This week at the Irish Medical Organisation’s annual conference, Doctors for Choice put forward motions calling for regulation for abortion in the most limited of cases: where there is a “real and substantial” risk to the life of the pregnant person.
This should not be controversial.
This is precisely what Irish people have voted for in multiple referenda. What the Supreme Court has ruled. What should have been the law of the land for the past two decades. We are not talking about the dreaded “abortion on demand”- or, as I like to call it, “medical care at the discretion of the person who needs it and their doctor”. Doctors for Choice were looking for nothing more than regulations guaranteeing that women who will not survive without abortions are not forced to either travel overseas or die.
Dublin GP Dr Cyril Daly said he was reminded of German doctors before the second world war who decided that young children with conditions such as blindness or deafness had lives that were not worth living and who were subsequently killed with cynanide.
Dr Eleanor Corcoran, a consultant psychiatrist, said if the motion was passed there would be abortion on demand in no time.
Dr Peter O’Sullivan, a GP from Dublin, said he could not remember a case where a patient wanted an abortion following a criminal act.
Dr John Keogh of Kildare said the motion brought the abortion debate to another level. “We are now talking about, despite the traumatic and dreadful situation regarding the conception, aborting normal healthy babies”. He said conception should not be a criteria for abortion.
The motions were all defeated.
Welcome to Ireland.
As you’re here
It’s time to plug the Abortion Support Network, who provide financial assistance, accommodation and shedloads of support to women who need to travel to the UK for abortions. Yes, I plug them every chance I get. Wouldn’t you?
Irish women have abortions. Every single day. Because of our laws, we aren’t able to do so in Ireland, so we travel. You hear a lot about the fact that women travel, as if it were an easy thing. We’ve all popped over to the UK for a long weekend or holiday, haven’t we? Travelling for an abortion shouldn’t be more complicated, should it?
Pro-choice activist Stephanie Lord tells us a little about what is really, really involved:
Do you have the internet? If you have, do you know how to delete your browser history so that your violent partner doesn’t know what you’re up to? Can you go to an internet café where nobody knows you? Bring tissues just in case. Do you know the number of the local women’s refuge?
Have you been to the doctor? How far along are you? Do you know the further along you are, the more expensive an abortion is? Can you get a loan from a Credit Union? Or will you go to a money lender? Do you have anything you can sell to raise the money? Can you lie to your parents or friends to borrow money? Can you max your credit card? Do you even have a credit card? Are there any bills that you can get away with not paying this month? Have you gone through all your old coats and looked down the back of the sofa? How long will it take for you to get €1,000 together? Can you get an extra €20 off the Community Welfare Officer? Can you not buy coal for the next few weeks? Are you on the dole? Can you use your savings? Can you defer your year at college and save the money for your Master’s Degree again? Is it Christmastime? Can you return any gifts for a refund or sell them for cash?
Women with money have options, women with nothing have babies.
Hold on to your seats and put down anything breakable, because you’re about to be shocked like you’ve never been shocked before. The latest scandal this week in Ireland has been over the fact that teenagers and young adults sometimes have sex. With each other. And that they sometimes experiment with sexy things.
I know. It was a surprise to me too. Who would have thought that hormone-flooded 16-25 year olds might possibly think of engaging in all sorts of deliciously sexy fun? They definitely wouldn’t come up with the idea on their own. Everyone knows that the only way to get a 16-25 year-old even thinking about sex is for an older person to write a matter-of-fact, clinical article describing how to be safe while you’re doing it.
Keep it safe. Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before, but seriously keep yourself protected. Like every sexual encounter it is important that you practice safe sex, and that means using contraception, even during oral sex. Remember that condoms are the only form of contraception that protects you against both pregnancy and STI’s.
Do be aware that you’ll need to change condoms if you are switching partners during the threesome. Otherwise you could end up with some pretty nasty infections.
Only do it if you want to do it. Not ‘cause you want to keep your girl or guy happy or because other people say it would be great craic. You do not love your partner any less because you do not want a threesome.
Respect your partner. If your partner tells you that they want things a certain way, don’t ignore it during the threesome. That’s pretty uncool and will likely affect your relationship too.
I know, right? I could barely keep my pants on myself.
Turning off the snark for a moment, though, Sharrow from Activism and Agitation got on the phone to Liveline to give the country some much-needed uncommon sense about teenagers, threesomes and safety.
Yes I did say, anal sex, oral sex, 3some and the phrase ‘promoting blowjobs’ live on national radio to Joe Duffy, who doesn’t intimidate me at all, sure he grew up in the same part of Dublin as my Dad and is about the same age and all. I did ring and tell my parents afterwards, as a polite heads up and they laughed and said they were proud of me.
You see back in the mid 80s they ran parenting courses in primary schools for other parents, including the sex educational model and they have always been advocates of sex education, so I didn’t lick it off a stone.
When it isn’t women having abortions and young adults having sex, it’s those pesky, uppity womenfolk thinking they can just march on in and steal all the jobs rightfully belonging to the menz.
Yes, you read that right. Right here in 2013 Ireland, there’s a possibility that parents (and we all know which ones) whose childcare costs are greater than their income may be forced to.. quit their jobs. By their banks. I kid you not.
These guidelines will apply to those who are no longer able to make their mortgage payments and seek to enter into negotiations with the bank. Under the guidelines, lenders will be able to impose restrictions on what customers spend their money on, and how much they spend. These agreements will be facilitated by state-appointed mediators.
The first step of the process will be an estimation of what a person/couple/family needs to spend on “reasonable living expenses”. They will be allowed this figure but must then forego any luxuries. These “luxuries” include a car (in some cases),health insurance and for some, childcare.
every (male) journalist and politician was discussing how “women” and “mothers” might be forced to give up their jobs (it’s only a silly hobby for them anyway!). They made the immediate presumption that it would be the woman of the house who a) earned less and b) would obviously be the one to stay back and mind the kids. Mind you, considering that the pay gap continues to widen with each year of austerity, and on average women are responsible for 86%of child supervision in this country, I suppose it’s probably an accurate assumption
Just like that. For the past four years of your life you’ve been in the 99%, and now, at 23 years of age, you are the 1%. Not in terms of politics, or economics – although both are related to what I’m talking about – but birth control. We forget that it isn’t 100% and we take it for granted that we’ll be okay, that we won’t get pregnant. But then our period’s due date arrives and… nothing. Days go by… nothing.
And you know. There’s something inside you that tells you that you’re pregnant. Your friends tell you everyone gets irregular periods, or you must be stressed… but you know. It’s just different this time.
But you take a home pregnancy test anyways because you hold on to a shred of hope that you’re wrong, that your body is wrong. It’s not. The results are shockingly quick, a little plus sign taunting you from inside its plastic cover, screaming your situation for the world to hear.
Today is a signal-boost. A friend of a friend has been blogging about her experiences travelling to the UK from Ireland for an abortion. For obvious reasons- it’s both stigmatised and personal- she’s blogging anonymously. It’s short- just three posts. It’s just one story of many.
had a fight with my partner on the last night. He was becoming excessively protective about men being in close proximity to me. I’m generally quite an independent person, I like to dance with my friends and I can handle myself with regards to unwanted attention, so this kind of behaviour grated off me like nails on a chalk board. It was embarrassing and he made a few scenes and eventually we left early. I was drunk. I was upset. I vaguely realized then that this was his way of reacting to the news. But not until the morning after did I fully come to understand it.
He’s been so supportive that I forget that he must feel in some way helpless. He’s supposed to be my hero when I’m in distress (as I am his, if he were in distress) and that’s frustrating for him because he has done all that he can for me.
The weekend ended with a pit in my stomach as my friends and their jovial dispositions drove away and I was left to my own devices. No distractions. Only the reality that I am in a liminal and tense space.
There’s no such thing as the abortion story. Every abortion story is different. Every person is different.
From the packing of our suitcases, to going through baggage check, to the waiting at our gate, my partner and I were fixated on one thing and one thing only – this was nota holiday.
My bag was light, packed with practical clothes – not my usual skirts, bikinis, dresses, heels, shorts… simply baggy comfortable clothing – along with medicine and sanitary pads. Baggage check was eerily quick as we were so prepared. Our time waiting was edgy, there were no “airport pints”, no pictures to remember the moment, no cheer. I realized dejectedly that my innocence was being stripped away from me – I always enjoyed the airport. I’ve always had this fantastic relationship with it, associating it with happy memories and good friends and freedom. But now I was here, everything was grey and serious. It wasn’t that place anymore. It was now a place full of lonely business people awkwardly posing and talking through ear pieces.
Irish abortion stories have that thing in common, though, don’t they? Not all of them. These days they’re as likely to be accessed over the internet as through our more traditional boats and flights out. But any time one of us needs an abortion we must become outlaws- either by breaking the law or travelling until we are, literally, outside it.
This story does have a happy ending, you know.
Returning home, I feel like me. The airport feels celebratory again, I have an omelette and a smoothie and am happy and hyper, even though it’s extremely early in the morning.
When I arrive home I clean my entire room. I bring my dog for a walk. I plan what I’ll do with my Easter break. I look forward to visiting a friend that’s living abroad. I even plan to bake. Something I always do when I’ve free time but simply haven’t had the energy or will to do it over the past few weeks while waiting for this procedure.
I’m back to normal, I can get on with my life, the cloud has lifted. On top of that, I’m no longer afraid of judgement. It can’t effect me anymore. This is my life. These are my choices. Your opinion of them is absolutely none of my concern. I am happy and confidant.
TW for anti-choicery, abuse, and abuse of animals.
Pro-choicers talk a lot about how the anti-choice movement is not really about protecting ‘life’ or preventing abortions, but punishing and controlling women.
Of a Sunday morning, I like to take a look at PostSecret over my coffee. While people’s secrets run from the mundane to the adorable to the disturbing, until this morning I’ve never been actively shocked by what I saw.
ARC’s 10 Days of Abortion Rights Action served the dual function of marking 21 years since the X Case judgement and demanding legislation before the summer is out. While we’ve yet to see that legislation, the energy, diversity, creativity and determination of everyone involved over the past weeks has been as heartening as it is inspiring. This time last year I would never have imagined events like these happening here in Ireland- but it’s been a long twelve months in abortion activism. My personal highlight from the Ten Days? Looking around the Sugar Club on Friday night to a room full of new faces. While I’m an unrepentant introvert in real life, there’s little that makes my activist heart happier than a room full of strangers- so I was even happier a week later, looking at photos of the Cork March for Choice and barely recognising anyone.
Demonstrations and cabaret, though, were only the beginning- although I wouldn’t envy anyone having to follow Dublin Nights for Choice‘s latest offering.
Monday marked 21 years since the X Case judgement. We’re still waiting for legislation. In the meantime, women are forced to leave the country, break laws, lie to employers, find money by any means necessary, just to access the medical care they need to save their lives and health. And sometimes, women are forced to die.
Yesterday morning, the Abortion Rights Campaign launched a nationwide 10 Days of Abortion Rights Action, which will take place beginning the first of March. Or, as I call it, this Friday. Ten days of action, because every single day at least ten women have to travel overseas for abortions they are barred from obtaining in Ireland.
You’re all probably sick to death of me rabbiting on about abortion in Ireland by now, but in case you’ve been under a rock: Abortion is illegal in Ireland. It is constitutional only to save a pregnant person’s life, and we don’t even have legislation for that. This leads (surprise, surprise), to deadwomen. ARC campaign for lifesaving legislation in the short term, and constitutional change in the longmedium slightly less short term.
Postcards and Events
ARC and local prochoice groups are hosting a diverse programme of events throughout the ten days. Check out their website and Facebook events page for details of goings-on near you! They range from rallys and stalls to cabaret and comedy to talks and film screenings- there’s bound to be something that takes your fancy.
In addition to this, we’re running a nationwide postcard campaign to send 30,000 print postcards- and even more online- to TDs to urge them to legislate for X- that’s for lifesaving abortions- before the Dail’s summer holidays. Postcards will be available at all of the 10 Days events, or hop over to the ARC website and we can send them to you.
Ten Days of Action Launch
By the way
In case you haven’t noticed, all of the links above to the Abortion Rights Campaign’s website mean.. that the website is up! Check it out! Bookmark it! Subscribe! Tell your friends! Get involved!
Reductio ad absurdum, despite sounding more like a spell from Harry Potter, is an argumentative tactic where the point is to take a person’s view and to show that it leads to some especially unpalatable conclusion. The idea then is to say to your opponent “okay, you can believe that, but if you believe that, then you have to believe this, and isn’t this obviously wrong?” Hey presto. Reductio ad absurdum! Their argument is reduced to the absurd.
The problem with this tactic, as one philosopher once said, is that there is no conclusion so absurd that there won’t be someone who’s still willing to accept it. Reductio ad absurdum can never show that an argument is false, only that it commits us to some especially strange conclusions. But at the very least it can clarify what the real costs of holding a view actually are.
Here’s an example:
Abortion is murder?
“Abortion is murder” is not a claim made by everyone who is pro-life (so none of what follows applies to those people) but it’s fair to say that this is a common claim when it comes to arguments against abortion.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this is true. What would follow from it? In other words, if we *really* believed that abortion is murder, what else should we believe?
First, consider the right to travel for an abortion abroad. If abortion is murder, should there be a right to travel abroad to commit murder?
Now, maybe one could object here and point out that it’s simply not practical to check whether a woman is pregnant before she leaves the jurisdiction, and one could point out that even if a woman is pregnant, goes abroad, and comes back without being pregnant, we can’t assume she had an abortion. Besides, Irish law can’t apply to what people do abroad, right?
A couple of things need to be said in response. First, while it’s true that Irish law doesn’t apply to you when you go abroad most of the time, that’s not always the case. Most countries, including Ireland, apply certain kinds of laws extraterritorially, which means you can be prosecuted here for doing something that might not be legal abroad. At the moment, this mostly applies to things like conspiracy to commit terrorism, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t necessarily be extended to cover murdering an Irish citizen abroad, even if murder is legal in that jurisdiction. (Remember, we’re assuming that abortion is murder)
Second, while it’s true that we can’t check whether every woman is pregnant, what if we had a woman who strides up to border control and proudly claimed that she’s travelling to the UK to have an abortion? There’s no practical difficulty here in working out whether she’s pregnant or intending to have an abortion – she’s just admitted it to us. Remember – if abortion is murder, we need to treat this case like we would treat a case of a mother who approaches border control with her two-week old infant and claims she’s travelling to the UK to kill it. Surely in that case we would at least want to detain the woman and subject her to a full psychiatric examination.
Finally, consider that those who object on practical grounds when explaining why women should have the right to travel rarely do so on principled grounds. This essentially admits that they would like to detain women if they could; it’s just that the logistical difficulties are too great
Consider now a woman who threatens to kill herself unless she is allowed to have an abortion. If abortion is murder, this is analogous to a woman who takes a 2-week-old child hostage and who threatens to blow herself and the child up unless we kill the child.
If the only choice in that case is between letting the woman kill them both, or saving the woman, maybe we ought to save the woman (since the child will die anyway). But if those are not our only options – if, for example, we could detain and arrest the woman without harming the child, then surely we ought to do that (in fact, if we had to kill the woman to save the child, this would also be justified).
If a woman makes a credible threat to murder me, it is right that she is detained until she is no longer a credible threat to my life. If abortion is murder, and if we apply the same principle consistently, then it follows that if we are presented with a woman who issues a credible threat (via suicide) to the life of her child, then we ought to detain her until such time as she can give birth and is no longer a threat to the child.
So, there’s the bullet that pro-life people must bite if they think abortion is murder. They must favour detaining suicidal women who demand an abortion (possibly women who have been raped) and force those women to give birth.
Unfortunately, I’ve recently pressed this argument against two pro-life people who decided that they would rather accept this conclusion than reject the premise that abortion is murder. That’s fair enough – at least they’re consistent. But at least arguments like this can make it clear exactly what is at stake if you really believe that aborting a foetus is the moral equivalent of murder.
Some people believe that it is impossible to be a practicing christian and be pro choice on the issue of abortion. But while it is true that a lot of Christians are pro-life, we all are not. Many of Ireland’s most militant pro-lifers are of course Roman Catholics, but other Christian denominations often get associated with them.
It is worth noting that in 1982 the Irish Council of Churches- the representative body for Protestant churches in Ireland- voiced concerns over the 8th Amendment. While all of them did oppose ‘abortion on demand‘, they foresaw reasons why an abortion should be an option.
Earlier this year I found this quote from Victor Griffin, the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, in 1982:
Abortion is morally wrong. However, at some time there may be rare unfortunate cases in which it is resorted to as the lesser of two evils. It is wrong to enshrine the Catholic view of this in the constitution
While for some abortion will always be morally wrong, who are we say to say it is morally right for a child to be born no matter what?
Morals to me are a personal thing. While there are very big moral positions that we all share (we should not steal, we should not kill etc), when abortion comes into the question everything goes a little grey. There is no hard and fast rule that we can apply as many on the Pro-Life side believe. We cannot impose our morals on others as we are not in their shoes. We are not in their position. If we were would we not like a choice? I know I would. Wouldn’t you?
Why should anyone decide that a medical treatment cannot be given to you because of their religious beliefs? At the end of the day, that is why abortion is illegal in this country. It is because we decided way back in 1983 to enshrine that “Catholic view” of conception into our constitution. How is that right for those who are not Catholic? Or those who do not subscribe to all of the Church’s teachings? There’s plenty of those Catholics around!
Does it mean that if we had a Jehovah Witness majority in this country that we would have voted to ban blood transfusions? Its crazy. I have the greatest respect for Jehovah Witness’, Jews and Muslims who do not try and make those around them obey the same religious laws as them. It is time the Roman Catholic Church (and other Christian Churches) did the same.
We as Christians should be looking inwards and ensuring we live our lives right, as that is what we are asked to do during Lent. We should not be stopping women from choosing what they do with their bodies when it will have no effect on us. It is ridiculous that Churches in this country want to prevent women of other faiths and none from having an abortion.
While I envisage there will be some discussion at the Church of Ireland Synod later this year on this issue, I am not sure what way it will go going by the discussion last year on Human Sexuality, but it will be divisive. But it will most likely set the tone for the conversation in the wider society on this issue.
I look forward to the Government finally bringing in legislation on this issue, and it finally being allowed.
Today’s guest post comes from Penny. Blogging at Penny Gets Lucky about things like feminism and sexuality, Penny’s comments have been featured here before and I was delighted that she was willing to write a post for the Tea Cosy.
A Difficult Topic
Abortion. It’s an ugly topic. Emotionally charged, difficult to sort out, and fraught with hyperbole on either side.
So I’m not writing this to discuss my views on abortion, per se. I consider myself both pro-life and pro-choice; the two are not mutually exclusive, regardless of what the rhetoric in each camp may say. I believe that every wanted baby should be given the best possible chance to make it into this world; and I believe every woman should be allowed to make a fully-informed decision as to whether she wants children or not. No one should enforce having babies; and certainly no one should enforce not having babies.
Right now, though, I think there’s a piece of the abortion-debate puzzle that’s largely getting ignored. We’re all so worried about what happens if abortion were made legal, or what happens if abortion were abolished, we’re forgetting to ask a fundamental question… What if we simply made abortion obsolete?