In Ireland, a massive political hot potato as been passed around for decades. The debate surrounds the idea that the government should at least update draconian laws when it comes to abortion, or legislate for the X case to begin with.
I’m not a legal expert so can’t really go into the legislative reasons behind the abortion debate. However, the anti-abortion movement in Ireland – funded in part by anti-abortion lobbyists in the US looking to bolster their movement by using Ireland as an example – are trying to keep things as they are, which is to say that they want abortion in Ireland to remain illegal, even in the case where the mothers’ life is at risk. Or, well, any circumstance.
As you can imagine, the anti-abortion movement is largely populated by people not from cities and generally of “a certain age”. That in itself is fine as people from different ways of life have different views to those from cities – where life is a little different. However, I take issue with the large following the anti-abortion lobby garners from the religious elite. A group of people who seem to make up the vast majority of that movement. A group of people generally at an advanced age, and generally more bullish towards the pro-choice movement. [edit: I’ve been called out on this a few times. I’m not suggesting that everyone over age Y is anti-abortion, nor am I suggesting anyone outside of Dublin is either… this group of people tend to be the common denominator in these anti-abortion “vigils” that have been going on recently]
The problem is that religion in Ireland is a disgraced movement. Years of abusing children, abusing power and then covering it up should garner no support, in my view. And for me, anyone who would have the audacity to support religion in this day & age is someone who doesn’t get to share an opinion with me in any context.
I’m in a loving, committed relationship and have been for the last 6 years with the same person. You would get very low odds from a bookmakers betting on us to get married (not in a church) & have a child one day.
I have literally no intention of ever having an abortion. None. I have no plans to have a child anytime soon either, but if somehow my girlfriend got pregnant, we wouldn’t be hopping on a boat to England right away.
However, if the child somehow threatened my girlfriends’ life, I would rather have a procedure to save her life carried out than just pray the pain away and hope for the best. I would hate to have doctors and nurses surrounding a sick woman saying they know how to fix the issue, but are legally obliged to not do it because abortion is illegal.
That’s inhumane. It’s even more inhumane because the legislation is derived from religious beliefs. Remember, the Irish religious situation is in tatters because priests, who used to hold great power up to recently in Ireland, raped and abused their way through schoolchildren & then covered it up. None of them have been aptly prosecuted.
The fact here is that this isn’t about people having abortions for any reason – it’s about the choice being presented when necessary.
“On demand abortion”
The anti-abortion lobby seem to think that legislation allowing abortion would let women wander into A&E receptions all over the country & just get an abortion. That kind of argument has been a cornerstone to their campaign and ignores everything the pro-choice lobby have requested.
That kind of claim is tantamount to saying lung transplants should be banned because people will smoke cigarettes just because a lung will be available to them in 20 years time when they’ve destroyed their lung on a whim.
Legislation for abortion has nothing to do with supply & demand economics. It has to do with giving professionals an option to abort a pregnancy when it’s deemed necessary.
The joke has always been that Irish women seeking an abortion just get on the boat to England. The thing is, that’s not a joke. If Savita Halappanavar wanted to stay alive, knowing an abortion would have saved her life, she would just have travelled to England. The reason she’s dead (and she’s not the only such case, she’s just the most high profile in recent years) is that she was in an Irish hospital instead of a British one.
The NHS guidelines around abortion are remarkably clear on what abortion is, what the options are to women and what kind of procedure is needed in order to have an abortion. Savita would have complied with these rules.
Should legislation not change in Ireland, vulnerable, scared and often sick women will continue to travel to the UK. Abortion will happen regardless of the anti-abortion lobby.
The anti-abortion lobby ignore the very real situation some women are in. The fact that there are charities in the UK helping Irish women to seek termination in the UK for a variety of reasons should speak volumes. Charities, helping Irish women. This isn’t a charity helping a third world country – but it sure does feel like it.
The figures are strange, too. Thousands of women travel to the UK for an abortion, but last year the number dropped 7%. An optimist will say that’s down to the lessened need for abortion. A pessimist will say that’s because women couldn’t afford to travel to the UK. [edit: 41 people called Abortion Support Network in May – the pessimistic side probably wins here]
The remedy to stupid decisions
The anti-abortion campaign have used very nice looking billboards, trucks and adverts to push home the idea that abortion is just a way for young, stupid people to get out of the responsibility of having a baby. They’ll put pictures of perfectly healthy foetuses up to demonstrate their point. Or, the more hard line folks will put a picture up of a gruesome scene of a bin filled with foetuses.
Isn’t it funny most of the funding for those ads goes to Dublin? It’s also mind-bending to think that they show horrific images of foetuses to push forward their point – as if a medical procedure is as grotesque as that. In my lung analogy, I’m sure I could photoshop a picture of a bunch of lungs dumped in a landfill to prove the point that lung transplants for smokers are awful, because it encourages smoking.
Propaganda is very, very powerful.
Somehow, the campaign believes abortion is for 16 year olds without any sense rather than sick, vulnerable and frightened women. You’re not likely to find a smiling, happy couple outside a hospital in the UK after an abortion procedure. Take this quote from the Guardian as a solid example of what really goes on:
Three women have told the Guardian about their experience of being told their babies would die and that they must continue with the pregnancy, potentially to full term. All three travelled to England for abortions, with one describing having to leave Ireland for the procedure as “barbaric”. They are calling for human rights organisations, feminist groups and parliamentarians across the world to urge the Fine Gael-Labour coalition to reform the law.
Again, legislation in Ireland isn’t to have a-la-carte abortions for all. Even if it were, it’s not like doctors are going to stop prescribing the pill and pharmacies are going to stop selling condoms because abortions are easier, cheaper and more fun. It’s about providing solid medical choices. Imagine being in a hospital and being told your foetus is going to die – but you can’t terminate. You’ve to go through a pregnancy because Ireland is too draconian to carry out something that is indoctrinated in human rights laws in most civilised countries.
The most infuriating thing about the anti-abortion lobby is that I don’t understand why they care. If the average age of someone in their lobby is over the age of 55, why are they lobbying so aggressively & raising so much cash for the cause (cash that could go to more charitable causes, for example)? These people are unlikely to be faced with the abortion issue in their lives, because they’re too old to conceive. But somehow they feel like they need to ensure legislation follows their beliefs first, and the people who might need that legislative protection second.
It’s sort of like complaining about a TV show. You could turn it off, turn away from it or leave the room. If abortion is legislated for & you don’t like it, just don’t have one if it’s ever presented to you. But I bet that if someone in the anti-abortion lobby were faced with a life-threatening pregnancy, they would rather have a termination than die.
The legal system originates with the idea of legislating for the people. The government has a fundamental role to legislate for people so that they don’t harm others. Legislation that prevents me from stabbing someone is good legislation. Legislation that prevents me from doing something with myself (that doesn’t cause harm to me or others) is bad legislation. If a woman has an abortion she does no harm to any one of the anti-abortion lobbyists. Thus legislation stopping it is bad legislation.
As I said at the outset, this is a political hot potato that is drawing the crazies out on both camps, and making legislation harder to legislate for. Legislation that should basically copy the rule book from the UK is now bogged-down in the weeds to sedate a rampant anti-abortion lobby is going to go a long way in the campaign to allow abortions for Irish woman, but it’ll miss the mark by quite a bit. Our government, being spineless in almost every way (I’m not a fan of ’em, regardless of this debate) are stalling the process by having useless debates with priests and doctors with too strong an opinion to be informative.
I could write a lot more on this, but I’m at 1634 words right now, and even at this, I’m going to attract a lot of weird attention. But I felt the need to write something cohesive.
For more information on this, see the links I’ve scattered around this post, but also see:
Irish Family Planning Assoc.
Well Woman Centre
If you’re in the anti-abortion lobby and want to email me a death-threat, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.