In the tourist travel book my boyfriend had when he first came to Ireland it warned “don’t start conversations with Irish people about abortion or religion”. That was ten years ago and today I have to wonder if anything has changed. Quick update for those of you who are not aware of the situation with abortion in Ireland, until 2013 it was illegal in all cases, since then it is allowed in cases where there is a risk of loss of life. This change came about partly in response to the avoidable death of Savita Halappanavar caused by the restrictive abortion laws. However, the criteria to qualify for abortion under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 is very limited, you can read all about it here.
Recently, Independent Socialist Clare Daly proposed an amendment on this act, to allow for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities. Just to be clear, we are talking about pregnancies in which there is no chance that the baby will survive the birth. Sounds logical right? This bill was defeated yesterday in the Dail by 104 votes to 20. OH? Wait, what?
So today I have been watching the reactions on social media, ranging from shock, anger and frustration to suggestions that the bill was unconstitutional, and a kind of smug “it’s for the best” reaction. I know I’m just asking for trouble by getting involved in this debate again but it still shocks me how people can be so indoctrinated that they openly and unashamedly say these things. Here are some of the reactions to a post where someone shared a news article covering the defeat of the bill with only the comment “This country…”
Let nature take it’s course? Do you hear yourself? If you really believe that then we should close all hospitals tomorrow.
Look, I’m going to ask you to do one thing, get a cup of tea, take a few deep breaths, think about all aspects of the situation and then decide for yourself what you really think is the right thing to do. This is the same thing I asked you to do when I wrote about the Mother and Baby Homes in our deep dark history, it fills me with a deep sadness that in 2015 we have not yet learned to think for ourselves.
Here it goes, I want to sketch the situation because some people don’t seem to understand, have never thought about it or are brainwashed past the point of seeing reality: (Trigger warning for people who have been through similar situations)
So imagine, you, your sister, your best friend finds out they are pregnant, delighted, they tell their friends and family and start to get ready for this life changing event. Some weeks later at a scan they are told that their baby has a fatal foetal abnormality. For example, the baby has no brain, no organs, a heart growing outside their body, one or other horrific abnormality which means that their beautiful baby will NOT survive the birth, has no possibility of life and will never know anything other than pain. She and her partner rush frantically from specialist to specialist, hoping to hear something else but the result is the same in several hospitals.
SO… The people who are against this bill think, and PLEASE correct me if I have misunderstood, that the best solution in this situation is to force this heartbroken mother to carry her dying baby around in her body for the next 6, 7, 8 months, to subject her to the torture of feeling her baby move and knowing that they will never take a breath, to let her wonder every day how much pain her beautiful unborn child is suffering, to leave her no other choice than to go to another country to undergo a procedure with no aftercare, no counselling, and to come home empty handed with no body to bury.
Is this what you think those women, your sister, your best friend, deserves? On top of the devastation of losing their baby, you wish more hurt and trauma on them? I cannot even begin to imagine how psychologically damaging that must be for those women, not to mention the possible physical complications involved. How can you put your hand on your heart and say out loud that you think that is what should happen?
As apposed to the proposed alternative, that following the confirmation of the results, the couple would have a few days to come to terms and say goodbye to their baby and then go to their local hospital to undergo the procedure in a safe environment surrounded by family, with the support and medical aftercare needed following extreme medical procedures. That they could take their baby home and bury them (if that is what they want) and begin to mourn their loss without the shame and fear of having done something illegal.
A pro-choice slogan that has been going around for years comes to mind: “If you don’t agree with abortion, then don’t have one.”
I am not trying to tell you what to think, I am just asking you to think.
It is time to shake off the ideas we grew up with and make up our own minds and forge our own path. Separation of church and state is an important! But I guess I should be careful what I say, blasphemy is prohibited by law in Ireland. Originally the law was applicable only to Christianity, but was replaced in 2009 by a new offence of “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter” against any religion (you can’t say we’re not politically correct!).
Images: Flickr/infomatique; Flickr/kouk