legitimate reasons to limit women’s basic rights.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion (just as everyone is entitled to control their own body), but to approach such a sensitive issue with assured yet unfounded information is reckless and moronic. Even if such people get their way and the eighth amendment is kept in place, it is not acceptable to have these people feel like heroes for making women go through with an unwanted pregnancy and essentially taking control of their lives and bodies.