The Handmaid’s Tale premise of women as brood mares, with our worth determined by fertility, and our purpose defined by ability to reproduce isn’t so far off from the reality many Irish women, and women around the world face today. Irish people have the opportunity to change this in the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment on Friday, May 25th.
I moved from Carmel, California to Dublin, Ireland when I was 18. Amidst all the excitement of orientation, my dad sat me down and said “if you get pregnant, feel no shame in telling us. We’ll fly you to England and we will take care of it.” My dad had never spoken to me about sex before. Yeah we’d watched R rated films as a family. But to have my dad bring up abortion, seemingly out of the blue, was a shock. I asked him what he was as talking about, and he told me abortion was wholly illegal in Ireland. I hadn’t known. Later, I naively thought since I’m not Irish, the law wouldn’t apply. I was wrong. Just look at the death of Savita Halipanavar. Luckily I didnt get pregnant at Trinity, probably in part to the three separate times I took Plan B. Each time was a whole ordeal as in Ireland you have to sit down with the pharmacist and discuss “other options”. I wasn’t even pregnant and it made me feel bad. This is all due to the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution.
Under the 8th amendment, women and their foetus’s have equal right to citizenship under the Irish constitution and thus abortion is wholly banned. Thousands of Irish women travel to the UK each year to access safe abortions. But that option is only available to those with the means to travel. Thousands more purchase home abortion pills. The penalty for which is 14 years in prison. This sentence is far longer than the majority of sentences handed down to rapists. Let that sink in.
Debates around abortion are never actually about abortion. Nobody wants to get one. All abortions are either due to fatal foetal abnormalities, miscarriage, threat to the mother’s mental or physical health, or a woman knowing she is not ready for a baby. You can google countless articles about parents having to travel to Liverpool to abort a miscarrying foetus or a baby that has become brain dead in the womb. One mother’s baby’a skull never developed and he began to die in the final trimester inside her. She and her husband went to Liverpool and then had to figure out how to transport their dead baby’s coffin back to Dublin while keeping it cold. Abortions are not enjoyable procedures. Women have aborted pregnancies for millennia and will continue to do so. The debate is about access to safe abortions and decriminalising such access.
by Clementine Yost ©