Abortion in Ireland – Do women deserve the choice?

‘4000 women travel abroad from Ireland to get an abortion every year’

I just want to start this off with a disclaimer. As a lad myself, I never had a concrete opinion on this matter. It never affected me directly so I never really cared about the subject. I used to think, well I’m a bloke so I have no say in this argument. I reckoned my opinion didn’t mean shit because an abortion is not something I’d ever have to deal with. But as the conversation grew in the country, I began to pay attention.

It’s such a subjective topic that a definitive conclusion is not something we’re ever going to achieve. People are stubborn and steadfast in their beliefs and values. This is especially the case in Ireland. Currently, we are the only country in Europe where abortion is illegal unless it threatens the life of the mother.

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Times are changing

This is a debate that has been growing in Ireland for years. For ages it rarely appeared in the media because everyone in the country was so Catholic that even the word ‘abortion’ was forbidden. That’s really my take on the whole thing. Everyone is so ready to be offended that we tend to pick a side before listening to both arguments. I personally feel like a dialogue needs to be opened up regarding abortion in Ireland instead of these intense rallies on the streets.

Things are changing lately though. The support behind the Pro-Choice movement has been gathering momentum and is now appearing everywhere in the media. With an increasing liberal citizenry in Ireland, we’re starting to approach everything with open-minded scepticism.

The Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland recognised the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. This amendment created a constitutional recognition of an unborn child’s life and so makes it impossible for any government to introduce legislation allowing for terminations in the womb except in exceptional circumstances. It was affected by the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1983, which was approved by referendum on 7 September 1983 and signed into law on the 7 October of the same year.

So what’s the alternative? Repealing the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution means different legislation will have to be written. Should abortion be essentially ‘on-demand’ as it is in the UK? In England, a woman has the right to an abortion within 6 months of her pregnancy as that is about the time when the foetus can survive outside of the womb. Is 6 months too late? Should the decision have to make earlier than this? You see there’s no perfect time and no time is perfect.

In Canada there is no constitutional law relating to abortion. Instead, the decision is deemed as medical and is made between a woman and her doctor. This process seems a little more human I suppose. But its always going to be a matter of circumstance isn’t it? With cases involving rape, disability and where the chances of the child living are very slim, what is the right decision to make?

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The severe cases

In 2012, an Indian-born woman named Savita Halappanavar made the news in Ireland as she died of septis after miscarrying in a Galway hospital. It soon became known that she was refused an abortion until she was diagnosed as suicidal and thus seemed eligible. But by this stage, she was already 6 months pregnant. Her baby was born via c-section 3 months premature and was subsequently named ‘Hope’ by the Pro-Life community.

So is desire to have your baby aborted something that should be associated with shame? Is it a selfish decision? There are no answers to these questions because they depend so much on the circumstance the decision is made in.

The Pro-Choice community devote themselves to fighting for the rights of women in Ireland. The Pro-Life side are motivated by fighting for those who have no one to fight for them, the unborn foetuses. It’s such a contentious topic that everyone loves to sit on the fence or just agree with the person next to them. But surely we need to start talking?

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Basic human rights

We are the last of the Western society to change. In Britain, 1 in 3 women will go through a termination of some sort in their lifetime. These women have the service available to them via subsidisation by the NHS. Where it is local, safe and legal. Yet, Irish women have to either fly over to the UK to have it done over there, or buy abortion pills over the internet and face prison time for taking control of their own right to reproduce. That’s not right is it?

You may think we’ve no right to be talking about this. And maybe you’re right. But society is changing. The referendum regarding abortion is coming in 2018.

Which side of history are you going to be on?

SJB & GQ.

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