Refinery 29 published an article this summer describing what it’s like to wear your political opinion in block capitals across your chest. “Every day for the last week, I’ve worn a sweatshirt with the word “REPEAL” written across it. To anyone outside Ireland the term might not instantly make sense, but to Irish people, it automatically refers to the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment, a law passed in 1983, effectively outlawing abortion in Ireland.” What struck me most when reading this article wasn’t the jumper, wasn’t the girl doing it nor was it that it may be seen as a controversial act to some – it was that those outside of Ireland mightn’t understand the statement at all. But why was this? Surely the world was aware of what is going on here?
This is a call to young English women and men – we need to understand this. Remember sitting in GCSE RE for several hours a week and not overly caring about what was going on? Remember only learning those quotes from religious and academic texts to pass the test? We all have vivid memories of leaning of the horror stories of drink and drugs, cruel animal testing and multiple religious celebrations but the only time I remember hearing a true debate; one in which all joined in, was the module on abortion rights. Why do we have such headstrong views on this? Is it because it is emotive? Is it because of the Channel 4 documentary we watched on it? No. It’s because it is real life and it’s because truthfully we all know that it affects us all. Not all of us are going to be subject to witnessing cosmetic testing on animals but it is a guarantee that “the right to life” is one that is non discriminative, and it’s bloody scary.
Photo by Alastair Moore for Repeal London
We have to remember this law does not only restrict those who are able to make a personal decision for the wellbeing of their potential family but also restricts those who can’t. A mother attached to a life support machine for instance. A mother who has terminal cancer that is denied appropriate maternity care. What about a mother who is a victim of rape? She would have to go through the turmoil of proving that she had been raped before judges to even hope of obtaining a legal abortion referral. After going through such a harrowing experience, there is no expanding how mentally damaging this process would be. 2014 saw a case where a suicidal pregnant woman was legally forced her will against to deliver her baby through Caesarean section at just 25 weeks and it is not uncommon for women to drink bleach or throw themselves down flights of stairs. It is wrong that women are being treated as vessels and all the 8th Amendment seems to do is equate a feeling, hurting, loving life to that of an embryo.
Photo by @RepealLondon
In these situations where their death is preventable, mental wellbeing is at stake and treatment has a high chance of saving life, decades old piece of out-dated law is in charge of a person. In an amendment that is said to support the right to life, it seems incredibly backwards and in turn counter productive to strip a woman clear of her life in order to uphold a truthfully, morally wrong law. A right to life should mean a right to your own life, not one dictated by the state. What is looked past so often is that it is not only the Republic of Ireland shackled by these laws but Northern Ireland too. Why is it so that England, Wales and Scotland have access to free, legal, safe abortion but those living in Northern Ireland don’t? In the south, abortion carries a sentence of 14 years, in the North you may face life imprisonment. At least 150,00 women have travelled to other countries to access the procedure since 1980 – to think of it this way, not one woman of reproductive age today had a say in this law in 1980 reiterating just how important it is to revisit this law.
— Repeal London (@RepealLondon) September 24, 2016
So, why are so many of us Brits unaware that this is an on going battle? With a painfully small amount of media coverage of the culturally taboo topic, there is a group of women and men taking a stand of solidarity with our Irish brothers and sisters. From a stance that this is a Human Rights issue and not one that is entirely political, nor is it shrouded in shame and stigma – we are making this public knowledge. The right to make decisions about our own bodies now seems to me as something we take for granted in the UK, this is an issue so close to home it would be incredibly naïve and ignorant to ignore. One of the main reasons this Law is still active in 2016 seems to be because it is being ignored, like an annoying niggle no one wants to deal with. You know what, it’s time to make that annoying niggle a massive pain in the arse – the bigger a topic we can make this, the more public discussion we can induce, the more notice those “important” people will start to take. WE NEED TO MAKE IT UNAVOIDABLE. If there was a time in history to ever hold hands with our neighbours, it is now.
“Why should we care” are you asking? “We aren’t Irish” – ok, no we’re not. But we are Human and we have hearts and feelings that matter. And we have voices that in 2016 should not be kept down. The only way of seeing this from an Irish Citizens perspective, I believe, is to imagine the right to an abortion was taken away from us. Could you predict the uproar and the dramatic effect on thousands of lives it would have instantly? I grew up in a small rural town, everyone knows everyone and their business, and so living with dignity and privacy can be testing at times. As much as I love my hometown, there are some things that I’m sure people would like to keep personal. It’s no ones business to ask why someone is seeking an abortion and therefore totally wrong for a woman to be dragged through a court of law. I’m pro-choice no matter what. Not “pro-choice if…” if you don’t want to be a parent, you shouldn’t have to be a parent.
Photo by @GalwayProChoice
It’s time that the UK starts wearing politics on its chest and not just in it’s newspapers. You can do something about this, stop waiting for the media to make things happen, we are the ones that have the ability to empower millions of women and give them their bodies back, why wouldn’t we at least try? The success of the Yes Campaign for Marriage Equality wasn’t always inevitable. It was only with strong persistence from a group of amazing people that it has become a reality. This movement can and will become reality.
Last week, I attended an open meeting of over 200 people in support of the Repeal Campaign in London with guest lectures and speakers all discussing what we can do next. Guests included Mara Clarke who runs the Abortion Support Network (ASN) believing “I can’t afford it” isn’t a reason for someone to become a parent. Her and her amazing team have helped thousands of women since 2012 fund safe, non-discriminative care with their fundraising and emotional support every step of the way. Another was activist Ann Rossiter who has been fighting for Women’s Rights for over half a decade. This strong and truly inspirational woman has never backed down and in her most recent Direct Action group, Speaking Of IMELDA, she shows no signs of giving in anytime soon.
Twitter to follow:
Facebook to like:
Author: Rachel Young