How Should A Man Talk About Abortion?

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garygannon

Gary Gannon

Speaking about abortion can be uncomfortable but it is nothing compared to the burdens that our medieval regime has placed upon women in this country.

Gary Gannon writes:

This Saturday I have been asked to be a speaker at an event that is being organised by ‘The REPEAL Project’ which is taking place in the Temple Bar Gallery.

The event itself is sold out and I am just a little bit anxious about the contribution that I can make not only to this event but to the debate more broadly.

I harbour no personal ambiguity on the topic of abortion. I am completely pro-choice on the very simple grounds that I trust women to be the ones best capable of making choices that concern their own bodies.

It is easy for me to say that I am a pro-choice male who is committed to repealing the eight amendment to our constitution. I literally have the jumper. The source of my anxiety is that there is decades of hurt, pain and suffering behind that grotesque amendment which I can never fully understand.

It will never be me exported from this country for a basic medical procedure. Pregnancy will never limit the opportunities that may arise in my life and nor will the eight amendment ever impede my access to medical best practice in an Irish hospital.

I do not wish to unnecessarily take up space with my voice and my thoughts, when there are brilliant pieces and reasons and campaigns out there from the likes of Tara Flynn and Róisin Ingle, from campaigners such like Ailbhe Smyth and from groups like the National Women’s Council and the Abortion Right’s Campaign.

I can confidently speak as an elected representative of a constituency that has a large proportion of low-income and migrant communities who are most disproportionately affected by our State’s restriction on reproductive choices.

We rarely speak of the reproductive inequality that exists in our State. It is well documented that over 4000 Irish women travel abroad each year to avail of abortion services in neighbouring countries at a very significant financial cost.

This option is of course not available to women of low-income so the eight amendment further compounds the structural injustices that already exists in our State.

I can reiterate that I believe in choice. Childbirth comes with enormous economic penalties and I believe that a woman should get to choose if she is going to spend the next several decades of her life living in poverty.

While canvassing for the 2014 local election, I met a lone parent mother who over a discussion concerning my position on the issue of water charges brought me in to her kitchen and showed me the contents of her fridge.

She had the meals for herself and her son prepared in Tupperware boxes for that week but she informed me that there was one day each week were she wasn’t able to provide a meal for herself. The fear that woman expressed regarding the imposition of water charges, or a call from the land-lord informing of a rent increase was palpable.

I have witnessed similar levels of poverty manifest itself regularly in the years since but for me as an adult male, it was the first occasion that I realised the true nature of what gendered inequality looks like.

I raise that story because it demonstrated to me that it was motherhood which became the material basis for that woman’s poverty and her story is certainly not unique in my experiences over the past couple of years.

I can also talk on Saturday as a person who aspires to be a legislator at some point in the future.

When politicians talk of finally offering bodily autonomy to women in this country, most seem only able to do so in the most extreme cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.

I do not believe that regulating for abortion only in these most extreme cases is practical or moral and I would have serious reservations concerning how a woman who has experienced the trauma of rape would be asked to prove an attack had occurred in such a short window of time.

It certainly wouldn’t be through the courts. For example, of the 567 rape cases that went through the central criminal court in 2013, only 17% of those tried for rape were convicted. Let us not replace one barbarous and restrictive amendment with another.

I can argue that when we repeal the 8th amendment, we need to ensure that we replace it with regulation ideally, or legislation, that ensures women have access to free, safe and legal abortion.

We are long past the stage of incremental change.

As a person who has always sought not to be constrained by the political spectrum, I can present my belief that free, safe, legal is a centrist position that is actually achievable.
Free for the very obvious economic reasons that I spoke of earlier.

Access to reproductive healthcare should be available to everyone who requires it. Although many people do opt for private healthcare, women are entitled to free reproductive health services, and abortion must become part of this.

For those concerned about term limits, removing the financial obstacles to abortion would ensure that such treatments occur in the earliest possible stages of a pregnancy.

Safe, because quite frankly the system that we have at the moment certainly isn’t anywhere close to meeting this standard. Twelve women per week are officially making this journey to Britain or mainland Europe for an abortion.

They are returning from these procedures without any recourse for aftercare supports or checkups. There are many more woman who are self-medicating by purchasing pills online.

Access to safe medical procedures is a fairly low bar for any modern country.

Legal so as to condemn to the annals of history this frightening system that is currently in place where Irish doctors are reaching for Bunreacht Nà hEireann before deciding which medical treatment would be in the best interest of women in this country.

Speaking about abortion can be uncomfortable but it nothing compared to the burdens that our medieval regime has placed upon women in this country.

I am a man but I am also a citizen of this Republic and as such will play my part in making this a more humane country for the other 50% of the population.

Gary Gannon is a Social Democrats Councillor on Dublin City Counicil for Dublin’s North Inner City. Gar’s column appears here every Friday before lunch. Follow Gary on Twitter: @1garygannon

130 thoughts on “How Should A Man Talk About Abortion?

  1. newsjustin

    Don’t worry Gary. You’re pro-choice. Just use “medieval” a lot, as you’ve done here. Lob in an oul’ “Keep your ovaries off her ovaries” if things get tricky and you’ll be carried shoulder high from the place.

    1. On The Buses

      Men should say whatever they want to say. If they believe abortion is right or wrong, they should voice their opinion if they feel like doing so. Just as any woman should.

      Also, keep a keen on eye on language policing such as this.

      1. scottser

        Gannon is an elected official. Why doesnt he talk about the cammmpaign from a professional stanndpoint?

    2. Louis Lefronde

      Men should mind their own business, especially conservative males who turned a blind eye to mass rape and a fair few murders of children carried out in state / church sponsored institutions in Ireland

      1. On The Buses

        This is a referendum issue, it is everyone who is eligible to vote in the states’ business.

      2. newsjustin

        The right to life is everyone’s business Louis. So, yeah, I’ll say what I want about it.

  2. Mrs s

    “I do not wish to unnecessarily take up space with my voice and my thoughts…”

    Then don’t. Why not politely refuse the invitation and let those “brilliant pieces and reasons and campaigns” have your allocated time?

    Simply because you have been asked to speak and can speak, it doesn’t necessarily mean you must speak.

    This is not personal. But I do think that repealing the amendment is more likely if people (especially elected representatives) were to hand over their speaking opportunities to groups you mention such as NWC or ARC.

    1. rotide

      Explain to me why he should not speak as well he does here at that event just because of his gender?

      This ridiculous attidude is beyond me

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        It’s not unusual at events like this for those with experience of said issue to be given greater prominence than those who do not. As someone who cannot get pregnant and therefore not experience this decision as related to his own body, he might want to give up his spot in favour of someone who does or may bring that experience to the podium. Now, that is not to say men do not have experience through their partners, which would be an interesting approach for someone to take when talking and would also widen the reach of this event.

        But to say it is simply because he is a mahhhnnnn ignores the fact that this is a more complex issue and that this is a highly emotive issue, which ever side you come down on.

        1. rotide

          There are many strands to the pro choice argument. The human rights aspect is one of them. If it is a human rights issue it doesn’t make a difference if the speaker has first hand experience or is any gender. If they can make a cogent argument about it that’s all that matters.

          Obviously women will have the strongest voice on this but some of the ‘men should not ever have a say on this issue’ guff that goes on around here is as ridiculous as ‘trust women to make the right decision for women’ as if women are incapable of being idiots as much as men are.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I still think it makes a difference. Take another issue, like race. I can be against racism/ageism/disability discrimination etc and stand up and call that out but I will never know what it is like to experience that. But I can stand behind people who do and support them, and if they want me to and only then, speak. That is what women mean. Well, what I mean.

          2. rotide

            It would be equally stupid to prevent white people from calling out racism and having solely a procession of black faces talking about it. That isn’t what happens and it shouldn’t happen here either.

          3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            That is exactly what happens rotide. If you look at the BLM movement for one, white people are listening to what POC are saying and acting to support speakers not take over the mic.

            BLM started up over in the UK recently. One of the news channels had a black woman and a white man debating whether the UK was racist. Guess who was on what side? Guess which channel got completely ridiculed for such a stupid set up. Of course people who don’t experience X think it doesn’t happen because for them, it doesn’t.

          4. WhiteKnight

            “I can be against racism/ageism/disability discrimination etc and stand up and call that out but I will never know what it is like to experience that.”

            How do you know you will never be discriminated against on these grounds?

  3. Anomanomanom

    As I was told on here many times, A man should have absolutely no say what so ever. So let the women speak for them selves.

    1. Anomanomanom

      Sorry I commented before reading it fully. And while I agree with a lot of it, the example of the woman not eat one day a week is bollox. Seriously think about that logically. If you had 6 biscuits(example) for 7 days surely you’d just take 1/6 and hold it for the day you have no biscuits. Im sorry to get off point but I never understood the lies that have to go along with every opinion.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Poor basement dwelling, neckbeard, MRA. Some of your species actually see women as more than pictures to choke your chicken to. Your mammy will be calling you for your dinner in a minute.

  4. The Real Jane

    Normally I think that men’s voices are a bit counter productive in this debate, Gary, but I’m impressed with the extent to which you’ve considered many of the aspects of this issue, including the financial consequences of pregnancy for women – something that’s frequently overlooked. Personally, I think women’s voices need to be to the fore in this debate, but I think I’d be happy that you’ve thought extensively about the subject and aren’t being glib or dragging other issues into it or trying to move the focus from women so I think you’re a good choice of speaker here.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        Yeah, whatever about women’s rights, it’s men who have their opinions dismissed by an anonymous woman on an Internet comment section who are the real victims here.

      2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        Rotide, if you really feel passionate about representing men’s views in this, why not put your name forward?

        1. rotide

          I will as soon as i can put pen to paper in a ballot. Untill then , people who are far more eloquent than I can do far better.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            You should contact Black Lives Matter while you’re at it and tell them you want to see more white faces in their organisation.

          2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Fantastic. There are other ways other than talking. A simple one is to try and listen to what people, women, are saying and why instead of misinterpreting them as you just did. Jane’s comment was appreciative of the complications in this and you basically went “yeah but no mens”.

          3. rotide

            well no, in this instance Jane basically says ‘Normally men may not speak, but I like what this one is saying so go ahead’

          4. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            “Counter-productive” doesn’t equal “cannot speak”.

          5. Nigel

            I think in situations like this some men confuse having heir opinion s dismissed with not being allowed to speak.Not giving your Holy Man Writ the consideration you believe it’s due is not an inftingement of your freedom of speech.

      1. Zuppy International

        #repealthe8th is only trending for godless feminists who seek to destroy the natural matriarchy.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            #teamgodlessfeministswhoseektodestroythenaturalmatriarchy all the way!

          2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            We are going all the way Jane – brace yourself for the big time!

          3. Zuppy International

            Your smug-ness is revealing. You revel in your self-appointed mission to destroy motherhood, the one human institution that gives life to us all. You demean/demote women into being but vessels for the insignificant fetus and then ascribe that sin to others who would protect the mother and child.

            Your sub-human programming is complete.

          4. The Real Jane

            Well, you’re almost completely right, old zuppers, except that I’m a mother myself and I’ll thank you to talk to women who are doing their post natal pelvic floor exercises with a bit more grovelling respect.

            Respect mothers, old zuppers. We did the bold thing for reals.

          5. The Real Jane

            This attitude is not respectful, I fear, old zuppers. It’s not on to speak to mothers in that way. We are, after all, how everyone got here and you would do well to honour us.

          1. Zuppy International

            Desperate for the last word there Jane? Ok, you shall have it. Tell me once again how you justify murder?

        1. Sheik Yahbouti

          HAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAA, “the natural matriarchy”?!? Forgive me, but is not the problem the age old Patriarchy, which has made sh!te of women’s lives for centuries, Zuppy, you young….? Suddenly it’s a big high five for motherhood – respect the females?? Don’t make me laugh. Any fool could see it, and know that we’ve benefited for eons from it.

  5. Baffled

    ” Childbirth comes with enormous economic penalties and I believe that a woman should get to choose if she is going to spend the next several decades of her life living in poverty”?

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Lots of women in this country live in poverty and having a child will effectively guarantee they’re going to live in it for another 20 years. What’s the problem with saying ‘living in poverty’?

          2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            It implies that having a child means you will live in poverty.
            Certainly, there are people who will live in poverty because of it, that’s undeniable.

          3. MoyestWithExcitement

            “It implies that having a child means you will live in poverty.”

            No it doesn’t.

            “Certainly, there are people who will live in poverty because of it, that’s undeniable.”

            Right, and that’s who Gannon was talking about. Not everything is about you.

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            That’s a great attitude. ‘2 + 2 = 5’ ‘No it doesn’t’ ‘Well it does in MY world.’

      1. The Real Jane

        Really? You don’t think pregnancy and childbirth have lifelong financial consequences for women?

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Gannon was obviously talking about the many, *many* women who have nothing being given a choice as to whether they want to further drown themselves in poverty and debt.

          2. The Real Jane

            Really? So not all women who have maternity leave have months of less income than normal? Women don’t miss pension contributions for the duration of their maternity leave? What women are these who see no drop in income or drag on their future earnings from childbirth?

          3. The Real Jane

            Well that’s super but highly unusual. I scrimped throughout my maternity leave (my credit card took a battering during the unpaid portion), my pension contributions were paused (which will affect me long term), I had to stop my savings (which will have a long term cost) and I’ve missed out a pay increase.

            And I’m in a fortunate financial position. But there’s no point in pretending that I’m as well off now (in ways related to the actual having a baby rather than providing for a baby which is a different question) as I would be otherwise.

          4. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            I’m not arguing that. I’m arguing with the sweeping generalisation of saying ‘all women’.

          5. The Real Jane

            So you think there are women, giving yourself as an example, for whom pregnancy and childbirth have no financial consequences. Well, you’re the expert on your life, I bow to your superior knowledge.

            This is a bit of a turnaround in my thinking, so can you explain how that happened?

          6. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

            Jaysus. Let me reiterate.

            I’m saying that having a child doesn’t mean that you will live in poverty.

            That’s it. No more, no less.

          7. Nigel

            Er isn’t that one of the reasons women should be allowed to make their own decision in the master, taking their economic situation into account? Taking a perfectly uncontroversial statement and treating it as an absurd generalisation is such a cheaply stupid type of internet argument.

          8. The Real Jane

            OK, well that wasn’t clear. I said that pregnancy and childbirth have lifelong financial consequences for women, you disagreed. I didn’t mention poverty per se, so it appears that you’re having an argument with something you’ve made up. And getting a bit cross about it, too.

          9. MoyestWithExcitement

            “I’m saying that having a child doesn’t mean that you will live in poverty”.

            Gannon didn’t say that it did but continue….

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        You could argue that having to pay to fly to the UK, sometimes stay overnight, is already a form of means testing.

  6. Shallowthroat

    Any man that writes about abortion, let alone speaks on a public platform on the subject is looking for his hole. End of. #Dabbling

    1. postmanpat

      Any man that writes ..speaks…on a public platform ………is looking for his hole. End of. Sure aren’t we all.

  7. Ivor

    Jaysus.

    So let’s get this straight.

    A man, regardless of race, nationality, colour, creed or music taste can have an opinion about what women , non-gendered people and men can do with their bodies on subjects of drug use, prostitution, theft, violence against the self and others, suicide and a variety of other matters. They can speak about FGM, circumcision and child abuse with regard to the behaviours of aboriginal, autistic intersex people but for some reason men speaking about abortion is special?

    Why? Because their bodies don’t allow them to become pregnant? Does that women who are born infertile and who are aware of it should also have their opinions discounted in value? A woman who is post menopausal? Does somebody who is assigned as female at birth but who identifies as male have an equal voice on the topic? How about those who are told they are male at birth but identify as female?

    I’m always amazed when people who are fine with drug prohibition and laws that penalise those involved in prostitution trot out the line that abortion is some sort of special case where the opinions of men do not count because people should have bodily autonomy and men will never have to carry a baby to term.

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      There a number of answers to your question in the comments above. Feel free to read them.

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      There’s no central conversation council that passes laws on who can talk and who can’t. *SOME* women are saying that this is a women’s issue and doesn’t concern them. There could be any number of reasons for that. A lot of women have had a lot of bad experiences with a lot of men and might see this issue as oppression *by* men so fair enough if they don’t want men in the conversation.

      Point is, you are not a victim.

      Imagine you started posting on a message board for people in Brixton or Harlem. The issue of police brutality or state oppression is being discussed and you, a white Irish guy, get involved and start disagreeing with them on some points. Someone tells you that, actually, this is none of your business.

      Onlookers see black people discussing oppression against them by the white state and some middle class white fella is going ‘Hey, no fair. Us whites should have our voices heard’. Do you think that white fella wouldn’t be embarassing himself?

      1. Ivor

        I wouldn’t suggest I’m a victim.

        I’m suggesting that people who are happy to allow all members of society have a voice and be involved in decision making with regard to matters that don’t directly affect 50 per cent or more of the population but who think that men’s opinions should not have equal weight on the subject of abortion are engaged in special pleading.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “I wouldn’t suggest I’m a victim.”

          Your post was an emotional reaction where you ‘championed’ the ‘rights’ of men to express their opinions. It’s very difficult to read it as anything other than you getting ‘outraged’ at an ‘injustice’.

          “are engaged in special pleading.”

          Right, so it’s not because this topic in particular resonates with them like no other, it’s because they’re trying to ignore ‘inconvenient truths’. Again, that’s you painting yourself as a victim. How about some humility? Self awareness? Realising that everything isn’t about you?

          1. Ivor

            Your interpretation my post is different from my post.

            What outrages me is that such a blatant logical fallacy goes unremarked upon and is accepted as a truism by intelligent people.

            You’re the only one making it about me.

            Cannabis legalisation matters more to cannabis users and sellers, prostitution matters more to buyers and sellers and services for autistics matter more to people who have autism. The difference is that in those scenarios those of us who are not prostitutes, Johns, drug dealers, drug users or people with autism can freely share our opinion without being told it doesn’t matter and without having to preemptively apologise for taking up space that could have been given to others.

            There are people who believe that we should do what prostitutes want when it comes to prostitution, what autistics want when it comes to autism, what cannabis users want when it comes to cannabis and what women want when it comes to abortion. I disagree with these people but at least they’re consistent.

        2. The Real Jane

          You are though assuming you know what other people think about drugs or suicide or any mix of the topics above though. I can simultaneously believe that you shouldn’t have a say in my right to have an abortion because you’re a man and it doesn’t affect you *and* that I shouldn’t have a say in your right to take drugs because it doesn’t affect me.

          However, drugs policy overall could affect me because I’m a person who could, in theory, wish to take drugs. There’s no way that a man can have a pregnancy though, which does mean that there’s a different emphasis. It’s very easy to take absolutist and doctrinaire approaches to social issues that cannot affect you, and I think that’s where the difference arises. Also, I could forbid you to have an opinion if I wanted to, but I could not actually prevent you from having an opinion, despite any effort I may wish to make. The question is whether I should be forced to be bound by your opinion when it affects me and does not affect you.

          1. Ivor

            Jane I didn’t assume what you have assume I assumed.

            I have no problem with people who are consistent. It’s when people or parties are inconsistent that I find myself shaking my head. If I’m honest, parties more than people.

            You are right. It is easy to take hard-line positions that don’t affect you, but that’s what happens in many cases and not just the case of pregnancy and abortion.

            In the case of men and pregnancy, this doesn’t just apply to men. There are transgendered people who would be offended if you called them anything other than men who can get pregnant. There are women – transgendered, infertile, post menopausal etc – who will never find themselves in a situation where they feel the need to have an abortion.

            The question of whether I should be bound by your opinion – or more accurately the opinion of the majority of voters – when it effects me and not you is an important one. But it only ever seems to come up when people discuss abortion rights and not, for example, when people talk about services for autism or down syndrome.

            In the case of ASD and DS services, most would argue, these services have impacts beyond the individual. It impacts on the tax payer, parents, teachers, other carers, other members of the community and the taxpayer.

            In the case of abortion, the question is does pregnancy only affect the pregnant woman or her and others. Many people who feel entitled to have their say on services they can never avail of and that may be required to ensure the maintenance of basic human rights for people with disabilities, take a different stance on abortion.

            In the above comments, people talk about the financial impact on the pregnant woman. There is also financial and legal impacts on the father. If, as many people on both sides of the abortion issue do, you believe the unborn is a living human, then it clearly also impacts on them.

            A little consistency is all I’m asking for. I’m not claiming that all abortion advocates (or their opponents) make these errors but some (eg Joan Burton) certainly seem to.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Also, does your “committment” extend to assisting mothers who can’t afford to feed/clothe their child(ren) adequately, or merely controlling access to healthcare? If you’re not interested in helping the already born out of poverty, then you’re not pro-life. You’re pro forced birth and anti choice.

      1. The Real Jane

        I’d like to hear about how you’re financing and facilitating a support group for women with birth injuries, Paul.

  8. Peter Dempsey

    This article and Laura Kennedy’s obnoxious “Thought Experiment” in yesterday’s Irish Times have left a sour taste. People who are unsure of how to vote are being put off. My neighbours are hardcore Catholics who are anti abortion. As long as I remember they’ve given loads of their spare time and money to helping various charities like Meals on Wheels, Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland etc

    1. The Real Jane

      So what is the point you’re making here? That your Catholic neighbours are charitable people when it fits in with their worldview so…

    2. lungcell

      What’s your point?
      Lots of Christians do charity work and continually oppose certain human rights. It’s practically a cliché. The fact that they need to be petted and coaxed in just the right tone for them to have some empathy with other human beings is pathetic.

  9. Guy Bague

    Breaking: REPEAL graffiti images sent to Broadsheet to be suspended due to Generation Snowflake’s Mullally Muffia’s attendance at Electric Picnic.

  10. sǝɯǝɯʇɐpɐq

    I got here late, so excuse me.
    I don’t need to read the post or any of the subsequent comments.
    The question was in the title, the answer is NEVER.

    Men are such conceited, stupid, selfish, deceitful and ugly b*stards that I still cannot for the life of me understand homosexuality.
    -But it doesn’t make me want to wreck their lives forever.

    1. TheFerg

      Honestly buddy, I for one have had enough of you. As per usual you’re spewing intolerance, nonsense and ignorance about issues that dramatically affect the lives of the people in the BS community. We’re all well aware that you’re in your late teens/early twenties with too much time on your hands, it’s high time you left.

  11. oxiy

    science proves that a fetus is a human being. Thats what u were at one time yes? just like a baby and child right? this is called a stage of life and devalopment. So abortion kills that life at the stage of a fetus. Just like if someone thrown a baby in the trash u kill that human being in the stage of a baby. using terms that beat around the bush. FACT abortion is killing a fetus and what is a fetus proved with fact of science? HUMAN BEING. face reality please.

    “Life of the Mother” scenario but that only makes up 0.1% of the total abortions done in the states. Incest is 0.03% and rape is 0.3% so that means over 99% of abortions are done on healthy women with healhty babies
    over 50 million abortions in america since 1973 i.

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