I haven't gotten excited by Clare Daly's latest attempt to make our abortion laws less barbaric. I haven't bothered to contact my local TDs, as I feel little hope that things will improve during the life of this Dáil. The main opposition parties, Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil, won't support her legislation. Sinn Fein have sniffed the wind and decided to sit on its hands. Fianna Fáil have decided to sniff all the local winds and vote both ways. As for the government parties. Labour will self-inflict another humiliation by voting no. And my party will definitely vote no because it's too scared to take on the anti-choicers inside and outside the party.
Granted, the legislation might be unconstitutional, but that is a question we employ very expensive judges to decide. At least if the legislation failed at the Supreme Court, we’d have some momentum for a referendum. And once our politicians agree a referendum on abortion is necessary, sure we'd hardly feel the ten years pass before they finally held one.
I don't agree with Clare Daly on many things, but she is brave and honest. Two qualities one doesn't usually associate with TDs. For taking on the Gardai, I'd feel obliged to give her my first preference, if she was standing in my constituency. Though I doubt she'd appreciate a vote from a blueshirt.
I also think her championing of women who experience fatal foetal abnormalities during their pregnancies, is exactly the right road to take towards the ultimate goal of repealing the Eighth Amendment.
Those of us who wish to see the Eighth Amendment repealed are a disparate bunch. There are those, like me, who wish women to have control over their bodies in all circumstances. That is not necessarily a popular position. There are others among us who see women carrying foetuses with life ending conditions as a special case, meriting a particular dispensation. It's not an unpopular position.
The women who’ve experienced these tragic pregnancies and are now campaigning to help other women in similar situations, are accomplished activists. They are an admirable group and they hold some considerable sway. They represent the best opportunity we have at finally addressing the Eighth Amendment. Of course, if the Eighth does go, this loose coalition will end.
The inescapable logic of repealing the Eighth is that abortion will become legal. It will prove impossible to legislate for choice on the basis that it's only for women who deserve it.
The anti-choicers are well aware of this. They know they have nothing to fear from me. My opinions on abortion are far too liberal. Women who have experienced the diagnosis of a 'fatal foetal abnormality' and have been told their foetus is 'incompatible with life' scare the shit out of the fanatics. So much so they even want the terms, fatal foetal abnormality and incompatible with life, banned. Think on that one. They want to change language so that women will no longer be able to accurately describe their own experience of a tragedy. Denying women language, denying women control of their own bodies, denying women choice.
They say they genuinely believe a foetus is a fully fledged human being, deserving of all the rights and protections afforded the already born. In essence they see themselves as trying to save lives and protect women from trauma.
Let's look at that. What are the anti-choicers doing to prevent abortions and help women?
An abortion is one of the safest medical procedures a women can have. Well, in countries where it is legal. In countries where it is illegal, back street abortions are dangerous and sometimes fatal. Fortunately, in Ireland, despite the illegality of abortions, many women can access the service in the UK or smuggle in the appropriate medication, sparing us a proliferation of back street abortions and death. That is the status quo. A status quo where abortions are ubiquitous, but carried out at a slight remove. A status quo where women are made to needlessly suffer and are driven to unnecessary expense. Yet thousands of Irish women continue to have abortions.
And what are the anti-choicers doing about this? As far as I can tell, nothing. This is difficult to understand, as there is so much they could do, to reduce the number of abortions that Irish women have, while remaining respectful of women and their choices.
If the anti-choicers were to adopt the maxim of 'safe, legal and rare' they would probably prevent more abortions than they do now. (Not that I'd advocate, safe, legal and rare, as it's a bit judgemental)
Within the framework of ‘safe, legal and rare,’ there are several useful strategies the anti-choicers could pursue to reduce the number of abortions that Irish women have and indeed women have, worldwide.
They could begin in the schools. Compressive, age appropriate and ongoing sex education would go a long way to preventing unwanted pregnancies. Everything from educating children about their bodies, appropriate touch, respect, where to get advice, all the way up to extensive instruction on contraception. Imagine the number of abortions this might prevent.
Further to contraception, it continues to amaze me that our species split the atom, landed a human on the moon and put a computer/phone/camera/clock/torch into my pocket, yet contraception is still not 100% reliable, still causes side-effects and requires humans to use their brains when other parts of their anatomies are vying for attention. Instead of paying for protest marches and lobbying, why not throw money at scientists. More reliable contraception? How many abortions prevented?
Poverty. If the anti-choicers directed some of their efforts towards eliminating poverty, they might find the number of abortions simultaneously falling.
And let's not forget those terrible women who are ambitious. Children can still hinder a woman's progress in those parts of the world that lauds unhindered capitalism. Might a few letters to the rich white men who control that world, help address this?
The anti-choicers could redirect their efforts from banning the term 'fatal foetal abnormality' to instead, aggressively funding the kind of research that might make the term 'fatal foetal abnormality' obsolete.
Then there's tackling cultures, so patriarchal, that female foetuses are aborted in favour of male ones. You know, take on ingrained conservatism. How many fewer abortions there?
This is not an exhaustive list of strategies that the anti-choicers could employ to reduce the number of abortions in Ireland, but it's start. It just strikes me that these strategies are somewhat obvious. And if they are obvious, why aren't the anti-choicers taking any positive steps to make abortions rarer?
Is it because this really isn't about women and the so called 'lives' they may be carrying? The evidence suggests that anti-choicers don't care all that much about abortions. Instead, all they appear to care about, is control. Controlling women, controlling their bodies, controlling their choices. For that is the very essence of the Eighth Amendment, control. Repeal the Eighth and the fanatics will lose their control of women. No wonder threats to that amendment terrify them so much.