Most of the time, I have no problem finding a subject to write about, in fact, it can be overwhelming, as sometimes I’ve too much to write about and I don’t feel I pay the subject as much attention as it deserves. This Friday, Ireland will vote on whether to repeal the 8th amendment and I’ve been wanting to write something on it as it is a subject very close to my heart, but it seemed too daunting. But I’m going to scribble something down anyway, as it’s too important not to.
Unlike what many are saying, Friday’s referendum is not an abortion referendum, even though abortion will be permitted in certain situations if the 8th is repealed. The 8th amendment affects all pregnant people, a point that is being missed by many, particularly the no side who want to keep the emotive subject of abortion at the forefront in order to divide and conquer.
As the Association for the Improvement in Maternity Services (AIMSI) have stated, the 8th affects women who are 40 weeks pregnant many more times than a woman who is 12 weeks pregnant. Just ask Mother B, aka Geraldine Williams, who the HSE took to the high court in 2016 for forced sedation and caesarean when she was 40 weeks pregnant. All she wanted was a trial of labour on her fourth child, but she wasn’t allowed to exercise that choice because of the 8th. You can hear the spine chilling details of that high court order here (starts at 6:50).
No pregnant woman can legally exercise choice, it is only random luck and a reasonable health care provider that many more women aren’t taken to court for forced procedures. But many are threatened with courts, the gardaí and social services because of the 8th, when/if they don’t comply with, or question medical advice. And who wouldn’t comply with such threats at such a vulnerable time? Mother A was also taken to court in 2013 for forced sedation and surgery, but before the judge could rule, she agreed to a caesarean. I’m sure under the most extreme duress and stress. When anyone is threatened in this manner, they will go into fight/flight/freeze. When it happens to a pregnant woman, her baby is also affected by the cascade of stress hormones flooding through her body. So much for the “love them both” group’s claims huh?
As it is, many women undergo procedures, not only without their informed consent, but without their knowledge as in the case of Ciara Hamilton.
My personal experience is that if you question anything, you are deemed a trouble maker and the attitude is, who the hell do you think you are? I was actually told I was “famous” in the hospital by one midwife towards the end of my pregnancy, so much for privacy and confidentiality huh? Have we replaced the church with doctors in Ireland? It seems so, in many cases. I didn’t realise doctors were gods that couldn’t be questioned. But the fact is, a doctor secure in their own knowledge and expertise, will actually welcome questions and won’t be phased by them. We need more doctors like that.
We have a put up and shut up culture here in Ireland and nowhere is that more true when it comes to women. There is also a very strong culture of bullying, in fact it’s endemic. Pregnant women are bullied all the time when they ask questions, want to know more, do their own research and when they want to take an active part in their care. It seems the powers that be would much rather we were passive, it makes their job much easier. Unfortunately and disgracefully, the 8th allows for some health care providers to abuse it by bullying women into submission and obedience.
If the 8th is repealed, our human right to bodily autonomy, which is stripped from us the moment we become pregnant, will be returned.
We will then be able to exercise free will and choice, something we can’t currently do under the 8th.
We will have the legal right to informed consent and/or refusal returned to us, another thing that the 8th took away.
We will also have the right to unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks gestation. After 12 weeks, abortion is only permitted in certain circumstances such as fatal foetal abnormality and/or serious risk to life and health, so the claims that a foetus can be aborted at 6 months is a downright lie that the no side is propagating. You can find out more about the facts here.
Needless to say, I will be voting with the biggest yes of my life this Friday for every woman that was affected, is affected and could be affected by the 8th amendment in whatever manner. And for every woman who has ever suffered at the hands of the Irish state and church because of their misogyny.