Youth Defence: Loving them Both?


When I say that I am not sure what Youth Defence’s definition of love is, it’s not just a statement I’m making for rhetorical effect. It’s an honest expression of bafflement. If you’ve been anywhere in Ireland in the past week or so, it’s unlikely you’ve missed the posters- they’re everywhere. A large handprint with a smaller one inside it and the phrase “the only solution is to love them both?”.

I’m not sure what they mean by the question mark either. Youth Defence are not a group I’ve ever known to ask an honest question or give a straight answer. It could be that they’re appealing to the (imaginary) idea that we will see this as obvious or self evident. “Obviously, the only solution is to love them both?”, asked with a sense of wondering why on earth we’re having this conversation to start with.

I’m not sure what Youth Defence mean by love, but I’m almost certain that I don’t want it.

I don’t want the love of strangers. Love is a thing that I share with my closest friends, family, and partners. I love my parents, my Ladyfriend, some of my friends, my cat. I love the people who I am closest to. I figure that you probably do too. Love is a big word with big implications. It’s not a word that should be thrown around. Love is a word that describes something more than the everyday. Love states that this is a person with whom I feel a unique kind of connection and closeness. My love for a person isn’t something that’s inherent to them. It is the bond between us.

Love isn’t just a bond, though. It also asks things of us. If I say that I love someone I don’t just mean that I hold them in high regard and that I have strong feelings of affection for them. Love demands respect. I’ve found that no matter how warmly I feel towards a person there is no way I can call my feelings love unless I also respect them and their perspectives. Love is also about empathy, you see, and it’s difficult to take the point of view of a person you hold in contempt.

And love is about taking those feelings of closeness, affection and respect and becoming the ally of the person you love. We stand beside those we love. We’re their cheerleaders when the need it, we’re the people to take them aside and have a friendly and circumspect word with them when they are, as we’d say ‘round these parts, acting the maggot*.

I don’t love Youth Defence. No matter what they claim, they don’t love me.

What they call love, I call something else. Youth Defence don’t seem to understand that love is a special and particular thing. They don’t get that it comes with respect, dignity and listening to the other’s point of view. Their idea of love feels like a cloying thing. It’s the ‘love’ of an abuser who cries that you can never live without them, that if you walk out the door and leave them you’ll be nothing.

I don’t want love from strangers. I’m willing to bet that neither do you. What I want from strangers- what I’d be willing to bet that we all want- is an understanding of my equal dignity. I want strangers to accept that I, like them, am a person with the right to determine my own destiny. I want strangers to uphold my rights and expect me to uphold theirs. I want us to have an understanding that we work together to create a society where we all have these rights to support, self-determination and bodily integrity, and what we let love fall where it may.

I don’t want their love. I want respect not because of my unique human DNA or magical ‘soul’, but because I am a person. I have thoughts, wishes, dreams and fears and the ability to articulate them- something I share with every other person, a hell of a lot of members of different species (if you disagree with this I must introduce you to my cat), and no embryo on the planet.

There is no ‘Only Solution’, Youth Defence. There are millions of solutions to millions of issues faced by millions of people. Time for you to grow up and accept that.

edited to add: Oh my sweet & savoury Spaghetti Monster, I just realised how flippin’ creepy it is that they’re using the phrase “only solution”. I’ve managed to get through this so far without swearing but.. holy shiiiit, YD. What the everloving fuck do you think you’re doing?

*Free Hiberno-English lesson: that means being a douchebag. That’s right- a douchebag.

Blog for Choice Day 2013: Why I’m Pro-Choice


bfcd-2013Twelve women. Every day of every week of every year. Twelve women get on planes and ferries and travel to the UK from Ireland for abortions. Every day. In my lifetime that adds up to over one hundred and fifty thousand. Over one hundred and fifty thousand women- that we know of– forced to leave their country and travel, often alone, to unfamiliar cities to wait in hospitals they’ve never been to, to have abortions performed by doctors they’ll never see again, and then to take the long journey back home. A few months ago, drinking coffee before my early morning flight back from the UK I wondered how many other women were waiting in airports around the country. How many of them were taking buses in the chilly pre-dawn air to almost-deserted airports, sitting in departure lounges until their gates were announced, drinking overpriced tea at the gates? How many of them were alone?

I’m not American. Roe vs Wade didn’t give my fellow citizens the right to sovereignty over their own bodies. I’m from a place where these rights don’t exist and where an adult woman is valued only as much as a fertilised egg that implants inside her. I’m from a place where women are left to die in easily-preventable agony to serve the principle of ‘life’. A country that attempts to prevent suicidal children who have survived abuse only to become pregnant from leaving the country. Somewhere that forces women to carry their dead and dying fetuses to term against their wishes. A country that says that no risk short of a woman’s almost certain death is a valid reason to allow her to terminate a pregnancy- which is, by the way, largely to blame for the death of Dr Savita Halappanavar. No other risk to her health and well-being, no matter how severe, painful and permanent. Nothing but certain death.

I come from a country where the moment you become pregnant your life ceases to be your own and becomes the state’s. The only recourse we have- hundreds of thousands of women in a country of only four million citizens- is to leave. We’re lucky. Our country is small and close to our neighbours. There are people who will help us, from overseas hospitals who welcome Irish women with the care they need to organisations like the Abortion Support Network (please donate to them if you can! They need everything they can get) who provide both information and financial help to those who need it.

Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible to live somewhere like here and not be pro-choice. The evidence of this beautiful country of mine’s continued refusal to change, however, can’t but remind me otherwise. And then I remember that in my entire life I have only ever seen one woman in person speak out publicly about having had an abortion. I’ve been going to pro-choice demonstrations since I was old enough to vote. I just turned thirty.

I’m pro-choice because women and trans* men deserve respect and we deserve the dignity of a state that acknowledges that we are the only people with final say on our bodies and our destinies. Because pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood are momentous and change your life forever and everyone needs the right to decide for themselves if they will go through that. Because every child deserves to know that they were wanted and cherished from the moment their parents decided to have them. Because people who have abortions deserve professionalism and support, not degradation and shame.

And I’m pro-choice because banning abortion doesn’t stop people from terminating their pregnancies. It just makes the experience more difficult, traumatic and sometimes more dangerous. Banning abortion in Ireland didn’t stop people having abortions. It meant that we have to scramble to raise thousands of euro, to get time off work, find help to mind the families we might already have, and make a long and lonely trek to a different state. It meant that Irish women have abortions later than their UK counterparts, and that we are far more likely to choose surgical than medical abortions. Medical abortions, you see, while far less invasive, take longer. That is time that we don’t have. And it means that we buy our medical abortion pills online, without prescriptions or medical advice, and that when there are complications we are shamed by the medical professionals we go to for help. The only people prevented from having abortions in this state are those who either cannot afford or are legally prevented from travelling. People without financial support and asylum seekers are some of the most marginalised groups in this country, and by banning abortion we take away their right even to their own bodies.

I am pro-choice because we deserve dignity. We deserve to know that every time we walk into a hospital the doctors and nurses who work with us will be concerned only with our health and wellbeing. We deserve to choose the course of our own lives, and for that choice to be respected by our state. We deserve better than shame.