Tuesday, 13 June 2017

8 Reasons Why I Think the 8th Amendment Has Got to Go

The Reasons Why I Think the 8th Amendment Should be Removed from the Irish Constitution.

The 7th of September 2017 marks 34 years since the passing of Article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution, also known as the 8th Amendment.  I had planned on posting this blog later than I am, but because of recent news that is far too similar to cases of 20+ years ago, I decided now is a better time than ever. 

Because of the divisiveness of this topic, and because a lot of people still don't fully understand abortion law in Ireland, I'm firstly going to give some background on the topic, before I explain why I disagree with it.  I also would like to say that I will use the terms "pro-abortion rights" and "anti-abortion" to describe both sides of the debate where necessary.  (I recently wrote my dissertation on this topic, and those were the terms I used for it, as both myself and my supervisor agreed they were the least biased and most accurate statements to use.)  If you disagree, that's fine, we all have opinions, and I'm always open to fair discussion, so be nice and I will be too, be rude and I won't waste my time responding I've better things to do!

So for those of you who don't know the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution states:

"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 amendment gave equal Constitutional protection to the life of the unborn child and its mother, effectively outlawing abortion in Ireland in ALL cases.  Much debate surrounding abortion, and the right to life of both mother and child has occurred in the many years since the amendment’s passing. 

In the years since the introduction of this Amendment, many cases have arisen that have called into question the equation of life of the mother and unborn child.  Yet in those 34 years, very little change has occurred in abortion law in the Irish State.  However this Amendment was not the first law against abortion access in Ireland, and repealing it would not lead to legal access to abortion across the board in Ireland.

Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since 1861, under the Offences Against the Person Act.  This law governs both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as it was passed before the division of the island.  This act states:

58. Every woman, being with child, who, with intent to procure her own miscarriage, shall unlawfully administer to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent, and whosoever, with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or be not with child, shall unlawfully administer to her or cause to be taken by her any poison or other noxious thing, or shall unlawfully use any instrument or other means whatsoever with the like intent, shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable . . . to be kept in penal servitude for life . . .

59. Whosoever shall unlawfully supply or procure any poison or other noxious thing, or any instrument or thing whatsoever, knowing that the same is intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or be not with child, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable . . . to be kept in penal servitude . . .

So abortion in Ireland has been illegal for over 150 years, but it wasn't until the introduction of abortion in the UK in the 1960s that many Irish people began fearing a similar law being adopted here.  By the 1980s,  groups of anti-abortion lobbyists began pressing politicians in the run up to a general election to hold a referendum to constitutionally prevent women from procuring abortions in Ireland.  This they felt would stop abortion becoming legal in Ireland in a similar way to that of the UK. 

At this time, Ireland was very much still under the influence of the Catholic Church.  In his book Moral Monopoly Tom Inglis explains that in the nineteenth century the Catholic Church held a moral monopoly among Irish people.  In other words, most Irish people based their personal ethics and morals off of the ethics and morals instilled by the Catholic Church, as that was the dominant faith of the country.  To this day, while people may be basing their morals less so on those of the Catholic Church, it still has a strong influence in many areas where others and I believe it should not.  This divide is also not solely a secular one, as many people of many different faiths, and those with none, also stand on both sides of the argument. 

I respect everyone's right to their own personal opinion, and I respect that many people feel that abortion is the murder of a child.  However, I do not respect that because of the opinions of others, myself and millions of other women, girls, non-binary and trans individuals do not have a say in what is best for ourselves, our lives, and our bodies.  I do not agree that because of this opinion, that rights be removed from a living breathing human, with friends, family, memories, a job, and hobbies, for one that has yet to take its very first breath.  Whether you agree or disagree with when a foetus becomes a life or a child, you cannot disagree that the life of the mother is a much greater thing, with much more components to it. 

So after the LONGEST introduction I've ever written, here are the reasons why I hope, wish and beg that the Irish people have the chance to vote and repeal this archaic law.

1. I find it ridiculous that an unborn being is given the equal constitutional right to life of its mother, when in fact it is only at that moment the potential to be a life. It is incapable of survival outside of the confines of its mother's body, so how is it justified to be equal to her.  A person with thoughts, memories, responsibilities, a family, friends, a job, and possibly other children! I just do not understand how a being unable to live independently can have a constitutional right to live equating to that of the person carrying it, it just doesn't make sense to me. 

2. I believe every person should have the right to choose what happens with his or her body. Bodily autonomy is a basic human right, that is even afforded to the dead, but not the pregnant person.  I know people will say that the unborn child/fetus is not the woman's (or trans/non-binary person's) body.  But it is growing inside the that persons body and it needs their body to survive.  The human body also goes through a number of enormous changes throughout pregnancy and childbirth.  If that is not something the woman/trans/non-binary individual is ready for, comfortable with, or if they are physically or mentally unable to deal with these changes, then a pregnancy should not be forced onto them. 

3. Too many people and their families have been put under unnecessary trauma and stress because of the 8th Amendment.  With unexpected pregnancies, planned and wanted pregnancies with complications like fatal foetal abnormalities, rape and incest, mental illness and risk of suicide, physical health concerns such as heart or lung problems, or the development of cancer. All this is distressing enough without the added trauma and stress of having to travel abroad to access healthcare.  Honestly we are doing them all an injustice as long as the 8th is blocking access to services to provide help and relief to these families.

4. Too many women have died as a result of the 8th Amendment being in place.  Even if it can only be proven that one woman died as a direct result of the 8th, then that is one too many in my opinion. And too many women have been denied other forms of healthcare because of the 8th.  Such as Miss C in the A, B and C vs Ireland case in 2010, after she became pregnant while in remission from cancer.  The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland had violated Miss C's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.  

5.  No person should be forced to remain pregnant against their will, yet this law means that many have not been afforded this respect.  A woman was artificially kept alive on life support, against the will of her family as she was pregnant at the time of her being declared clinically brain dead.  This woman's family suffered enough without having to battle through the courts to allow for the machine to be turned off and grieve in peace for her loss. 

6.  Children are being forced to remain pregnant against their will.  Not only does this law prevent a grown adult from making a decision that is best for them and their family, but it also prevents children from being allowed to be children, and robs them of their innocence, that has already been attacked by the act that caused the pregnancy. By forcing young girls who fall pregnant from receiving access to abortion is effectively removing their childhood.  Isn't it bad enough the trauma many of these young girls went through in how they became and found out they were pregnant, without forcing them to go through with it?  Pregnancy and having a child is a big commitment, and it is not something that should be forced onto another child. 

7. If you are living in Ireland and wish to have an abortion, you must travel to do so, or try and obtain illegal pills, for which you could receive a 14-year jail sentence for being in possession of.  This means that unless you can afford, the price of an abortion, travel, and possibly accommodation to go get one, then you're out of luck if you don't want to run the risk of getting caught with abortion pills.  This socioeconomic class divide, means that poorer individuals are disproportionately affected by this, which may lead to children being brought up without many necessities because the parents simply cannot afford to have the child.  And no, adoption is not always an option. 

"At the end of April 2015 Tusla reported that there were 6,420 children in care in Ireland with 93% (5,959) in foster care." 
That same year there was 7 domestic infant adoptions in Ireland, and 13 cases of foster carers adopting children in their care.  An overall total of 87 children were adopted in that year.

The 8th Amendment affects those who are poor far greater than others, as they can't afford to travel for an abortion, and they can't receive one in their home country.  This often leads those desperate enough to attempting to perform "at home" abortions or receiving dodgy backstreet abortions that may result in a lot of health risks.  Just because it is illegal in this country, does not mean that abortions do not happen, it just means that safe abortions do not happen.  Because if someone does attempt "at home" abortions, even with safe abortion pills bought online, these pills are unregulated and if they have any complications they may be afraid to seek help for fear of a 14-year prison sentence.

8. The 8th not only affects women, it affects any one with the capabilities of becoming pregnant, this includes transgender men and non-binary individuals.  I can only imagine and empathise with how difficult it would be to fall pregnant when you don't even self-identify as a woman, and all the body-dysphoria issues that may cause.  The 8th affects every pregnancy that occurs in Ireland, it affects the persons right to ask for necessary healthcare/medications, and it affects their right to consent to healthcare during pregnancy/childbirth. It affects the families and friends of the pregnant person, who have to be there and try to be strong to help the person through their pregnancy. 

This amendment has caused enough harm since its introduction, with no real supports ever offered in the three decades since its introduction.  As wonderful girl said to me at the March for Choice in September gone, Ireland is punishing women for being pregnant, and it is punishing women in very tragic circumstances.  Let's stop punishing peoples' tragedies and start helping them to make it better.

Thanks for reading I know this was a long one!

Until the next time,

MK xo

Find me on Instagram and Twitter @emmkayh and on Facebook Looking for an Ashley

No comments: