Whose body is it anyway? Ireland and forced birth

TW for forced birth, rape.

You all know by now what the Tea Cosy stance is on abortion in Ireland– that the anti-choice lobby want nothing more than to control women’s bodies, punish us for daring to have sex (or for being raped!), force us to give birth against our will, and refuse us medical treatment even to save our lives. There is no other way to to interpret the massive pushback against the introduction of legislation to allow abortion solely to save the pregnant person’s life.

It turns out that forcing people to remain pregnant isn’t the only way that Ireland wants to take control over our lives and bodies. It’s not enough that we cannot access medical services that we need. We are now to be denied two more basic rights: to refuse medical procedures that we do not want, and to choose how (as well as if) to give birth.

From allergictopatriarchy:

How would you feel if I told you that a hospital in Ireland went to court last week, because they felt it necessary to tie a woman down, forcibly give her an anaesthetic, and slice open her abdomen, then her uterus? Horrified; disgusted; transported back to a time ofsymphysiotomies and the Magdalene Laundries? Well, they did.

Last Saturday morning, Waterford Regional Hospital made an emergency application to the High Court in an attempt to compel a pregnant woman to undergo a caesarean section. Lawyers for the hospital said that the woman was refusing to give consent for the procedure, but that a “natural” birth would pose a risk to her unborn child.


In the six news articles I’ve read on this story, there isn’t any mention of why the woman wanted to opt for a vaginal birth; the only reference is that she would have “liked” to. She may have had a perfectly valid, well thought-out reason, but the mainstream press don’t seem too concerned about the actual wishes of this person. It does say that over the weekend she began to waver between consenting to the procedure on the Sunday or Monday as she wanted her husband to be present if possible; the medical staff did not consider this a reasonable request.

Not suprising, when you consider:

Under Irish law, women are treated as incubators. The right to bodily autonomy is just one of the many rights which we no longer have while pregnant. Our right to health is automatically diminished, as we have no option to take the less-risky route of terminating the pregnancy. Rape victims have no right to choose not to go through the added trauma of invasive exams, ante- and post-natal care, and the birth process. Women with non-viable foetuses have no right not to extend this heartbreak for further months and go through the trauma of birth. We are bearers of children and little else.

Go read the rest at Allergic to Patriarchy.

But you know something? That’s not all. It’s not just that this particular woman has had her right to refuse treatment- the right to ownership of her body and to not be forcibly anaesthetised and have someone cut into her body with a scalpel when she has refused consent- revoked. You could suggest that someone could avoid this by avoiding giving birth in hospitals in the first place. If you don’t want to be operated on against your will, you can always choose a home birth, right?


Turns out that the HSE has plans to further tighten up Ireland’s already stringent rules on midwife-assisted homebirth, making it a significantly more expensive and difficult to access choice. From Eva-Louise Goussot:

The HSE is making decisions not based on the evidence but based on fears about home birth and the assumption that hospitals are safer and, crucially, that women are not equipped, or do not have the right, to decide for themselves. Time and time again, the research both in Ireland and abroad shows that midwife led care and continuity of care ensures better outcomes for low-risk mothers than obstetric-led care. Fact. And while home birth continues to be scrutinized our maternity hospitals remain in chaos, with dangerously high levels of intervention that frequently lead to negative outcomes for women with low risk pregnancies. One more fact: contrary to the frequently touted statistic , Ireland is not the safest place in the world to give birth. From this year, Ireland will now record its maternal mortality statistics in line with the UK and other countries. It is expected that overnight our “safe” rate of one death per 100,000 will increase by a factor of 10 to a less safe 10 per 100,000.

Ireland. Would you want to be pregnant here?