What The Repeal Of The 8th Amendment Means For Ireland
On Friday, I posted on Instagram that it was big day for Ireland with their upcoming referendum on the 8th amendment, which if repealed would legalise abortion in Ireland, a procedure that was previously only carried out if the mother’s life is at risk but not in cases of ‘rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality’.
With it being revealed over the weekend that the decision to overturn the referendum won by a landslide, 66% to 33%, what does this mean for Ireland?
Well, firstly it means that many women can breathe a sigh of relief as they are longer under the risk of prosecution if they chose to terminate a pregnancy for personal reasons or because of other issues related to the pregnancy.
In the lead up to the referendum many of you probably read stories about the saddening and severe cases of patient X and Savita Halappanavar that had been circling in the news in the lead up to the referendum, due to their particularly harrowing stories of the 8thamendment had impacted them. Patient X had been a 14-year-old rape victim whom suffered suicidal thoughts during her pregnancy due to her circumstance and was denied permission to travel abroad for the procedure. Whilst Savita Halappanavar died at the age of 28 in 2012 when she was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, due to a complications with a septic miscarriage that took 7 days to unfold, a traumatic experience I can’t even begin to understand. Although Halappanavar upon being informed she was undergoing a miscarriage of which the foetus had no chance of surviving, she was repeatedly denied an abortion on the basis that a foetal heartbeat could still be detected.
Having read this week’s issue of The Stylist (issue 417), which focused on killing off the female victim and in essence encouraging filmmakers and society in general to move away from this ‘Damsel in Distress (who doesn’t always meet a happy ending)’ persona that they have pinned to the female identity. As editor of The Stylist, Lisa Smosarski, said ‘the faceless female victim has become such a “normal” part of our entertainment, we have forgotten to ask why’. Not to but women such as patient X in the same category as female victims in horror movies but experience of Patient X and Savita Halappanavar are horrific and they were victims of poor judgment at the time.
It comes as a shock to some that the right to choose what to do with your own body is a choice that has been restricted for this sub-set of women for so long, without many outside of Ireland actually realising.
Whilst the recent vote outcome suggests that things are about to change in a big way, we have to question to what extent is this really true?
After all, it will take until the end of the year for the new laws to come into effect and Northern Island remains under strict abortion laws. Whilst I am in no way denying that the referendum result is a huge win for the ‘Yes’ campaign, it is just clear that it will be a process. So far, we know that the Irish government is expected to bring the new legislation to the Irish parliament in which the motion to allow women to have abortions on ‘request’ up to 12 weeks of pregnancy will be presented. Additionally, in cases for abortion in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality, if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a risk of serious harm to her health will also be presented.
Many of those opposed to the ideals of the ‘Yes’ campaign that argued for women to have rights to their body under the premise of ‘my body, my choice’, believe that the referendum result was a ‘tragedy’, with planned protests already in the works outside abortion clinics when they do eventually open in Ireland.
The vote on Friday, to me, highlighted how far we have yet to come regarding Women’s rights. With all the progress that has been made in the past decades that have put women in much better position than we were in years ago, it still sometimes seems as though old-fashioned views exist and that women do remain ‘faceless victims’ as the Stylist suggests. I do believe that every life matters and that the people of the ‘Yes’ campaign are not a voice that stands synonymous with pro-abortion by any means, instead the message of the campaign is synonymous with pro-choice, pro-women’s-choice which in today’s society shouldn’t be put on mute.