My foreign readers. This is a very open post about the upcoming referendum in Ireland about repealing the Eighth Amendment. Feel free to stop reading, unless you’re interested in pregnant people’s rights, abortion and why this is extremely personal to me.
Article 40.3.3, known as the Eighth Amendment, was voted into the Irish Constitution by referendum in 1983. The amendment states:
‘The states 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.’
The amendment equates the life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus and has created an unworkable distinction between a pregnant woman’s life and her health. (Source: Repeal Eight)
Abortion in the Netherlands.
First of all, a little backstory. I’m born and raised in the Netherlands, where abortion is part of the healthcare system. They have legislation around abortion. It’s only up to 24 weeks and you need to take 5 days to think about it. This is the time between telling the GP and the time you can make an appointment at the clinic. We also have clear sexual education about conception and consent, birth control is part of basic health insurance until 21 (and extended health insurance then) and you can get condoms for free or only €1 at youth centres. In the Netherlands, we could speak openly about abortion. If we ever needed one, we could go to our GP and talk about our options. Because of that, my attitude might be a bit different. Of course I am prochoice, no one has an abortion “for the craic”. Everyone that have had one has their own personal reasons for doing so. I never even thought about cutting those rights away from pregnant people or people not having them in the first place. It’s also none of my fucking business if someone has an abortion, it’s their very personal choice.
George Carlin said it best.
Back to the current situation,
The Eighth Amendment in Ireland. Due to its nature of equating the foetus with the mother, pregnant people die under the Eighth because they’re not allowed abortion. If they do have an illegal abortion, they can get 14 years in prison. People with cancer have to do pregnancy tests before they receive treatment and treatment is stopped immediately if the test turns positive. Doctors are saying their “hands are tied” (Dr Fergal Malone, Master of Rotunda, 21st of May 2018) due to the Eighth Amendment. The Obstetrician’s Body is recommending a Yes vote to repeal the Eighth so legislation can be changed for pregnant people.
The college said that if the amendment was repealed, it would urge the Government “to ensure that abortion is subject to regulatory and professional standards, in line with other medical procedures”.
(Source: Irish Times)
Abortion still happens in Ireland. Between January 1980 and December 2016, at least 170,216 women and girls travelled from the Republic of Ireland to access abortion services in another country. (Source: Irish Family Planning) People take abortion pills at home, too. Terminations for medical reasons aren’t allowed. Parents in TFMR have lobbied the Attorney General twice for special cases to be allowed and are told there is absolutely no chance, as it contradicts the Eighth Amendment. The Amendment has to be repealed first before any changes can be made.
The Eighth Amendment doesn’t care about rape victims either. No legal abortion for them if people get pregnant after getting raped. Rape Crisis Network Ireland recommended the following in the document they submitted to the Citizen’s Assembly:
RCNI recommend that rape victims have access to termination of a pregnancy on general health grounds, through the Irish Health Care System, with no requirement to disclose rape or participate in any rape assessment mechanism.
(Source: RCNI website) Again, the only way to help them is to repeal the Eighth Amendment so legislation can be changed.
Why is it personal for me? This is my second high-risk pregnancy in Ireland. I’m one of the lucky ones, I’m privileged enough to fly home to the Netherlands in case something happens to me. However, I don’t think I should have to fly back to the Mothership just to get the healthcare I might need. Unfortunately I’m just a permanent resident and have no vote. When I got pregnant the first time around I knew healthcare here wasn’t up to the Dutch standards, but I never knew it was this bad. This second pregnancy, high-risk again due to my lupus, is currently giving me a lot more anxiety because of it. If I get cancer now I might die due to the Eighth Amendment and lack of treatment because of it. Which also means this (much loved and wanted) baby would die and my happy, healthy toddler would be without his mother. That makes no sense whatsoever, right?
Another reason this is personal is because I had an abortion. I had just turned 18, I was unstable as could be. At the time I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I had zero savings or financial stability, was living with a boyfriend I didn’t love and knew our relationship would never last. We lived in his student housing for the time being, while I was trying to get my life together. We were in no way, shape or form ready and made the choice. I was having an abortion.
If it wasn’t for that abortion I’d never have the life I live now. In Ireland, with my wonderful toddler, running my own company and having a radioshow. When I got pregnant with Ben, deciding to keep him was just as conscious a choice as that abortion. I knew how much time raising a child takes, how much money, that they need a stable, caring home.
Having a child made me even more prochoice. Kids are not for everyone. I have friends who don’t want kids themselves but are the aunt and uncle every kid needs. You know, the understanding ones that they can trust with the stuff they don’t trust their parents with just yet. The ones where they have sleepovers at their house and talk for hours and watch Disney movies. There are also the people that would love kids eventually, but they’re not ready yet like I was at 18. The ones that want to travel the world and party like there’s no tomorrow first before settling down and taking on that enormous responsibility. Everyone that has an abortion has their own personal reasons. It’s their choice, not ours, to make.
Have a read through the stories posted on the In Her Shoes – Women of the Eighth Facebook page to find out why people chose abortion and how they were affected by the restrictions of the Eighth Amendment. Or maybe check out this drawing that the ridiculously talented @Ciaraioch made:
And lastly, I hope you’ll help repeal that horrible, anti-women amendment on Friday. For Ann, Michelle, Savita, Miss C, Miss D, Miss X and Miss Y. For all the rape victims. For the FFA cases. For the people that aren’t ready yet. For the women that got terrible diagnoses and never got the right healthcare. Go raibh maith agat.