This will be the last post I will put up until the referendum is over. At least. This referendum has been difficult for many people, indeed for the country as a whole, but it has been necessary. I will be voting YES!
Everything about this debate is difficult. Firstly, in Catholic conservative Ireland the role and influence of conservative church thinking on the very DNA of the state and its people cannot ever be under-estimated. It permeates everything. It makes this a particularly difficult nation among European nations to discuss this issue.
Secondly the language of the debate is corrupted from the outset. The ‘Pro-Life’ moniker assumes the other side must be ‘anti-life’ even while key advocates of the ‘pro-life’ doctrine itself are responsible for many deaths of women and children, not to mention their abuse and enslavement.
On the other side the ‘pro-choice’ label presumes those on the other side are inherently disrespectful of women’s choices, even though many on the ‘pro-life’ side are women themselves. The labels teach us nothing. They are about spin – often even abuse and accusation – but not substance.
People are Pro-life
I have never met anyone who is anti-life. This is my starting point in considering this issue. I want to see as few abortions as possible. And I believe everybody I have discussed this issue with feels the same. The question isn’t should we have as few abortions as possible, the question is how? And the evidence is that the 8th Amendment has utterly failed in this regard. So what works?
Early in the campaign I wrote an article for Unite which showed how, in Europe, the nations with the most liberal abortion laws have the fewest abortions. In the Netherlands abortion is an actual right yet the country has one of the lowest abortion rates anywhere with 8.6 abortions per 1000 pregnancies.
In Switzerland the law was changed by referendum in 2002 to allow abortion on request in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This new law resulted in less abortions with just 6.8 abortions per 1000 pregnancies. Belgium and Germany have liberal abortion laws and similar statistics.
To put those figures in context the United Kingdom, which has a less liberal abortion regime, has 17.5 abortions per 1000 pregnancies and the annual average worldwide rate is 28 per 1000 pregnancies.
How can this be explained?
Well in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany the combination of enlightened and timely sex education, the free availability of contraception and a health system based on women’s healthcare – rather than church doctrine – reduces abortion rates.
Finally on this point the notion that a No vote will stop abortions and ‘keep them out of Ireland’ is one of the greatest examples of a ‘head in the sand’ attitude it is possible to have.
Abortions are happening. In every county, town, street and community. You know someone who has had an abortion. Surely an enlightened approach that cared for those women and offered real and genuine support has a greater chance of limiting the number taking place? That’s what happens elsewhere in Europe.
People are Pro-Choice
It is a very rare person indeed that wants to deny a couple whose baby cannot survive outside the womb the choice of dealing with that tragedy in Ireland. It is a very rare person indeed who wants to force those people to go to England or elsewhere, and have the remains of their non viable child posted home in a jiffy bag.
Those people do exist but I cannot accept they are anything other than hardcore fundamentalists devoid of human caring. The vast majority want Irish people not to be put through that. If you are one of them only a yes vote will give such parents the choices they are entitled to.
I respect every woman’s choice faced with a crisis pregnancy. I have never had an abortion, clearly, or being involved in such a decision. But as the father of two daughters who knows what lies ahead?
I would not want to, or be allowed to, impose my view of abortion on my own daughters if they ever faced a crisis pregnancy. And, whatever decisions they would make, I would support them. If that is my role, and the limit of my role, within my own family how much less right have I to deny such choices to any other women?
What is it about us Irish that so many of us think we not only have rights to make decisions for ourselves and sometimes with those close to us, but that we can make them for people who we have no connection with whatsoever?
What any woman does when faced with a crisis pregnancy is none of my business. And on Friday I will vote to make it none of my business. That means voting YES!
Constitution Vs Legislation
A lot of people are saying that ‘We can’t trust politicians on this matter’ – OK, I don’t trust politicians either, that’s why I want to change them. But at least they are our politicians and we can aspire to change them. But at the moment, because of the 8th, it is politicians in Britain and countries like the Netherlands that we are ‘trusting’ to provide for Irish women in crisis.
That is wrong.
Our Constitution is a profoundly catholic document approved by the Vatican and dating back to 1937. It was brought about by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid and Eamon De Valera among others and it was a document that declared the victory of the conservative 1922 counter-revolution over the 1916 egalitarian vision of Connolly and the signatories to the proclamation.
The 1937 Constitution effectively emboldened a church controlled state that abused, imprisoned, enslaved, sold, murdered and buried countless women and babies in a state of shame.
It is not the place for modern healthcare for women and babies. Women have been treated appallingly in this nation since it’s inception. Right up to the current day. McQuaid and De Valera did not trust women. Or value women.
On Friday I will go to the polling station as a 50 year old citizen of a more hopeful nation thinking not of the abusers of the past, but of the hopes and dreams for a brighter more humane nation.
As I do so I will think back to Sheila Hodgers, Amy Walsh who has been a heroine in this campaign, Savita who would be alive now if abortion was permitted before she developed sepsis, and to women like Michelle Harte who died and others who may have cancer right now but whose treatment is being put on hold because they are pregnant.
I will think of them, maybe shed a tear for them, and vote that no such abuse ever happens to either of my daughters, or to any other Irish woman, ever again.
Vote Yes Repeal.
Brendan Ogle is writing here in a personal capacity.