With the issue coming to the fore in the general election, Elizabeth O’Malley examines her position on the provision banning abortion in the Constitution.
I have always supported a woman’s right to choose, but I’ve never been very vocal about it. This is because I have some sympathy for the other side of the argument, and I think questions about when life begins are complex.
But I am absolutely in favour of repealing the 8th amendment.
Throughout history, women have been thought about not in terms of what they could do, but what they could provide. A woman’s main job was to provide an heir, or children.
Therefore, there was a premium on women’s sexuality. Women who were chaste were highly prized, while women who gave into temptation were damaged goods.
We like to think we have moved on. Women can do so much more today than even twenty years ago. A big reason for that is women now have the ability to plan their families. They can use contraception. They can access more information. If they want to hold off on having children, or not have children at all, this is their prerogative.
With this came two big shifts in women’s rights; being able to compete with men in the workplace, and being able to explore their sexuality without being treated as an outcast by society.
But unfortunately there are barriers to being able to fully control when or if we want to have children.
The first is the serious deficiencies in information about sex, as a result of our mostly religious education.
The second is the stigma that still surrounds women who engage in sexual activity, which has the perverse results of making those women less able to carry protection, lest they be seen as expecting or asking for something.
The third is the fact that mistakes happen, protection doesn’t necessarily work 100% of the time and sometimes there are situations which are beyond your control, for example where there is forced sex.
As a result, there are women who discover unwanted pregnancies every day.
Or, sometimes there are women who have entirely wanted pregnancies, but there are circumstances which make carrying that child to term very difficult.
Until women have full control of their bodies, they will never be treated completely equally. They will never be able to fully access and enjoy all of their rights, in particular their right to autonomy.
It’d probably be more accurate to say I’m opposed to the 8th amendment. Here’s why.
I am opposed to the fact that when women become pregnant, they go from being human beings with inviolable, inalienable rights, to being vessels.
I am opposed to the assumption by many people that they know what it is like to go through an unwanted pregnancy, and that they feel they can make decisions on behalf of those women.
I am opposed to the fact that many of the people who believe women should never have abortions are the same people who look down on and deride young, unwed mothers.
I am opposed to forcing a woman to carry a child that is the product of rape or incest.
I am opposed to forcing a woman to carry to term a child who will only survive outside the womb for weeks, days or even minutes.
I am opposed to telling women that their lives and their health matters less than a foetus.
I am opposed to putting women into a situation where they feel they have to leave the country in order to receive medical treatment that they should be getting here at home.
I am opposed to telling these women that they can never tell anyone about this painful decision because they could be prosecuted.
I am opposed to having a provision in our Constitution which has been condemned as a breach of human rights by Amnesty International, the UN and the European Court of Human Rights.
This is why when I cast my vote for the general election, I will only be voting for candidates who support repealing the 8th Amendment.
Because whatever you feel about abortion, whatever your views, there should not be a provision in our constitution which allows abortion only when the mother is in immediate danger of death. The women of this country deserve better.