I can sympathise with some of the anger expressed by Louise O’Neill in her article to mark International Women’s Day. It’s easy to be angry as a woman about some aspects of Irish society. Short sentences for rapists, lack of adequate parental leave, negative attitudes towards breastfeeding – these are all things that should stir irate feelings in both men and women who want to improve Irish society.
But many people reading this article will not feel a sense of righteous anger at the need to work on improving these issues. Instead, they’ll be astonished at the constant refrain that echoes throughout, namely that the repeal of the 8th Amendment is a prerequisite to a woman-friendly Ireland. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
There’s a lot of confusion about the 8th Amendment and what it does. Much of the blame for that confusion must rest with the outgoing Government, who consistently blurred the facts during the months that led up to the 2013 Abortion Act. This means that commentators feel free to quote the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar as a reason to repeal the 8th Amendment, despite the fact that three independent reports determined that the lack of abortion was not a factor in her death.
The abortion debate in Ireland pits woman against woman in the worst way imaginable. Every woman who wants the best for herself and her loved ones is a feminist. But in Ireland today, there is very little room for a pro-life feminist, despite the fact that her reasons for holding that position may be based on what has been proven to be best for women.
Feminists who claim that abortion is something positive for women have their work cut out for them. Defending the 2013 Act will be hard enough when you consider the fact that it isn’t based on any medical evidence whatsoever, allowing abortion up to birth if there is a threat of suicide even though there is no evidence anywhere in the world to show abortion treats suicide ideation but plenty to show that abortion can have a negative effect on a woman’s mental health. Every feminist in the country should be demanding the repeal of this outrageous law as the first act of the new Government.
When it comes to the 8th Amendment, they’ll have to explain why we should remove a provision that is responsible for saving the lives of thousands of people. This provision isn’t just a few words in our Constitution. It’s a statement about the type of society we want – one that values everyone, born and unborn.
Campaigners in favour of abortion talk about the women who travel for abortions as if they return as committed advocates in favour of abortion. In reality, many of these women deeply regret what they felt was a cul-de-sac in their lives which led them to an abortion clinic and the loss of their child. These women shouldn’t be used by abortion campaigners. Many are now involved with the pro-life movement. Some want to speak out publicly about their experience, not to inflict shame or guilt on other women but so that they are aware of the risks of that misnomer, “safe, legal abortion”.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a place for them in the brave new Ireland that encourages any woman to “shout your abortion” – but only if you’re shouting from a pro-choice perspective.
And we only have to look to Britain to see the devastation that abortion can wreak on a society – 90% of babies diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome aborted, 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in abortion, consent forms pre-signed by doctors that make a mockery of the idea that any legislation can contain sufficient safeguards. How are we ever supposed to protect women in Ireland against the corruptive effect of abortion on the medical profession if we’re not even prepared to discuss the abuses that are out there?
It’s time to stop muddying the waters when we talk about abortion. If we want what’s best for women, then we have to welcome all women to the debate and address the facts as they are. Abortion is not the deliverance from male oppression that its advocates would have us believe. For many women I know, it was a last resort that introduced the kind of shame, guilt and regret that we wouldn’t wish on any of the women we love.
I oppose abortion because I agree with Louise O’Neill that all human life is beautiful. But I also oppose it because I’ve seen the results of how it can devastate a woman after promising to be the solution to her problems. Abortion is the ultimate betrayal of women and that, to a feminist, is the worst crime of all.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on March 14th, 2016