Wednesday, March 15, 2017

8 Reflections on The Repeal Movement

Being a "blog with style and substance" it is absolutely imperative to me as a writer going forward to use my voice and this platform to address topical issues in our contemporary society. From day one it has been my intention to create a fresh new online magazine that mixes fashion and beauty with education and opinion writing. The purpose of this article is to provide empowering information and food for thought to readers with regards to The Repeal Movement, the civil rights issue of our generation. In the interest of fairness it is very important to include the disclaimer of firmly taking a pro-choice position on this issue, however this article has been written from as balanced of a perspective as possible. It has struck me when conversing with peers that a lot of confusion and indecision with regards to the moral dilemma of Repealing the Eight Amendment exists, especially amongst the younger generations in our society. To repeal or not to repeal - that is the question that we all need to reflect upon. 

1. What exactly is The Eight Amendment?

This article forms part of Bunreacht na hÉireann (The Irish Constitution) and outlines that "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.. defend and vindicate that right". The above article assigns equal rights to the unborn child and the mother meaning that abortion is outlawed in this country except for cases when a pregnant woman's life is at risk under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. Abortion is illegal in Ireland in the cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities. This legislation means that the criminal penalty for a woman found to have had an abortion in Ireland when her life is not at risk is up to 14 years imprisonment. 

2. Why was The Eight Amendment introduced?

This Amendment was passed by referendum in 1983 to grant rights to the unborn and lock a constitutional ban against abortion into Irish law. The result was viewed as an opposition to the status quo in Europe at the time where other countries were legislating for abortion rights for women. One must remember the undeniably powerful influence held by the Catholic Church during this period of Irish history and question whether their stance on moral issues contributed to creating such a highly conservative society. However, we cannot deny that Ireland has modernised completely in this past century. We live in a wonderfully diverse and multi-cultural society and with the passing of the Same-Sex Marriage Referendum in 2015 our image of family has revolutionised full circle. Yet, we are still waiting on our government to call a referendum to let our democracy decide whether to Repeal or not to Repeal the 8th Amendment as it stands in present day 2017. 

3. What does it mean to be pro-life?

The pro-life position involves being opposed to abortion and euthanasia in all circumstances. Here are some critical questions to consider before identifying as pro-life:

  • Do you believe that the unborn foetus and mother have an equal right to life?
  • Should life be considered from "womb to tomb", when does life really begin?
  • What should happen to the mother and child in the case of rape, incest or foetal fatal abnormalities? Do you believe abortion should be provided in certain circumstances?
  • Are your beliefs influenced by religious values?

Cartoon Via The Odyssey Online

4. What does it mean to be pro-choice?

The pro-choice position involves believing that a women has a right to choose what happens to her own body (bodily autonomy) and provides her with reproductive rights. Here are some critical questions to consider before identifying as pro-choice: 

  • Do you believe that women should have bodily autonomy and choice over their reproductive rights?
  • Should women be forced to have a child even in cases where rape or incest has occurred?
  • Should women be forced to have a child when they are emotionally or financially unprepared to provide? 
  • Should Irish women be forced to travel abroad or access abortion via dangerous methods online instead of in their own country? 

Cartoon Via The Society Pages

5. Does The Eight Amendment restrict Irish citizens?

The Eight Amendment has a massive impact on Irish women and families and according to The Abortion Rights Campaign has forced over 154,000 people to travel abroad to obtain an abortion since 1980. Up to 12 women and girls travel every single day for this medical procedure, this fact is the reality of the current situation. Abortions are happening whether people approve or not and they are often occurring in unsafe situations where the woman is putting her life at risk for example via the use of pills obtained over the internet. Can we really continue to sweep this issue under the carpet and ship it abroad for other countries to deal with?  Furthermore, take a moment to reflect on citizens who are discriminated against in this legislation- citizens without access to travel who are forced to continue pregnancies against their will. Current legislation infringes on the human rights of women and denies them access to medical care which has been identified as priority from the United Nations and World Health Organisation. Two of the standout cases which highlight the significance of this issue and raise many thought-provoking questions include The X Case and the death of Savita Halappanavar. The X Case in 1992 prevented a 14 year old girl who had been raped by her neighbour from leaving the country to access abortion and Savita Halappanavar was tragically refused an abortion that could have saved her life. How many more women will be forced to suffer in our country before our government calls a referendum on the issue once and for all? Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life no one can deny that it is time for us as a democracy to have our say.

6. What impact would a Repeal of the Eight Amendment have?

A referendum must be called to make any changes to the Eight Amendment 

"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.. defend and vindicate that right".  

At present a Citizens Assembly is debating and reporting the future of the Eight Amendment before a decision on a referendum is made by Dáil Éireann. A Repeal of the Eight Amendment in its essence means that Ireland would change the wording of the Constitution to legislate for protecting the lives, health and choices of women in our country if a referendum on the issue is to be passed. 

7. Why are people taking to the streets to protest and campaign?

The Repeal Question is a controversial debate in our society as it forces us to look deep inside ourselves and to question our intrinsic moral code and ethics. It provokes a land of people with a history of Catholicism to question the origins of existence. It inspires a future of young women and families to consider the impact and restrictions the current legislation places on their lives. Activists on both the pro-life and pro-choice sides of this debate are extremely passionate about this subject because it is the civil rights issue of our generation. On March 8th last demonstrations took place on both sides to mark International Women's Day notably #Strike4Repeal and Equality Starts Here #IWD with the overall aim being to put pressure on the Government to call a referendum on the issue once and for all. 

8.Is it important to voice your opinion on this issue?

From discussions with my peers it strikes me that a lot of people are unsure, undecided or "on the fence" when it comes to the question of Repealing the Eight Amendment. Hopefully this article provided you with some food for thought to help you clarify any questions you may have or to empower you to have a voice on the issue whether that be a pro-life or a pro-choice stance. This is not the time for silence, it is time to critically reflect and ask yourself those hard questions for the sake of our future children, relatives, friends and citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, as a firm believer in choice the intention of this article was to provide the most balanced viewpoint possible which truth be told was challenging at times. However hopefully the intention of empowering people with information rather than indoctrination paid off and encourages readers to think critically and independently around the most important issue of our time. 

On a final note,
Leo when's our referendum? 


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