In some clinics in England, there are separate rates for abortion procedures for Irish women. In Liverpool there is a dedicated ward , for women travelling from Ireland . BPAS, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, a charity, has advice and phonelines dedicated to Irish women. Their website has detailed information on how to get to their clinics from Irish ports and airports. It brought tears to my eyes, just reading their website, with its simple and honest compassion. This compassion shown by the UK to its Irish sisters – it is beautiful. It is heartbreaking. It is necessary.
For Ireland, the Irish government, shows no such compassion.
Abortion is illegal in Ireland, except for when the life of the mother is at risk. This exception was introduced only in 2013 under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. This Act, also allows for the risk of suicide to the mother. If a woman is suicidal during pregnancy and seeks an abortion, she must attend in front of a panel of six medical experts who will decide her fate. In circumstances of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality, abortion is not allowed because enshrined in the Irish constitution is the 8th Amendment, giving equal right to the life of the unborn foetus and the mother.
The State 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 United Nations has told Ireland it is breaching international human rights by denying women access to abortion. Moreover, the treatment of women carrying a foetus which will not survive outside the womb has been described as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading.’ This is Ireland, who applauded itself so loudly for being the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote, when a referendum was passed in 2015.
Approximately 8 women a day in Ireland travel for an abortion. Women who may have been raped . Women who have been told their foetus has a condition incompatible with life. Mothers who cannot cope with the burden of another child. Women who simply don’t want to be pregnant. These women are beginning to tell their stories. Women are telling their most private and personal of stories to shine a light on the dark and shameful treatment by Ireland of its women, often in their greatest time of need.
And so, a movement is developing – to repeal the 8th amendment . To allow women their fundamental human rights, as deemed necessary by the United Nations. Events are organised, clothing produced, art work is appearing ; social media is alight with #repealthe8th .
Here are some examples of art work, appearing on the streets of Ireland. The most famous image here, the red heart against the blue background, is by Irish artist Maser (@MaserArt on Twitter.) In a staggering act of irony, the mural was painted over, deemed to breach planning laws. Copies started appearing all over the country and now jewellery and clothing has been produced displaying the image.
The anti choice lobby mounts an emotive counter-campaign, with images of healthy foetus’ in the womb, with scissors looming ominously overhead, emphasis is heavily on the killing of babies. The debate over when life begins being at the heart of the issue for many, although not all.
They claim choice becomes pressure and that the relaxing of the abortion laws would result in ‘abortion on demand’ , the cliche of feckless, lazy, sluttish women using abortion as contraceptive , and so revealing how little they think of women.
I am lucky. I have had two pregnancies and two wanted, healthy children. I love my children , of course . But motherhood has not been easy for me ( nor for many of us) and a third child would , I believe , be catastrophic for my mental health , my financial wellbeing – my family as a whole. Ireland, my home for 15 years, would make a criminal of me for making a decision which would be the best for me , my two children, my family . The state , the church with which it is inextricably entwined , the anti- abortion lobby , would all claim to know better than I, and that the unborn foetus should claim precedence over me and my two living, loving, lively, children . I know better.
We know better. Women are tired. They are angry . Your friend, your sister , your neighbour,your colleague,these are the women seeking abortions, not faceless shadows lurking in corners. We are the women who demand control of our bodies, who demand to be listened to and we call for a referendum.
Give us our voice , give us our choice
Repeal the 8th.