In Ireland, we are in a time of change. While the rest of the world is shouting Me Too, we are shouting “Listen to Me”. In 2018, our government has promised an as-of-yet unscheduled referendum to decide whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish constitution. This amendment gives equal rights to the unborn as it’s mother; meaning that abortion is an illegal activity in our country and disallowing women from invoking their own autonomy over their bodies. The campaign has been raging to get this referendum for many years, and has certainly escalated in the last five years. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about it, and it won’t be the last. This referendum has the possibility to change the lives of women in this country, and allow them rights to gain healthcare they would be entitled to in their own country elsewhere. For that to happen, we need to, in the (paraphrased) words of Mary Robinson on her election to the office of president in 1990, “instead of rocking the cradle rock the system”. There are many facets to this campaign, and one of them is EveryDay Stories.
What Is The 8th Amendment?
The 8th Amendment of Bunreacht na hEireann, or the Constitution of Ireland, states:
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard 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 right.”
In essence, this means that until the pregnancy becomes life threatening toward the mother, pregnancy must continue and the life of the unborn be sustained, regardless of circumstance. Regardless of the circumstances of conception, or the age of the mother, or if there is a fatal foetal abnormality. It is under the ambiguity of this amendment that Savita Halappanavar died due to an infection obtained during a drawn out miscarraige during which she requested on multiple occasions for the pregnancy to be terminated as there was no hope that the foetus would survive. It is under this legislation that a suicidal teenage rape victim who came to our country, after the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was passed just in 2013, was forced to remain pregnant until 24 weeks and endure a C-Section instead of the termination she had requested earlier in the pregnancy. It is under this legislation that women are forced to travel to the United Kingdom for any myriad of reasons for not continuing their pregnancy. The words crisis pregnancy don’t even go far enough to describe the situation the Irish constitution puts these women into.
It is worth keeping in mind that while the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 allowed for termination in cases where the life of the mother was at risk, including in cases of proven suicidality, it also made obtaining a termination in the state of Ireland a criminal offense. It is punishable, for the mother and the physician or anyone who assists her, by up to 14 years in prison. To prove risk of life on the grounds of mental health, the opinions of multiple doctors must be sought, which is undoubtedly creating even more stress on an already fractured situation. It is not sustainable or any way to treat citizens of our country. The only way to proceed is to repeal and move from there.
Thankfully, the Citizens Assembly, set up by the Irish government, came through in their recommendations. Overwhelmingly, they voted to make the referendum one for outright repeal, without replacement. The recommendations went further still when it came to their opinions of legalising abortion completely up to the 12 week mark – one which it will be interesting to see if our government will actually realise if the vote opts to repeal the amendment.
Okay, So What is Everyday Stories?
From the Everyday Stories website:
“Everyday Stories is a project publishing personal accounts from women who have been affected by the 8th Amendment. In 2016 ten women a day gave Irish addresses at UK abortion clinics. Many more women cannot travel and order abortion pills online risking a 14 year jail sentence. We share these stories.
We are sharing these stories to share our experiences. You are invited to share your story as to how you have been affected by the 8th Amendment. Upon submission, it will be assigned to an illustrator and voice artist to ensure that every story that wants to be told, is told.”
Everyday Stories is a proud member of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th.
I first heard about Everyday Stories on an episode of The Irish Times The Women’s Podcast, where founder Caoimhe Anglin spoke to Roisin Ingle about her experience of abortion and how it inspired her to work to set up the project. The podcast was endearing and heartbreaking, and described exactly what the aims of the projects were.
We keep hearing about how this campaign to repeal the 8th amendment will be lost or won in the middle ground, and this group is set to target those in the middle ground and allow them to make up their own minds. We saw with the Citizens Assembly how when people are given all of the information in a way that isn’t manipulative or biased, it allows them to form opinions and change their minds accordingly. Through sharing honest stories of Irish women who have gone through abortion, and telling how it affects them, it allows the broader picture to be told without sensationalism or bias.
EveryDay Stories doesn’t seek to make people vote to repeal, but to educate and allow them to make up their own mind without judgement or pressure. It’s about starting conversations and opening up the kind of Ireland we want to see with people of all beliefs.
They held their first exhibit in Filmbase, Dublin late last year, and have plans to carry out similar exhibitions or storytelling events throughout this year. Listening to, and reading, some of the stories has my heart broken but these stories are so important to be told. It is by giving a voice to the silenced that we will manage to bring our country into the future, and out of this historical chasm which restricts the rights of women in choosing what happens to their bodies.
If you’re interested in holding an EveryDay Stories event, get in contact with them here. Check out the website, and many incredible stories it hosts here.
BadMammy is on Facebook, come over and say hi!