Ireland is going to hold a referendum on their abortion laws in 2018 according to Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s administration.
I am pro-choice and I think I always will be. I believe in bodily autonomy. I believe as overpopulated as we are, we don’t need more unwanted children who will eventually either live unhappy lives with parents who cannot afford them, or be given up for adoption and put into the foster care system. I believe in the morning after pill, I believe in abortions up to 24 weeks and after if the mother’s life is in danger or the child won’t survive due to foetal abnormalities. Most importantly, I believe in the right to choose.
I wanted to understand why it’s taken so long for any change to be initiated by the government. I also wanted to understand the views of those who are in the pro-life faction.
In the Republic of Ireland, abortions are restricted by Article 40.3.3 which asserts:
‘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.
This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.
This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state‘.
Fatal foetal abnormalities, rape and incest are not circumstances in which pregnancies may be terminated. There is a sentence of up to 14 years for illegally having an abortion.
From 2014 to 2015, only 16 terminations were performed in hospitals in Northern Ireland, which has a population of 1.8 million. During the same time period, there were 184,571 abortions in England and Wales, which has a total population of 56 million. However, in 2014, 837 abortions were performed in England on Northern Ireland citizens. Even these statistics aren’t wholly accurate, many illegal abortion pills are bought online, whilst Scotland, Wales and the Netherlands are also popular choices to travel for this service.
So why hasn’t Ireland changed its abortion laws?
Religion. Ireland is a predominantly Catholic country, where the Church still maintains influence over government affairs. This in turn has greatly affected its progress, making it shy away from contraception, divorce and gay marriage. Religious beliefs ordinarily infringe on the business of governance.
The main overarching narrative of pro-lifers vs. pro-choice is the theological argument about when exactly life begins. Many Catholics believe life starts at conception; other people believe it begins when the heart begins beating at around 6 weeks, whereas as a pro-lifer I believe that a foetus only becomes a viable life form at approximately 22 weeks when they can survive outside the womb.
The first argument put forward by pro-choice organisations is that in the early stages of a pregnancy a child is a ‘bunch of cells’. The Irish Times however, attacks this argument by stating:
What Irish Times fails to mention is that abortions performed after 20 weeks only make up about 1 per cent of total abortions (the clear majority are within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when they are indeed a bunch of cells and not a viable life form).
Most late-term abortions occur for WANTED pregnancies. (Let me underline that for you, just so you can’t miss it). WANTED. (And repeat it in case you missed it the first time). Most birth defects are found at twenty weeks, faced with a child with severe physical or mental disabilities, most parents believe that the kindest choice is to terminate a pregnancy.
Pro-lifers assume that abortions are ‘used for birth control’. This myth needs to be uprooted.
Whilst researching this topic, I found an article by Heroic Media. The author described a survey by the Guttmacher Institute of 2,000 women who had acquired abortions in the U.S.A, of which 1,209 women completed the survey. The results revealed: 32 per cent of women believed they were too young to have children; 30 per cent were faced with economic worries; 16 per cent did not want the pregnancy as it disrupted their lifelong plans; 12 per cent did not want the pregnancy as they had a poor relationship with the father; 8 per cent felt they had enough children already; and the final 2 per cent of reasons were comprised of rape, incest, physical health of the foetus and mother.
The author of the article belittles the motivations of these women by insinuating that they are driven towards abortion through fear. Fear is a natural response, but it does not remove people completely from logic and empathy. Few people get an abortion without thinking about the potential life inside them, if at all.
Brett Attebery’s article is a perfect specimen of pro-life ignorance.
Abortions will never stop, legal or illegal, safe or unsafe.
The law in Northern Ireland has been reformed in light of the case of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused an abortion in 2012, to now allow for terminations to occur if the woman’s life is at risk due to medical complications. The UN has openly condemned the abortion laws in Northern Ireland numerous times. One instance was the case of Siobhán Whelan, who was denied an abortion in 2010 after the diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.
Northern Ireland’s laws hold jurisdiction over a woman’s uterus. Being forced to carry out a pregnancy against your wishes is comparable to reproductive slavery. I can only hope that significant changes will be made so that Ireland can liberate its citizens from its archaic abortion laws.