Here we are again, continuing the conversation about a line in our constitution which forces half the population into a second class citizen role. One that requires permission, only given by begging, pleading, desperate measures, from the bigger authorities, because heaven help us if they were trusted with making their own decisions. Yes, boys and girls, we’re talking about the 8th amendment again. I’m actually tired of talking about it, but it’s not something we can stop the conversation about because it’s still there, glaring at us up from Bunreacht na hEireann, highlighting the role of women as vessels. De Valera’s Ireland is still alive and kicking according to that piece of paper.
Let’s forget all our progress, our 21st century thinking. Last year, we were a progressive country. We were THE FIRST IN THE WORLD to, by popular vote, allow same sex couples the right to marry. All fifty states in the US shortly afterwards followed suit, choosing to do it not by referendum but by state law changing. We asked the people what they wanted, and they wanted change. They wanted respect for all people. They wanted to make a difference in our society. That’s what we want for the 8th amendment, but there is no referendum on the books. The people want change, we want to repeal the 8th, and the state is not willing to give us that chance twice in one lifetime, oh no.
This post is coming from a place of anger, a place of sadness, a place of being so bloody sick of the narrative. Yesterday afternoon, a wall was painted in Dublin, with bright blue paint. It covered up a mural. A red heart simply stating Repeal the 8th. It wasn’t hurting anyone. It wasn’t offensive. It wasn’t calling anyone names, or insinuating that people were murderers or zealots or any of the horrible words which can be used in this kind of discussion. If anything, it added to the aesthetic of the street, a bit of brightness in a Dublin street through rainy days, something to add to the joy on the sunny ones. Yes, politically motivated. But not hurting anyone.
This coat of blue paint covered up this mural, objected to by 50 complaints to Dublin City Council, ignoring completely the many more compliments and good comments made, the happiness it gave people to see THEIR viewpoint being considered part of the makeup of modern Dublin. Against planning permission, they said. Apparently you can paint a wall blue all you like, but adding a picture requires paperwork, and agreement from everyone, and all the red tape that comes with it.
What this shows is a blatant silencing of one side of the narrative, a bowing to pressure from the conservative side who want to hush change at all costs. We are sending 9 women a day across the sea, to countries which are not their own, to receive something considered in most progressive countries as a basic healthcare right. We are telling them that as long as they’re in our house, it’s our rules or they’re out. Women are denied healthcare which can ensure a better standard of life and health for them in the future, the state saying that they have made their bed and now they must lie in it, baby in tow. Circumstance of pregnancy is not taken into account.
Our “progressive” laws which changed to allow abortion in the most severe of cases have women face a firing squad of interrogation to prove their need – in particular on the grounds of suicidal ideation. I can’t imagine what that must be like. It is hard enough to speak about mental health with a trusted person. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to face multiple healthcare professionals, whose sole purpose in meeting you is to ensure that you are in the very worst psychological state possible before allowing you to have a procedure performed which is available freely elsewhere. The boat is a better option, for those who can afford it. For those who can’t, potentially dangerous home remedies have become the choice du jour, risking imprisonment, illness, death – and all for something which may not even work. It sickens me that this is how my government treats women.
I fell pregnant at the age of 21. I did not have the most smooth of pregnancies, I’m not exactly a walking ad for the 9 month duration. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression and had the great luck to be surrounded by supports, a fantastic doctor and to have the finances available to me to seek treatment. I have said it before and I will continue to say it – my pregnancy was unplanned, unexpected, but it worked out because my circumstances allowed it to. I was working in a job where I had a permanent contract, in a relationship with the father of my baby, supportive parents on both sides of the family and able to afford somewhere to live, power, water, food. It wasn’t as I had dreamed it would be in younger years, and was definitely a few years ahead of plan, but it has worked out for me. My son is 2 and the love of my life. I wasn’t sure at the time, I considered my options. I knew the option of “The Boat” was there. To me, it wasn’t on the cards – years of Catholic guilt and worry about how I would feel after definitely made that decision for me. It has worked out for me. I wish I could say the same for other women, but I can’t.
Girls I’ve known from college, from work, people I speak to online. They’ve been in the same position and they knew that they could not possibly continue with their pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Financial, mental, practical. Bringing a child into the world is not something which should be done lightly and into wrong circumstances. Bringing a child you can’t possibly care for into the world isn’t fair on anyone. Continuing a pregnancy which you know will leave you with long term psychological or physical health issues should only ever be done on your own terms, not by force. Pregnancies which are destined to not end with a live birth, or to end in the birth of a child who is suffering, in pain, for the short amount of time they do live, should not be dictated by the state but by the people who have to live with those choices.
Choice. That is all this is about. Allowing men and women (because it does take two) to make the choice about if or when they want to bring another life into the world. Contraception is never 100% effective, and to preach abstinence is to close your eyes and wander blindly out into the world. You can use all of the preventative measures you like and still have a mess up happen. Sex is, shockingly, not just for pro-creation purposes. Just because a woman has possession of a uterus, of fallopian tubes, of female reproductive organs, does not mean she is OBLIGED morally to use them.
Nobody is frog marching women to abortion clinics, tying them down and removing their child by force. The legislation in this country is however frog marching women towards the maternity ward, unless she has the means to leave the country. For all the emphasis on the need to give birth, the aftermath is left unattended. There are not enough supports available for those who cannot care for a child. Our social services are over-subscribed, our welfare system underfunded, our politicians preaching the need for single parents without childcare to return to the workforce without providing any sustainable solutions to where their children should go, by cutting off a source of income. You MUST have these children. You MUST care for them. You MUST not leave them on their own. You MUST go out into the workforce to fund your life, paying money you don’t have to childcare. There is no choice in the matter. Our constitution says so. Unless we repeal the 8th amendment, nothing is set to change about that any time soon.
Denial of healthcare and making it a moral issue should not be considered acceptable in this day and age. This isn’t something we can, or should, stop talking about until it is rectified. The side which wishes to silence the pro-choice movement complains often about their group being silenced. These are the same people appearing on each and every publicly funded broadcast about the subject “for balance”, and kicking up a fuss when they are not, even when it’s nothing to do with politics and merely people sharing their story. Strangers should not have control over my uterus. And I’m not ready to shut up about it until they no longer do.
Repeal the 8th.