I was unable to make it to March for Choice today, and someone on Twitter suggested that those of us who couldn’t make it should write to our local TDs. So I did that. All my TDs are men, so in a sense I am writing “as a man”, and I know I’m only touching on some of the complexities of abortion rights; I’ll never experience abortion in the same way a woman will, but I hope I’m helping to give some sort of voice to those who can’t speak out. But here it is, and feel free to use it yourself when writing to your local TDs.
Earlier today (Saturday, September 28th) the fourth annual March for Choice took place in Dublin. Unlike previous years, I was unable to take part at today’s event, as I had to say goodbye to my brother who is emigrating. Instead, I decided I’d do what little I can outside of marching and write to you. As a constituent in Louth, I’m hoping you will be able to find the time to respond.
I’m writing to ask you of your opinion of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.
On average, about a dozen women travel abroad every single day to stop their pregnancy. Often alone, often in secret. Many of these women have been affected by our recent economic circumstances and cannot immediately afford to buy travel tickets or accommodation, let alone pay for the procedure itself. Don’t forget, a lot of these women are teenagers – or younger – caught up in a situation they can’t bear to be in.
I’m writing to ask you if you think this is fair.
We always think of pregnancy being a wonderful time in a woman’s life. But the reality is that it isn’t always like that. Pregnancies can go wrong. Sometimes Nature decides that it’s not meant to be. Sometimes not all of the unborn’s parts are working like they’re supposed to. Still, the woman must carry this pregnancy around in public. To work, to friends, to family; this pregnancy will always be in public view. ‘Is it a boy or a girl?” people ask. ‘Are you excited??’. And yet the mammy can only smile and nod, putting up a facade, as she knows what will ultimately happen, and she knows that she has no way of getting away from it in this country.
I’m writing to ask you if this torture is acceptable.
Some of my friends were raped. To my knowledge, they didn’t become pregnant – though why would they tell me, considering the situation in this country? – but maybe some did. Did they want to continue with the pregnancy? I don’t know. Did they go to England? I don’t know. Did they do it here, illegally? I don’t know. And I’ll never know, because I would never ask. We’re both aware of the laws around rape and termination: can you blame a woman for not speaking about this when she would have not one, but two things to be ashamed about?
I’m writing to ask you if this makes you angry.
Sometimes contraception doesn’t work. Condoms break. The morning-after pill fails. So on and so forth. This happens for lots of people, married and unmarried. A woman find herself pregnant when she doesn’t want to be – or maybe it happens a couple who realise they simply don’t have the means to raise a family at that time.
I’m writing to ask you if women or their partners should be punished.
Thousands upon thousands of women, people who can get pregnant, their allies marched in Dublin today in support of repealing the 8th Amendment. An Taoiseach Kenny recently stated that there would not be a referendum on repealing the Amendment if Fine Gael were to be re-elected. Similarly, Labour have softened their line on such a referendum, knowing that if they get into government again it’ll be as a minority party second to Fine Gael, therefore unable to hold a referendum. Sinn Féin seem a bit confused on their stance on abortion, only allowing it for fatal abnormalities, but ignoring it for all other reasons. Fianna Fáil have also ruled out a referendum on abortion rights.
The issue is this: We are currently treating approximately 50% of our population as second-class citizens, who have less say in their own healthcare than the other 50%. Ireland has lots of problems, we all know that, but how can we ignore treating one half of the population as less than the other?
We’re approaching 2016, and I’ll quote you this, from the Proclamation of the Irish Republic:
The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens…
And yet here we are, in a nation one hundred years on, failing in this very basic premise of the country’s foundations.
We do live in a democracy, however, and this grants me the opportunity to vote or not vote for those who will or will not fight for real, true virtues of an actual Republic. We will never be pregnant, but it’s up to me and my fellow men to support a woman’s right to choose to be pregnant or not pregnant, and do what we can in the democratic process to ensure she has that right.
I’m writing to ask if you will support democracy and put forth a referendum on the 8th Amendment to the People of Ireland.
If you or your party cannot commit to a referendum, then I will not vote for you at the next General Election. If you can commit, however, then I look forward to hearing your proposals on making Ireland a better place for women.