What #repealthe8th Is Really About

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel!” Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Today, Ireland goes to the polls to choose whether or not they will repeal the 8th amendment in their constitution. The amendment says:

“The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

I am in full agreement that the people should make this decision. They should be free to do so from outside interference: Irish people should have choice (avoid the really obvious point – Ed).

Just as they should have had when it was first drawn up.

Interesting titbit: “A draft of the constitution was presented personally to the Vatican for review and comment on two occasions by the Department Head at External Relations, Joseph P. Walsh”.

Um, what? Hmm…

Sorry, there is a giant elephant in the middle of the article. I guess I can’t ignore it.

Facebook (28% female leadership) has faced criticism for interfering in elections. Mark Zuckerberg has been hauled in front of congress and forced to answer for the failings of his company. Interestingly, Facebook has 2.19 billion monthly active users. That almost doubles the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics (you know how they feel about female leadership). Perhaps Zuckerberg had an intimate knowledge of the origins of the Irish constitution and thought that, like the Catholic church, he was above scrutiny. Maybe he was annoyed that his company hadn’t been paid the same courtesy as the church, an objectively smaller and subjectively less important organisation than his own. Whatever the reason, Facebook and Google (25% female leadership) banned foreign adverts in Ireland in the run up to today that were to do with the referendum.

Good. It is dangerous when the church gets into bed with the state (careful -Ed). One firebrand, name of Jesus, seemed to advocate a separation of church and state. But what did he know?

The desire to keep the referendum free from interference is a noble one. It is also naïve. Certain organisations are simply too pervasive in everyday life. Trying to imagine a life in Ireland without them is impossible. Obviously, I’m talking about Facebook. No wait a minute, I’m talking about the church. Some hear Yanny, some hear Laurel. Me, I hear the deafening silence of Savita Halappanavar, who won’t vote today, because she died from a septic miscarriage, having been denied an abortion in Ireland.

The fallacy being peddled is that this is a “right to life” issue. It isn’t. It is, and has always been, about choice. And I have a serious problem with the fact that the people the referendum most affects have, historically, had the least say in it. What’s galling about that is, as Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura wrote yesterday in “The New York Times”, “…many Irish men in this Irish vote are tending to hang back, seeing abortion as a woman’s matter.” I think Freytas-Tamura is being kind. I think it is not consideration, but apathy that will be the driving force behind a low male turnout. Or maybe it is an acknowledgement that since the beginning, “women’s issues in Ireland were solely decided by men [particularly] leaders of the Roman Catholic Church” and now is as good a time as any for all voices to be heard.

This isn’t to say that all women in Ireland will vote to repeal. Many women will oppose to a change in the law, citing their moral and religious beliefs. The tragedy of that stance is that it doesn’t take into account a woman’s context. Are there women who use abortion as contraception? Not really. Even if there was, most of the reasons women choose to have abortions, being unable to afford to raise a child, not wanting to be a single parent and having abusive partners to name but three, are compelling. A society can’t have it both ways, criticising and judging single mums for being single, having a child with an abusive partner and for “leeching” off of the state, but at the same time making it illegal for those same women to make a decision that would stop them being judged.

The counter normally runs along the lines of they shouldn’t be having sex if they aren’t able to raise a child. Ok. Should we extend that to men? Maybe we should make it so that if you are of child-bearing age, you have to be monitored to ensure that you don’t accidentally bring a child into the world. And since you cannot be trusted with raising a child, you should have to give it to someone who can. I’ve heard of a wonderful place like that. It’s called Gilead.


Blessed be the fruit.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference released a statement this year that stated “clearly and unambiguously” that:

Every one of us has a right to our life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law. We have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. All human beings have it. For us as a society to now declare that any category of human being should have that right taken from them would be a shocking step.

That is a noble argument. I’ll be sure to pass it on the family of Savita Halappanavar and all of the other nameless, faceless women who will be unable to vote today. When push came to shove, the Constitution of Ireland decided that they did not have a right to their lives.

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