On 25 May, Ireland will hold a referendum central to its self-image in the 21st century. This week guest blogger Jen Baker explains why she's hosting a fundraiser to Repeal the 8th in Brussels next Tuesday.
I’ve had an abortion.
It was awful, painful - both physically and psychologically - and not something I would wish on anyone. And it was absolutely the right choice for me.
My normal contraception had failed and I was left with a stark choice, neither option particularly appealing. But at least I had a choice. In Ireland abortion is illegal under the 8th Amendment. Because of this, every single day women and girls who may have suffered rape or incest, have life-threatening healthcare issues while being pregnant or, simply like me, have found themselves with an unwanted pregnancy are forced to travel abroad to seek care.
Doctors working to help these women also face prosecution, meaning that women who cannot travel abroad to get the services they need end up ordering dodgy pills online. In 2018 it is appalling that women in a modern country like Ireland can be subjected to this.
Effectively the 8th Amendment removes women’s right to choose what happens to their own body. Let’s be honest, if men were forced to suffer through months of unwanted pregnancy and childbirth, the 8th Amendment would never have been written! Make no mistake, this is a feminist issue.
I was lucky enough to be in my thirties with the support of friends and family when I had to make the journey to the UK for a termination. It was still difficult and lonely, and to be practical, quite expensive. And while I was able to find comfort in knowing that I was making the right choice, and even some black humour in the situation - the Croatian spa I went to afterwards to recover was called… ProLife! - thousands of women are not so lucky.
Even if they can afford it, why should they? Ireland is outsourcing its misery and pain: “Hey UK, you take care of this while we turn a blind eye.”
I attended a clinic in south London. We patients were grouped into ward-type waiting rooms for six. Of the six in my group, four were Irish!
That’s two thirds in a London clinic. If the real pro-life movement - the anti-choice campaigners, not the Croatian spa - really believe that abortion is not happening because of the 8th Amendment, they couldn’t be more wrong.
No one chooses abortion as their preferred method of contraception. But it is a reality that faces hundreds of thousands of women every year.
Repeal the 8th
Three years ago Ireland voted on marriage equality. In May, the country will vote to whether to repeal the 8th Amendment.
Many people see the two as analogous. But while they are similar in their efforts to overturn repressive, Catholic, patriarchal thinking, gay men were not dying because they were denied their right to marry their partners. And once again let me be blunt, the “gay marriage campaign” was about men - lesbians were rarely part of the discourse.
I wholeheartedly support the fight for LGBTIQ rights and travelled back to Ireland to vote for marriage equality. But this is even more important. Women have died needlessly.
I know I am not alone in wanting to see Ireland’s law reformed. But it is not a foregone conclusion. American pro-life groups are pouring money into sophisticated disinformation campaigns in Ireland and the referendum could still go either way.
So, even though I shudder at the thought of fundraising - just ask anyone who has asked me to sponsor their half marathon - I believe this issue is too important to ignore. So together with a couple of Irish friends in Brussels, we are holding a fundraiser to raise the cash to get as many people as possible back to Ireland to exercise their right to vote.
On Tuesday 20th March from 18:00 we are inviting people to join us at Le Grand Central in the heart of the EU quarter for an Apero for Repeal. We will ask people to make a suggested donation towards helping the Repeal the 8 th movement back in Ireland as well as the #HometoVote campaign. No big speeches, no hard work, just have a drink and talk to other lovely like-minded people.
Event details here.
Please come along and support Women’s Rights.
Jen Baker is a freelance journalist and moderator based in Brussels.