Ireland, 2014. A country reclaiming itself from economic ruin, with an educated workforce, first world health service and political backing towards becoming a more equal society in a referendum next year to ensure marriage equality becomes a part of our constitution. So far, so good. Yes, that health service may be crippled under huge waiting lists, that educated workforce vastly under-utilised and unemployed and an inference that equality is not something which should be campaigned for using our national media has occurred in the last week, but hey, we’re getting there. Our women are even allowed vote for the politician of their choice, and drive cars, and have full autonomy over their own bodies… oh, wait. We’re not talking about the same Ireland.
Tonight around the country there have been protests taking place to repeal the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution, which 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 over a year ago, 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.
I am pro-choice. I do not believe that it is the choice of someone who does not know me, who does not know my circumstances and who does not understand the exact situation as to whether or not I should give birth to a child, or be allowed to terminate the pregnancy. It is not my choice as to whether you or anyone else should do the same. I certainly do not believe that it should be the choice of the Irish government, whose policies about pregnant women seem to be becoming more draconian with every news article that comes out. Our High Court has in the last month declared that autonomy over your own body is null and void, if you are a pregnant women bringing your child into the world. Mind The Baby has an excellent piece about that injustice here. During my own pregnancy, I watched Prime Time in horror as the horrific plight of women who delivered their babies in the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise was played out to the media. We don’t have the right to do what we want with our bodies, they are not our own. We are incubators, vessels.
But we’re not.
The 8th Amendment reduces the status of the woman down to a life support machine. When it was voted in, there was already a question around the wording of it, stating that these issues which have played out over the last thirty years (X Case, A,B,C cases and this most recent case) were at risk of happening. Despite this, an unchanged version of the amendment was voted in by 67% of the electorate. We are no longer living in that Ireland, however, and it is time for a change.
As someone who didn’t exactly do pregnancy gracefully, I can honestly say that putting someone through it against their will is nothing short of barbaric. The women of Ireland have started raising our voices against this injustice, but we need to rediscover our roar. The forced victimisation to fit in with an outdated religious ideal for our constitution is unacceptable. The current situation is filled with unworkable legislation and puts the lives of our women at risk, to fit to an outdated ideal. We should not have to travel. We should not have to beg, or prove that it is life or death. We should be allowed autonomy over our own bodies.
It is 2014. A change needs to come now. We said Never Again after Savita. And yet here we are. We need a referendum to change the law, and to change our country to an Ireland that is supportive of women’s basic human rights.
It’s the very least we can do.
BadMammy rants some more over on Facebook.