Ireland In A World Of Choice



From top: Categories by The Center for Reproductive Rights of global abortion laws from most liberal to most conservative; Julien Mercille

Ireland’s abortion laws are the most restrictive among western countries and often more conservative than the developing world.

Dr Julien Mercille writes:

The abortion debate and whether or not to repeal the Constitution’s Eighth amendment has grown louder recently. It will no doubt intensify as the next general election approaches. It is a hot subject in Ireland.

One way to contextualise and clarify sensitive issues is to put them in perspective. We need to examine where Ireland stands relative to other countries. Sometimes this suggests easy answers and solutions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (based in the US and with offices in other countries) publishes an annual world map showing the state of abortion laws globally.

As can be seen from the map (top), it divides countries into four categories, from most liberal (in green) to most conservative (in red).

Ireland is quite an exception. Among Western countries, it’s a red conservative island in a green liberal ocean.

On abortion, Ireland is thus like Africa, Latin America, and other developing countries, and actually more conservative than many. (The map shows abortion legislation but actual implementation may vary; it still provides a largely accurate picture of how countries deal with abortion).

Let’s look at the map more closely.

The most conservative countries (red) either prohibit abortion entirely, or only allow it to save a woman’s life. Ireland is in red.

Indeed, in an excellent recent report, Amnesty International stated that we have one of the world’s most restrictive abortion legislation, which “continues to criminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal or severe foetal impairment”. The law is “deeply rooted in religious doctrine”.

Human rights bodies worldwide have repeatedly maintained that “restrictive laws on abortion, including those that exist in Ireland, violate women’s and girls’ rights to life, health, privacy, non-discrimination and freedom from torture and other ill-treatment”. The recent reform of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 has brought no significant change.

The orange countries allow abortion to protect a woman’s life and health. Health can be interpreted as physical or mental health or both.

Next, the yellow countries permit abortion for socioeconomic reasons (when a pregnancy could lead to risks or negative consequences for a woman, broadly interpreted). In practice, many of those countries apply their laws in a liberal manner. For example, in Great Britain, the law allows abortion on socioeconomic grounds but in practice it is freely available (so it should be considered a green country).

Last, the green countries permit abortion without restriction as to the reason. Women simply decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. But most green countries still establish gestational limits on abortion, usually between 12 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. For example, in Denmark, abortion is available without restriction as to the reason up to 12 weeks of gestation. Beyond this limit, it is possible on specific socioeconomic grounds, in cases of foetal impairment, or if the pregnancy results from a criminal act like rape or incest.

In the Western world, green countries form the overwhelming majority.

What they say is something like this.

Women have a right to choose not to continue with a pregnancy, at least as long as the foetus remains unviable outside their bodies. This recognises that there are many valid grounds for women to make that choice.

Maybe a woman is a victim of rape, a criminal act. She should thus be allowed to minimize the consequences of this, including to terminate the pregnancy. To force her to carry on with this pregnancy is not justifiable.

Or maybe a woman is a victim of incest. Why should she be forced to continue with the pregnancy, and fined or jailed for not doing so?

Or maybe a woman had protected sex and the condom split or slipped. Bad luck happens to everybody and has nothing to do with being irresponsible. The green countries agree that this is no reason to force a woman to continue with her pregnancy.

Or maybe a woman finds out that she is pregnant but that for one reason or another, believes that her situation is not conducive to having a baby. In the first few weeks of pregnancy she should thus be able to end it.

Those who oppose abortion may laugh at the above, be outraged, or dismiss it entirely.

But there’s one thing to remember.

Imagine a discussion about abortion held around a table with one representative from each Western country. There would be roughly 40 people around the table. The fact is that all of them would be green, except 2-3 with a slightly more restrictive legislation. And then, there would be Ireland, off the charts in the red.

So it’s basically 1 (or 2 or 3) against 40. It’s harder to laugh now, isn’t it?

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at UCD. His book Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis: Europe’s Treasure Ireland is out. Twitter: @JulienMercille

103 thoughts on “Ireland In A World Of Choice

  1. Starina

    waiting for (male) conservatives to comment now with “but 40 against 1 is bullying” or some such nonsense.

    1. MajorThrill

      My money is on the “Oh so you think we should emulate Germany? Germany of the Holocaust Germany?” crowd getting here first.

        1. MajorThrill

          Let’s not be hasty, there’s about a 40% chance they’ll start on about China, that’s a pretty hot one right now and there were a few other dystopian horror flicks on over Halloween that they might have confused with reality.

    2. Djizandipus

      Ah, ye’re gas. All getting yourselves in a tizzy before any of the comments ye so relish even arrive.

    1. manolo

      Given that Pakistan is looking to our blasphemy law for inspiration, I am not so surprised that they (and Saudi) are more open than Ireland when it comes to reproductive rights..

      1. Owen C

        He’s a geography professor, so he’s absolutely fab with maps. One point to note: Denmark is for something, and so is China and Russia. Finland, the UK, Japan and Poland seem to at least have reservations in some situations. Gun-toting, God-loving, war-mongering, complicated-view-on-abortion US-o-A is in green. Just saying, life aint so simple that we can always easily categorise people into good v bad.

        1. J

          The Bible depicts Good V Evil. Fairy tales depict Good V Evil.
          Owen, are you suggesting that the world which we inhabit, a world where Mummy and Daddy will make it all better with a kiss and hug is just a mere fantasy?

          1. Owen C

            J, the Bible isn’t real. Fairy-tales aren’t real. The only thing that’s real is Mercille On Monday.

        2. MoyestWithExcitement

          “Just saying, life aint so simple that we can always easily categorise people into good v bad.”

          Okey doke. What the map shows is a comparison between national laws.

          1. Owen C

            Yes, and Jules then uses that to create conclusions such as this:

            “As can be seen from the map (top), it divides countries into four categories, from most liberal (in green) to most conservative (in red).

            Ireland is quite an exception. Among Western countries, it’s a red conservative island in a green liberal ocean.

            On abortion, Ireland is thus like Africa, Latin America, and other developing countries, and actually more conservative than many.”

            I’m actually quite pro-choice. But I’m not naive enough to think this is an overly simple issue that can be drawn into just conservative vs liberal categorisations. China and Russia have had questionable experiences with abortion in the past due to relatively particular socioeconomic and/or cultural reasons, to the point that describing either country as “liberal” in its use of abortion would be highly inaccurate (unless you want to use the other meaning of ‘liberal’ => “a lot”).

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            “But I’m not naive enough to think this is an overly simple issue that can be drawn into just conservative vs liberal categorisations.”

            The point is that, relative to other western nations, our *laws* are *exceptionally* restrictive. You’re just getting hung up on the use of the word ‘liberal’. That’s not very important in the grand scheme of things.

          3. Owen C

            Fine, lets forget the term liberal vs conservative. Is the Chinese or Russian experience of abortion something we should be looking to follow? Cos, you know, they’re in green on the map and that appears to be the goal.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            No, but the rest of the EU is. Let’s look at a line from the opening post again. “Among Western countries, it’s a red conservative island in a green liberal ocean.” Western. Russia and China aren’t Western.

  2. donkey_kong

    I’m pro life so let’s get that bit done .l

    I normally like Julian’s articles but todays’ is wrong using false data with a false premise.
    With the EU our pals Malta also ban abortion but this is ignored as it doesn’t fit the narrative.
    (for those that doubt me)

    If he was to use an theme for his argument , you would consider that he would get the nearest and dearest countries labelled correctly. Furthermore using a Pro-Choice organisation as a data source is laughable ….If Monsanto or the IMF funded research the good Doctor would be the first to call shenanigans.

    I’m not against medical intervention , which to be fair I don’t consider an abortion but let’s be honest the people who bang on about extreme cases aren’t interested in those case but use them as a reason for what is labelled “abortion on demand” which I am against wholeheartedly

    Finally if the rest of the world put their hand in the fire…etc…etc…
    Childish as it sounds because the rest of the world does something it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make our own minds up.

    1. Dόn Pídgéόní

      “Furthermore using a Pro-Choice organisation as a data source is laughable”

      Not really, you can easy check the data and it’s not likely to be wrong is it – either you allow abortion, allow it under certain circumstances or you don’t.

      1. donkey_kong

        did you even read what I wrote … off the top of my head I found a flaw significant as it’s a country local to us , so some far off land but a member of the EU.
        All this without even troubling a search engine. I only looked up Wiki to get you the proof to my brainwave.
        Your point is invalid. Good day to you.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          Did you read mine? You can check the data which was my point. But you proved you can google. Well done. Have a cookie.

          1. rotide

            His point was that he did check the data and it was wrong. You’re assertion that it was unlikely to be wrong is incorrect.

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      Yes, Malta is such a big and significant country. We can totally ignore that every other nation in the EU has more relaxed abortion laws. Motherfupping Malta are on our side mothafuppas! And too right on that last thing you said about making our own minds up. My doctor made that comment in the fax he sent me to confirm my appointment for a bit of leech treatment.

      1. donkey_kong

        significant enough to harbour “the guy with state contracts” who uses it as a base of operations.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          So because Denis O’Brien uses Malta to avoid tax, Irish people can feel good about keeping abortion illegal. I see.

    3. Spaghetti Hoop

      I had to squint, given that an accompanying list of countries was missing from the map, but yes, Malta appears to be in red, as is Andorra.

      1. donkey_kong

        you know ……….on squinting …..hard….
        ah fupp it , maybe…

        the online rages won’t change anybodys opinion

          1. Dόn Pídgéόní

            PIdgeons don’t eeyore Djizandipus but thanks for your concern. Please donate to my justgiving campaign to invest in medical advances so one day I too can eeyore with the greatest.

          2. Djizandipus

            Take a bit more time over responses and they might get better. Or better still you may realise the person has a point

          3. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Internet stranger Djizandipus – I am really taking your points on board and will use them to make myself a better person, not just on BS but at LIFE! I appreciate our time together #winninglikedjizandipus

    4. manky handy

      Totally agree we should make our own minds up…in a referendum. No one of fertile age has be asked their opinion on laws that effect them exclusively.That’s ridiculous. In my opinion the laws are antiquated and do not reflect the will of Irish citizens. Let’s see who’s right and make our own minds up.

          1. Shanti

            More people voted for a woman’s right to travel and information than ever voted for the 8th amendment.

            As polls go that’s the most reliable one we have at our disposal.

            Bring on a referendum.

        1. Lorcan Nagle

          In polls, roughly 85% of Irish people favour a liberalisation of abortion laws. The approval decreases as you move away from rape, incest and fatal foetal abnromality towards socioeconomic reasons or abortion on request, but the current law does not represent the will of the people.

    5. classter

      Malta is red on Merceille’s map.

      You just can’t really see it unless you zoom in very far ’cause it is so small.

  3. J

    woooohoooo I am still on the bold list. Pens “essay” on how to doge the Bodge:
    Step 1: Change email address

  4. rotide

    Those who oppose abortion may laugh at the above

    Who exactly is going to laugh at rape and incest?

    A better phrasing may have been “Those who oppose abortion may sweep their capes over their horns and laugh while damning souls to eternal damnation at the above”, just to get your point home better.

    1. Dog Gone. IT

      the UK police force apparently made a rape joke on twitter there recently

      so that’s one like-minded person to you

  5. Pardon

    Is the taxpayer funding Julien to be the “pretty” mouthpiece of the “oh my GAWD LOIKE oh so raaadical left “?

    1. meadowlark

      Yes in the same way they pay you to be the anonymous moron. And if thats the best you can bring to the discussion then well done. Clearly doing a great job.

      1. Pardon

        Thanks Meadow.You are too kind. Sounds like my comment has just hit the right note and is perfectly in tune with Mercille on a Monday.

  6. newsjustin

    The thing about these charts is – if you swapped green for red, etc it would make us look great. Which we are. Because of the prohibition on abortion here. Now, if we could only encourage our European neighbours to join us in our enlightened, humanist, pro-life stance.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Oh the humanity of incarcerating a rape victim and slicing her open. The humanity of denying women medical treatment lest it interfere with zygote’s right to exist over a dying woman’s rights.

      The 8th amendment kills women. It doesn’t save babies.

    2. Shanti

      Do you think abortion came into existence when it was legalised or something?

      There is precisely NOTHING enlightened about being “pro life”. The reason the UK legalised abortion was because their public wards were spilling over with the fallout from backstreet abortion. Women with perforated uterii or sepsis from coat hangers and knitting needles..

      You want the rest of Europe to return to that?

      You’ll never remove the need for abortion, no matter how misty eyed you get over your utopian ideal of a world where every woman jumps for joy at a positive pregnancy test result, but it’s not reality. And whether you like it or not, reality is where we live – not your laa laa land.

      Either you provide safe, clinical procedures for those who seek them, or you are actually advocating increasing our maternal mortality, and there is nothing “pro life” about letting women die to suit your morals. Nothing.

  7. nellyb

    Hold on with repeal now, people. First, lets upgrade the 08th properly with equal criminal responsibility for both – the male donor and female recipient. If donor’s dog not muzzled, or muzzle snapped – the top bunk is his for 14 years. I want to see that in 08th before repealed. I’ll bounce it off Renua candidates, I am sure they are working tirelessly to implement it.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Compulsory vasectomies for all boys and men of ejaculation age to reduce unwanted pregnancies.
      An ethics committee to decide if you’re allowed to have it reversed after you’ve had a consultation with 2 doctors and a psychologist.
      (Of course, you could go to one of the green, or red countries on the map and have it reversed if you want, but if you attempt to have it reversed in Ireland you could end up in prison for 14 years.)

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          You’ll be happy to take the risk though right? Sure, no one has gone to jail or anything yet. Want to test the law?

        2. Lorcan Nagle

          The main reason that nobody is likely to be presecuted the Protection of Life during Pregnancy act is that it’s practically impossible to tell the difference between a spontaneous miscarraige and one induced by the abortion pill, if the pill is taken correctly.

    1. manolo

      Yes, he does, and he is also the cousin of Moynes’ ma. Yore woman from the Social Dems is the niece of Mercille’s uncle. All a family affair, probably some dirty hanky panky going on also.

      Feel free to walk away in the knowledge that BS is not a meritocracy and nepotism is rife across the board.

  8. Mr. T.

    If Mercille wrote a recipe and posted it here, the Young Fine Gaelers would still post their sneery comments.

  9. Pardon

    If Mercille wishes to whip up a piece on candyfloss YFG would applaud him for his efforts. He has managed the almost impossible… making Enda look positively meritocratic…

Comments are closed.