Before the Irish media moratorium ahead of the referendum begins, we’d like to explain why we’re voting to repeal the eighth on Friday
I’m voting Yes because I don’t believe that I or anybody else should have an opinion on how or when another woman accesses healthcare. It’s easy to get caught up in the great abortion debate on this one, but we’re not being asked if we agree with abortion. We’re being asked if we think each and every Irish woman should be in control of her own body. And my answer to that is yes. 100 per cent.
It’s easy to focus on the hard cases, on the heart-breaking cases, on the extreme. And while all heart-breaking this is not about the extreme. It’s about trusting that each woman, each couple, each family will do what’s right for them. It’s about letting this and future generations know that we will finally stand up and do what’s right for them. Women travel every single day to access safe abortion, and that has to stop. No woman should have to leave Ireland to access healthcare. We need to stop letting other countries care for our women. We need to Repeal The Eighth.
I’m voting Yes on Friday, to repeal the Eighth Amendment, for all of the women – regardless of their reasoning – who’ve had to travel, vulnerable and alone, on packed Ryanair flights, full of boisterous stags and bubbly hens. For the women who’ve sat in those wipe-clean seats, sick to their stomachs at the thought of what they’re about to do, yet even more terrified of the alternative.
For our mothers, sisters, friends who’ve been shamed and made to feel like criminals by a poisoned religion that disposed of babies in septic tanks. Because I don’t believe a forced pregnancy should ever be a form of consequential punishment. Nothing good grows in that sort of darkness, so I hope with every fibre of my being that on Friday, we, as country, choose to let the light in.
While I have always been a staunch Yes supporter, these last few months have only reaffirmed my stance. A few things struck me while listening to the many voices that have weighed in to the debate. Farmers For Yes made the point that cattle are treated better than pregnant women in Ireland. A farmer would be prosecuted if they left a pregnant cow suffering through a difficult labour and yet we can’t afford that same basic level of care to women. That is truly terrifying to me.
Even if you are not comfortable with the idea of abortion and personally feel like it’s not something that you would do, that shouldn’t mean you get to enforce your principles on other people. You are not being asked to vote on whether you think abortion is right or wrong. You’re simply voting on whether you think the women of Ireland should be afforded basic healthcare in their own country, without the shame and stigma that the eighth amendment has created.
The United Nations has said that the treatment of women in Ireland relating to the abortion ban is “cruel, inhuman and degrading”. Amnesty International has said a Yes vote is a vote for “women’s equality and dignity” and the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists supports the removal of the eighth amendment. As well as trusting the recommendation of these reputable organisations, I’m voting to offer women kindness and compassion at a time when they will need it most.
While I am, and have long been, a 100 per cent Yes I think it’s important to acknowledge that it is a very difficult issue for some people. I understand why too - but you don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-choice. For me, it comes down to this simple fact: I don't feel it's my place to dictate to another woman what she should do with her body. Who am I to force anyone to go through with a pregnancy when it's not possible for them?
Personal ethics and views won’t have to change if the vote passes on Friday but repealing the eighth will offer the safety and compassion of choice. And you never know what will come to your door or the door of someone you love. I will be voting ‘yes’ for the friends that I know made that journey to England; the ones that made it but never told me; for the future health and safety of my nieces, my friends, their daughters and all Irish women.
And if the vote doesn’t go our way on Friday, so be it – but there is a change happening in this country that will not be stopped.