Over the last few months I’ve been chatting to people about what way they’ll vote in the upcoming referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution). By and large, people have been thoughtful about it and considered the options carefully. In many cases, however, I came across some misunderstandings about the referendum, leaving people in a position where they were unsure how to vote, or they were voting a certain way for arguably the wrong reasons.
I want to outline some of the most common thoughts I’ve come across in this regard, and I hope to address them so that people reading this – if they’re thinking the same things – can get a bit more clarification.
This is a woman’s issue that men should have no say in: I’m not going to vote
This is a noble thought, but that sense of equality that you feel isn’t directed to the correct place. If you feel that men should have no say in women’s healthcare choices, that’s great, but you’re not having a say in that: you have a say in a referendum.
Referendums are society-wide events that don’t distinguish between sexes or genders. We all have a say in this referendum, and we should all do it. Those who are voting No will not be thinking the same was as you: all sexes and genders will be voting, regardless of whether they can be pregnant or not. If you don’t vote, someone else will be in your place voting No.
I think of it like this: Personally, I don’t want to have any say in someone’s healthcare choices. It’s not up to me what they do; I don’t know their reasons or business, nor should I. If we retain the 8th Amendment then I inherently have control over someone else’s healthcare. I don’t want that. If I vote Yes, then my “input” (for want of a better word) is removed, and people are free to make their own choices.
If you feel that healthcare and abortion rights should be only up to those who can get pregnant, then you should vote Yes to allow them that.
I’ll vote No: it should only be allowed in cases of rape
This is a very common viewpoint and not an unreasonable one. But while it seems sensible, the argument falls apart quite quickly.
How do we know the person was raped? Does it need to go to court to prove it? How long will a court case take?
There are two options here: a person can say they were raped and acquire an abortion straight away, no questions asked (if you want abortion only in cases of rape/incest, then clearly this is open to abuse). Or, that person can go through the court system for years (after which the child will already be born).
Neither of those options work. Also, why should someone be forced to publicly declare that they were raped? Many people don’t want to go public, for lots of reasons.
The proposed legislation will allow abortion up to 12 weeks, without giving a reason. If someone is raped, this would mean they could have an abortion privately and quickly without going through the hurdles that would otherwise inevitably arise. Right now because of the 8th Amendment, we can’t allow abortion in cases of rape or incest.
The only way to allow abortion in the case of rape or incest is to vote Yes and make the way for the appropriate legislation to come into play.
What about late-term abortions? We can’t have that
We won’t. The proposed legislation will not permit abortions after 24 weeks, with the exceptions of pregnancies where the child simply cannot survive outside the womb (fatal foetal abnormalities).
The 8th Amendment as it stands now actually causes abortions in later pregnancy. Because the procedure is not allowed in Ireland, people have to go abroad for it. Consider first that a person may not realise they’re pregnant for several weeks. Next, they have to arrange time off work (not easily done at short notice). Then they have to gather the money for flights, accommodation, and the procedure itself. Not to mention, of course, that the more advanced the pregnancy is, the more expensive the abortion costs are.
Mash all these together, and you get a situation where a pregnant person has no option but to acquire an abortion later on in the pregnancy.
Many people simply can’t afford it. There have been reports of overdoses of heroin, drinking bleach, falling down stairs, and so on, just to try to trigger a miscarriage. If we vote No, this will keep happening.
If you want to avoid late abortions and allow people to undergo the procedure close to home in a safe environment, then you should vote yes.
I’m going to leave it at that for the moment. I have some more reasons and arguments that I’ve encountered, but there’s enough reading in this post for one day! I’ll post more soon.
Please share this post, especially with people who are unsure of how to vote or are a bit overwhelmed by all the info out there.