Walk down certain city streets in Ireland you might catch a free horror show. A group of stern-faced curmudgeons huddled around giant placards with blown-up images of bloody fetuses. These subtle bunch are the so-called “Pro-Lifers.” Now, if we want to draw attention to war atrocities in Syria or Palestine, we’re not about to throw together a billboard with scenes of bombed-out streets and dismembered bodies. If we want to raise awareness for sexual health, handing out fliers showing half-rotten nether regions on Grafton st. ain’t the way to go.
Ironically, most of us believe this would be in pretty bad taste and first and foremost – traumatic for children. The Pro-Lifers don’t. What is more disturbing is their zealous anti-women stance and their desire to return us to the Dark Ages of the Magdalene laundries and Irish women forced into lives of cultural, economic and personal slavery . Vessels for the future men of De Valera’s Ireland – not autonomous human beings.
The current state of affairs is that if and only IF the woman’s life is in immediate danger, she may be able to undergo and emergency procedure. the new “allowances” make no distinction between the physical and mental well-being of the woman and her life. For instance, if a pregnant woman presents with suicidal intentions, she is sat before a panel of doctors and medical professionals and questioned. For anyone who suffers from mental illness and suicidal ideations to be treated in this manner is unbelievably cruel. For a pregnant woman, especially in the case of pregnancy the result of rape, it is downright barbaric and criminal.
It was so in the infamous X Case. In 1992, a girl of only 14 became pregnant by rape and presented before a panel as suicidal, asking for the right to travel to England to obtain a safe abortion. She was unbelievably denied the right by the State and forced to have the child. We are all now familiar with the case of Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old Galway-based dentist who was admitted to hospital with severe back pain in October 2012 – 17 weeks pregnant at the time. Despite knowing that the fetus would not survive, the staff chose to uphold the state’s disregard of the life of a woman. They held on until she miscarried, fell into a coma and died several days later. Her husband, who pleaded for them to save his wife’s life was reportedly told, “this is a Catholic country.”
These and many, many more sad cases do not change the fact that between 1980 and 2014 well over 150,000 women were reported to have traveled abroad to have abortions. In real terms, this means that if you take a stroll down any street in Ireland, you will pass someone who has had a loved one, relation or friend who has made this Journey. It is crucial to realise that of this number, 87% of women have said that it was “the right outcome” for them, in their own words.
Ireland, the country that brought outlawed homosexuality until 1992 and contraception until 1980, is now one of only 2 European countries out of 51 that outlaw and criminalise abortion. The other is Malta. Malta, let me tell you, is not a country known for its progressive thinking, decent tunes and free-love shenanigans. This is and should be a source of shame and embarrassment for us as a people. If that doesn’t convince you, an EU commission on the Abortion law in Ireland, said:
“The Committee reiterates its previous concern regarding the highly restrictive circumstances under which women can lawfully have an abortion in the state owing to article 40.33 of the Constitution and its strict interpretation by the State.”
This isn’t simply an issue of anti-abortion or pro-life, these “Pro-Life” groups want a return to the Conservative, repressed Catholic backwater of yesteryear. They want the repression and subordination of women and the enshrinement of the good old nuclear family. John O’Reilly, secretary of the Irish Pro Life Campaign said that the campaign would “serve to halt the permissive tide in other areas.” If this doesn’t show the lunacy straight from the horse’s mouth, what will?
Apart from this, there is the fundamental point that any form of condemnation of women who have sex for pleasure and attempts to repress this is utterly wrong. Most know that any human being has the right to decide what they do with their bodies, it’s up for the rest to catch up.
The campaign will take far more than simply pawing at the feet of politicians, many of whom have turned their backs on the struggle. Others, who are linked to the Fine Gael – Fianna Fáil bloc which is historically opposed to any progress on this front, hand-in-hand with the Church. If the recent Abortion Pill Bus tour and the actions of groups like ROSA are anything to show, there is a determined movement ready to struggle for these basic human rights.