After seeing the use of abhorrent anti-choice posters containing misinformation and graphic images as a catalyst for shameful scaremongering, it’s time to set the record straight about what the 8th Amendment actually is, why we need to repeal it, and what will happen if we do.
A lovely trip to town with my mother. Marred only by this lie within sight of the Maternity where I gave birth to my youngest child 11 yrs ago today. I also had a miscarriage at 8 weeks pregnant. In my own bathroom. It couldn’t have looked less like a yawning kicking baby
According to the master of Rotunda Maternity Hospital, Professor Fergal Malone, the above “Vote No” poster is “not factually accurate“.
The 8th Amendment and the referendum:
On the 25th May 2018, Irish citizens will be given the opportunity to vote in a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment of the constitution. This amendment was enacted in 1983 at a time when divorce, homosexual activity, and contraception were all illegal in Ireland. It states the following:
“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.”
Essentially, this amendment awards equal right to life of both a foetus and the person in which it resides. The law does not permit the possibility of a termination of any pregnancy unless a pregnant person’s life is at immediate risk. In other words, the only circumstance in which someone can terminate their pregnancy on Irish soil is if they are on the verge of death.
The most important thing to elucidate here is what this referendum actually entails. It will not change abortion law. This referendum is first and foremost about reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. It is not an “abortion referendum”. It will only be asking us to vote on whether or not we should repeal the 8th Amendment. The reason why I feel I need to clarify this is because during the campaign for marriage equality in 2015, one of the main arguments the “No” side perpetuated was that children should be brought up by a mother and a father, despite the fact that same-sex couples were already legally allowed to adopt children in Ireland prior to the referendum. So their argument that a “Yes” vote would somehow threaten their bizarre belief in heteronormative parenthood as a requirement for child-rearing had no validity whatsoever.
Therefore, there needs to be absolutely no confusion over what repealing this amendment would mean. A “Yes” vote would result in the introduction of an enabling clause to allow for provision made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy. It isn’t going to mean that abortion will be fully decriminalised. There will be certain circumstances in which abortion will still be a criminal offence if repeal passes. Additionally, the proposed abortion law reform will not be “unrestricted” as has been falsely claimed by the “No” side.
Click here to find out more about what will happen if we do repeal, including information about the proposed abortion law reform.
A Yes vote does not mean there will be no restrictions. There will be a waiting period of 72 hours for reflection & counselling. Terminations beyond 12 weeks will remain illegal except in very specific circumstances. Late term abortions will be illegal.
Are you pro-repeal? Let’s find out:
A common misconception surrounding this whole debate is that pro-life views must be synonymous with those of the anti-repeal movement. But that’s not always the case. There are many Irish people who are pro-life but are voting “Yes” because they understand that a law forcing someone to remain pregnant against their will has no place in our constitution. The “No” side’s oversimplification of repeal has resulted in the widespread distribution of misinformation, manifesting itself in harmful, and frankly appalling, scare tactics. There are many circumstances in which you can be pro-repeal. Here are some:
If you believe that a person who was raped and became pregnant as a result should not be subjected to a forced pregnancy, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe that a person who was raped, consequently becomes pregnant, and has an abortion on Irish soil should not have to face up to 14 years in prison, while their rapist (if convicted) could only face a maximum sentence of 10 years, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe that a child (the average age for puberty among girls is between 10 and 14) should not be forced to carry a foetus to term, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe that a person who is carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality should not be forced to endure a nine-month pregnancy, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe that a medical professional shouldn’t be forced to turn away a pregnant person even when their life is at risk, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe that a person whose contraception failed and consequently becomes pregnant should not be forced to carry a foetus to term, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe anyone, regardless of their reproductive organs, should be allowed the basic right to bodily autonomy, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe that the constitution shouldn’t act as a replacement for medical professionals when it comes to female reproductive healthcare, then you are pro-repeal.
If you believe a pregnant person should have more control over their own pregnancy than the State, then you are pro-repeal.
If you, however, do not believe any of the above statements then you are not “pro-life”. You are pro-forced birth.
Restrictive laws on abortions don’t stop them from happening. Here are the facts:
For starters, by repealing, we are not “bringing abortion to Ireland”. Abortions happen in Ireland every day and they will continue to happen whether we repeal this amendment or not. By retaining it, we will carry on turning a blind eye to the abortions that Irish people seek, both here and abroad. We will continue to shame into silence those who travel in order to make ourselves feel more comfortable. And we will continue to live as a society of hypocrites by collectively passing the same judgments on teens who seek abortions as teens who walk by us with prams.
And the hypocrisy of so-called “pro-lifers” extends even further. They claim that adoption is a viable alternative to abortion, yet offer no support to children who are in fact adopted. The ARA (Adoption Rights Alliance) has stated in their position paper:
“In our experience over the past two decades, we have yet to meet an adopted person who has been offered support from any individual or group purporting to be ‘pro-life’. Moreover, testimony from natural mothers, particularly during the 1980s, suggests that so-called ‘pro-life’ campaigners were amongst those who persecuted them most. No group professing to ‘love both’ has ever offered assistance to our organisation or its predecessors in our campaign for information rights for adopted people.”
The ARA also strongly states:
“Adoption should only ever be utilised in situations where a child genuinely needs a home, and not as a mechanism whereby women and girls are forced to carry to term and then relinquish the child to a closed, secret system”.
Anti-repealers claim 1 in 5 “babies” are aborted in England. There have been many accounts of people disproving this “fact” (see image below), but even if this were the case in Ireland, who would look after the babies anti-repealers claim an amendment such as this would save? If you are anti-repeal, then you should be willing to fight for every single unwanted baby and child already living in this country with the same zeal you are using to fuel the Save the 8th’s cause. Fight to end child cruelty and neglect. Fight to end child homelessness. Fight to end child trafficking. Fight for better living conditions for children living in halting sites. Fight for access to information rights for adopted people. Fight for free contraception and better sex education in schools. Why are you instead channelling your energy into fighting to retain an amendment that has failed countless people on this island? The world is already overpopulated. It’s completely naive to think that we have the means to support every single foetus, baby, and child that has ever been conceived.
And here are some more facts. The World Health Organisation has stated that “legal restrictions on abortion do not result in fewer abortions”:
Image source: World Health Organisation
Additionally, Guttmacher Institute has released a report which found that the rate of abortion in countries that provide access to it on request is lower than in countries that prohibit it. Want to decrease the rate of abortion in Ireland? Start by removing the amendment that forces people to access unsafe and illegal abortions.
How to vote if this amendment doesn’t directly affect you:
While it’s nice for some people to recognise that this amendment doesn’t directly affect everyone, it’s still important for them to vote. This is a societal issue that has remained unchanged due to the Church and State’s influence over Irish people’s private affairs. To those who are still on the fence or are confused by the misinformation being distributed by the “No” side, it’s a good idea to actually listen to the people who will be directly affected by the outcome of this referendum. Listen to the young people who will have to live with the consequences of your vote for years to come, particularly those who are too young to vote but are old enough to become pregnant. Listen to the stories of the brave people whose lives ended as a result of forced births. Listen to the people with disabilities who feel they mightn’t have the means to look after a child if they do get pregnant. Listen to the homeless, non-nationals, the travelling community, and other minorities who are the worst affected by the 8th Amendment (40% of maternal deaths in Ireland are migrant women).
If you will never directly be affected, then listen to those who will and vote for a society future generations will actually want to live in.
Imagine the Catholic Church had the same fervour in campaigning for supports for people with disabilities, reasonable living conditions in halting sites, ending the homelessness/intergenerational poverty, or fighting austerity post-crash – as they do fighting to #Savethe8th.
A developed country needs laws to reflect its status:
Globally, maternal deaths are the second largest killer of women. Granted, the majority of these deaths are subjected to women from developing countries, which is another major issue, but it nonetheless highlights how dangerous childbirth is. Pregnancy and childbirth do irrefutable and irreversible physical damage to someone who is already living. In fact, abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth. If you believe the State should have the power to force anyone to remain pregnant, give birth, and endure the lifelong physical effects, then you are not “pro-life”. We need to repeal because someone’s life shouldn’t be permanently altered due to a law preventing them from being in control of their own reproductive organs.
If changing the status quo scares you, just remember that if you don’t want an abortion, you don’t have to have one. But telling a stranger, a friend, or a loved one they shouldn’t have the right to make that choice for themselves is the epitome of oppression. They shouldn’t be the ones who have to live with your opposing view.
If some people realised how dangerous pregnancy & childbirth can be they might not pontificate about keeping people pregnant. Serious issues can arise and they do everyday, devastating & serious life threatening issues, talk to midwives, nurses, medics #trustus 💔 #repealthe8th
— Twitter source: repealers can call me polly molotov ❤️💜💖🧡💙💚 (@NursepollyRgn) November 9, 2017
Back in 2016, United Nations human rights experts had this to say about States that enforce restrictive abortion laws:
“We urge States to repeal restrictive laws and policies in relation to abortion, which do not meet the international human rights law requirements and that have discriminatory and public health impacts, and to eliminate all punitive measures and discriminatory barriers to access safe reproductive health services. These laws and policies violate women’s human right to health and negate their autonomy in decision-making about their own bodies.”
We are behind global progress by retaining or supposedly “saving” the 8th Amendment. Instead of forcing our own citizens and others living here to risk their lives by availing of illegal pills, resorting to back-alley abortions, travelling to a different country often alone to access proper care, or carrying a foetus they never wanted to term, we need to provide everyone access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare in our own country.
I absolutely understand people being opposed to abortion. I will never understand them seeking to impose their opposition on women who feel differently. #repealthe8th
Not everyone can deal with the mental trauma of travelling to another country to undergo a stigmatised medical procedure their own country deems criminal. After this referendum, regardless of the outcome, pretending this isn’t happening won’t work anymore. Because of the 8th Amendment, we are allowing the health of pregnant people to deteriorate to the point of near death before healthcare professionals can intervene. And no matter how criminal we make them, we aren’t stopping abortions. We are only endorsing unsafe abortions.
This referendum is first and foremost about removing an inhumane amendment that has denied half the population their right to proper reproductive healthcare and bodily autonomy. No one should have to consult the constitution before they consult their doctor. We’ve never loved both.
You can check to see if you’re registered to vote here. See you on the 25th.
Click here to read this great piece on why a foetus is not equal to the person in which it resides.
Click here to read an article on how women rarely regret their abortions.
Click here to read about how women “don’t owe you their wombs or the human race every child that might ever be conceived.”
Read the ARA’s position paper on the 8th Amendment here.
Rape Crisis Centre:
1800 778 888
Pregnancy Crisis Centre:
(01) 814 6292
The Misscarriage Association of Ireland:
Mon-Friday, from 10.00 a.m. to 12 Noon: Kate on 087 3577174
Mon-Friday, from 8.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m.: Laura on 087 0925568