The continued existence of the Eighth Amendment threatens the wellbeing of everyone of childbearing age in this country and infantilises women, our legislature, and the population as a whole
I hate the Eighth Amendment.
I don’t use the word ‘hate’ lightly, particularly in a political context. I’m aware of the power that the word has, and the fact that hate is rarely a good reason to do anything. On most political issues, I may disagree with people, I may dislike ideas or policies or platforms, but I don’t hate my opponents or their plans.
The Eighth Amendment to Bunreacht na hÉireann, however, that Hateful Eighth Amendment? That one is an exception.
One major reason that I hate the Eighth Amendment is the dishonesty that it promotes and facilitates in Ireland. The myth, of course, is that the Eighth Amendment ‘keeps Ireland abortion-free’ – but we know that is a complete untruth.
We know that in 2014, 3,725 women were forced to travel from Ireland to Britain to seek abortion-related healthcare, because it was denied to them in their own country. That’s not ‘keeping Ireland abortion-free’ – that’s exporting the problem, that’s heaping a greater burden upon someone who is already dealing with the physical and mental stress of an unexpected pregnancy.
We also know that in 2014, over 1,000 abortion pills were seized by Irish customs officers. That’s not ‘keeping Ireland abortion-free’ – that’s forcing women to put both their health and their liberty in jeopardy by ordering illegal pills over the internet and taking them without medical supervision.
Other women have discussed the forlorn hope of the ‘herbal abortion’, or of trying to induce a miscarriage by overdosing on alcohol or drugs or even physically harming oneself. That’s not ‘keeping Ireland abortion-free’ – this is forcing women into ever more desperate and dangerous scenarios, in order to maintain a status quo that is increasingly seen as a human rights violation by groups such as the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, and Amnesty International.
I hate the Eighth Amendment for the way it forces women to tell the world about their abortions, in the hope that laying bare the shameful reality of the Irish situation would force some change.
Of course, I am forever in awe of the dignity with which brave women like Róisín Ingle, Tara Flynn, Susan Cahill, Arlette Lyons, and so many others tell their stories. But I hate that they have to do this, that they are forced to assume that burden of exposing their private lives to the rest of us. It is an act of incredible generosity to the current and future generations of Irish women – but it shouldn’t be necessary.
If repealing the Eighth Amendment meant that no other woman would be forced to share that story – no matter whether they found it easy or hard, no matter what circumstances led to the need for an abortion – that alone would make it a worthwhile action.
My main motivation in politics is ending inequality; I suppose you could say that I hate inequality too, another rare use of that reserved word.
Ultimately, I believe that preventing access to abortion is as much an issue of inequality as it is anything else.
It is about the inequality of women, but it is also about inequality between women. Women are not equal to men in a society that prevents them from accessing abortion, because men are not denied access to a major aspect of healthcare in their own country. That’s inequality.
But it also creates inequality between women. Simply put, a woman who has the health and wealth to travel to Britain or elsewhere to get the care she cannot receive here is not equal to a woman who cannot travel. The defining factor of access to abortion for Irish women is not necessity of health or other status: it is their ability to travel. That’s inequality.
Repeal The Eighth Amendment
It doesn’t have to be like this in Ireland. We don’t have to accept that our Constitution enshrines a ban on women accessing healthcare. We don’t have to accept that our legislature is powerless to make compassionate, reasonable laws. We don’t have to accept the continuing oppression and endangerment of women.
For years, I have supported the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. If elected to Seanad Éireann, I will continue that support. I will push for a referendum on the issue as soon as it is viable, and I will use my platform to participate in the public debate and argue for why it needs to be repealed.
Ireland: let’s make the change that I know we can. Let’s repeal the Hateful Eighth Amendment, and let’s have a compassionate approach to abortion in Ireland: a bit less hate, and a bit more love.
If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this blog post, please consider contacting the following:
Irish Family Planning Association: http://www.ifpa.ie/
Rape Crisis Network Ireland: http://www.rcni.ie/
Women on Web: https://www.womenonweb.org/
For more information on my campaign, look around this website or see:
Campaign Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FieldForSeanad16/
If you would like more information on the campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, the following links may be of interest:
Abortion Rights Campaign: http://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/
Termination for Medical Reasons: http://www.terminationformedicalreasons.com/