Hypocrisy, Truth and Lies #repealthe8th

It is a beautiful, sunny day, and today the people of Ireland are making history yet again by voting on changes to the constitution. Times change, society changes, people change, the world changes, and sometimes the legislation which governs us must change to accommodate that. The people of Ireland are not afraid; they’ve done it before, and I hope they will do it again.

What does it mean? Very simply, it means abortion could be legalised in Ireland. Most people would agree that abortion is a double-edged sword; no one wants to kill an unborn child. In Ireland, there will be strict controls so that the system cannot be abused, and abortions will only take place during the first twelve weeks.

The debate still rages over whether life starts at conception, or later. And until now, the right to life of the unborn child has been prioritised over the health of the mother, to the extent that women have been allowed to die rather than provide medical intervention which might compromise the life of the baby.

Historically, women and children have not been well looked after in Ireland. It is only in recent years that the truth has emerged concerning the Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes, dying rooms, cesspits stuffed with the bodies of babies and children, widespread abuse of children by priests and covered up by the church… lies, cover-ups, it’s a horrific legacy indicating just how Ireland in the recent past has actually valued its women and children, particularly its vulnerable pregnant women and girls.

Now it’s time to change all that.

I don’t approve of abortion; in all seriousness, who does? But if I was allowed a vote, I would without hesitation vote YES, because there are times when abortion is necessary: rape, incest, childhood pregnancy, when a woman has mental health issues, for the mother’s health and right to life, if the baby has serious deformities or health issues, to name but a few circumstances in which a termination might sadly be required.

I don’t believe women’s bodies and fertility should be controlled by the state, the church or the patriarchy. A pregnancy is a private matter between a woman and a man. If the woman is in a loving relationship with that man, they should both be part of the decision, if an abortion becomes necessary, but primarily, a woman should hold the rights over her own pregnancy.

You might be shocked at my decision, when I have a profoundly disabled child of my own. But having Carys has taught me so much. I would never judge someone who decided to terminate a pregnancy based on a diagnosis of abnormalities in their unborn child, because I know how hard it is to raise such a child, how it controls your life, actually, how it sucks the life out of you so you become a shell of the human you once were, how in fact society and the state do not value your child, will not support and help you or the child, how you must fight, fight, fight when you are so exhausted and stressed you can barely think straight.

That’s what it’s like for the mother. Nowhere in this debate has anyone stopped to consider what life is like for such a child, how much they suffer, and believe me, they suffer.

Of course, there is great joy in sharing your life with such a child, too. And so much love. But the good doesn’t outweigh the bad, or justify it; they just exist together, the bad and the good, side by side, impossible to separate. And that’s why I wouldn’t judge anyone who chose an abortion in similar circumstances. And neither should anyone else. In fact, I support their right to choose.

The twelve week rule. I support that too, although in effect, it will rule out a lot of women. In my pregnancy, the problems were not detected until I had my first scan, and I didn’t get my first scan until I was 18 weeks pregnant. Well past the twelve week limit.

My doctors spoke of termination, but of course that meant travelling to the UK. I won’t lie, I considered it. I researched all the syndromes I could find to see what my child’s life might be like, and if I thought I could cope. We decided to let nature run its course, so long as the baby wasn’t in any pain. The doctors said in their experience, in 100% of cases, the baby dies before it is born. They were wrong. Carys was born alive, and she is now nearly thirteen years old. That decision was right for us, but I respect that it might not be for others. I want people to have the right to choose.

Women should not have to travel overseas to access abortions. They need the comfort and support of family, they should be able to access after-care and counselling in their own country, not risk 14 years imprisonment. They should receive safe medical intervention provided by experienced, knowledgeable medical staff, not buy pills over the internet. And they should be trusted to make the right decisions over their own bodies. Contrary to what no-voters think, women care about their unborn babies, they do not see abortion as some kind of new birth control measure. Society needs to stop treating women as if they don’t have the capacity for rational thought.

Of course, the truth has been manipulated, and lies promulgated as fact in a debate which has prompted a highly emotional and passionate response. Now here’s the hypocrisy; the no-voters are arguing for the right of the unborn child to life, that life begins at conception. But in Ireland, if a child dies in the womb, it cannot be registered. In other words, in the eye of the law and the state that child, that human being, doesn’t exist, and has never existed. Therefore, whilst a baby is unborn it can have no rights, because it doesn’t exist. I discovered this personally when I was pregnant with Carys and believed she would die in utero. My only option to prove that she was ever here was to write her name in the hospital’s book of remembrance. It’s a blatant double-standard.

I know that this is a very difficult personal decision for everyone. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to vote on. But I really hope that the people of Ireland will vote with open minds and open hearts, with compassion and consideration, and without judgement and prejudice.

44 Comments on “Hypocrisy, Truth and Lies #repealthe8th

  1. Thanks for this! I found it a clear explanation for the other side of an issue, and I feel like I understand your position better! It sounds like we agree that abortion isn’t a desirable situation for anyone, but we would disagree on what the terms of its moral acceptability is. I come from the position that an individual human is formed at conception and therefore has the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception. Deliberately taking an innocent human is a moral line in the sand I can’t cross. You gave some scenarios where you think abortion should be permitted; would you say that in these cases you think taking a life is justified, and/or do you believe there’s cut-off point, like after X weeks the fetus has personhood and human rights?
    I also don’t think it’s hypocritical to be in favor of keeping the 8th Amendment, because the right to life is a fundamental human right that transcends law. It doesn’t seem hypocritical to want a law to respect unborn children’s human right to life, even if there is another law, or lack of one, that exists at the same time that does not recognize them as legal citizens. Maybe those people do want to see that fixed, too! But if I’m misunderstanding the situation, please let me know!

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    • Hi Zanterr, it’s nice to see a pro-life person willing to try and understand the other side of the issue. Of course I am pro-life too, but I also believe in women’s rights too, and the 8th ammendment disregards that. What I strongly disagree with is the state and the church controlling women’s bodies and fertility… that is strictly a private personal matter. Society is founded on trust… I trust you that when I leave my home you won’t rob it, or murder me, and you trust me in tbe same way. If we didn’t have that trust built into our society it would be anarchy. And the law is there to protect that trust when things go wrong. But the 8th ammendment does not trust women to make the right decision and the law does not protect women when things go wrong. Better minds than mine have not managed to establish when life begins, so I can’t answer that question. Consciousness is thought to develop after birth, but even if that is so, it does not make it ok to kill an unborn child. No civilised society wants that. And most mothers would put their own life at risk to protect their unborn baby, as well as their other born children. It’s built in. But let me give you another example, something that no voters fail to comprehend, but is very real for some women, including me. I am 51, and have not gone through the change yet. I could still get pregnant and if I did, there is a very real chance that it would be harmful to my health, or that the baby would not be healthy itself. That is an accepted and well understood risk of late pregnancy. I have three children, one of whom is profoundly disabled and needs 24/7 care. My husband is the only earner in our family. If I became ill and died as a result of being pregnant in favour of saving the baby, as the 8th ammendment currently stands, my husband would have to give up work to look after our disabled daughter whilst raising a new baby, possibly with its own health issues, whilst trying to raise our two teenage sons. We have no family in Ireland to help, and the state would offer little to no help. How would they manage? I think I should have the right to make that decision, along with my husband, don’t you? These are the kind of real issues women have to deal with every day. Its not a case of killing babies, or a new type of contraception, its trying to achieve a balance, and life is messy, there is no clear cut black and white perfect solution. You asked me some questions, and now I want to ask you two questions: are you a religious person, and are you male or female?

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      • So it sounds to me that your argument is this: that the government does not have the right to make laws about pregnancy or the ending of one. That’s part of the personal sphere and the government shouldn’t be able to tell you what to do, like how under free speech the government can’t tell you what to say. Is that an accurate summarization? I want to make sure I understand the specific issue we’re grappling with and where we both stand before I go any further, so please let me know if you don’t think I’m stating your position correctly! I was coming from more a human rights/general morality angle, but you specifically take issue with the government authority aspect?
        And I am religious, and a woman!

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        • Into a neat little black and white package, when reality just isn’t like that. As I specifically pointed out in my last comment. I support women’s rights, and the 8th ammendment did not support women. Also the state and church should not control women’s bodies and fertility. And you have completely ignored all the personal stories which document women’s suffering under this regime. That is what my post and in fact my comments to you were about. You don’t seem to have read them, or understood them, I suggest you read them again. My opinion is just that, one opinion. But it is representative of how most people in Ireland feel, hence the result of the vote.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sorry for the delayed response! It’s definitely a topic that needs a lot of discussion, and you’re right that it’s not black and white. There’s certainly been failings on the pro-life side, but overall I think abortion does more harm than good for women and for society as a whole. For example, there’s evidence suggesting that abortion leads to increased risk of mental health issues (http://afterabortion.org/2011/most-studies-show-abortion-linked-to-increased-mental-health-problems/) and does not decrease mental health risks associated with unwanted pregnancies (http://afterabortion.org/2008/abortion-provides-no-mental-health-benefits-even-when-pregnancy-is-unwanted/)
            Gianna Jessen, a woman who survived abortion, says “My rights matter as well. I’m a woman, and you’re not shouting about how my rights were violated that day.” https://twitter.com/LiveAction/status/994345074883358720 We’ve also seen in the United States that, sadly, there are many cases of abortion facilities being very negligent about the women they are meant to care for: not reporting sexual abuse and human trafficking, or focusing on profit over what is best for the individual woman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igQlxvXdn4s&index=3&list=PLRCroccSjXWT5pWW9ZHEyjFd5Ack1aMGF and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PUFJwiHlJM)
            To break down the situation you raised, I absolutely see your point about medical emergencies. That’s a really tough situation, if the right to life of the mother and the child are in direct conflict. Both of them deserve all the medical intervention possible to keep them alive, but can you kill one innocent person to save another? That’s testing the limits of my values, and is something I have to do more research on and think about more. However, abortion is still deliberately ending an innocent human life because another person decided that particular life wasn’t valuable enough to continue, and that is a morally reprehensible action and a dangerous culture to foster. If a society decides that one subset in the population can be killed without consequence, there’s no justification that other groups–the elderly, the mentally ill, the disabled–should be protected if they are also a burden on others. That’s not a society I want to live in.
            Even though it seems like a fix to very valid problems pregnant women face, and I know you support legalized abortion out of a desire to help women who are suffering, I think that abortion puts women at risk and legalizing it works to make a society where a person’s life is only respected by how much power they have. I would rather push for things like The Women’s Center (http://womens-center.org/whatwedo/) “committed to pursuing a holistic approach to meet the needs of clients and their families,” where women can get resources and support through difficult pregnancies, so that they don’t end up in a position where they feel they need an abortion, and support advancements in medicine to ensure the safety of both mothers and children.

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            • Hi Zanterr, this is going to be my last reply to you on this topic, as I feel you are using my blog as a political sounding board for your anti-abortion views, and whilst I don’t believe in censoring opinion, I think you have made yours abundantly clear. A bit of research shows the women’s centre site you link to in your comment to be a religious pro-life anti-abortion organisation, and therefore biased. Similarly, David Reardon who is founder of the Elliot Institutue and Ministry, which in turn runs the afterabortion site you link to, is a Christian conservative fundamentalist also biased in favour of anti-abortion. None of your sources provide balanced, unbiased, impartial information, a fact which sadly undermines your argument. In fact, the American Psychological Association and many other doctors, scientists and experts disagree with Reardon’s findings. Christian anti-abortion activism seems to be a fairly new thing; if you read historical texts of the lives of saints, for example, you will find that many Christian saints performed the ‘miracle’ of abortion; go and read the lives of St Aed, St Caunnech, St Ciarán, and even St Brigit. I have, and these are just the Irish ones! I understand your concern is for babies; it is mine too… I love babies and have given birth to three and devoted my life to them, but the difference is I have concern and compassion for mothers, and women, and their human rights too.

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  2. Powerful stuff, Ali – and a powerful few days it’s been. All down to people like you, who made ideology crumble in the face of real stories about real people. If it wasn’t for women telling voters what the Yes vote actually meant, we could have ended up with a No – and look what happened. A landslide in a country which is sick of being told lies by an incredibly loud minority.

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    • Yes, I saw that personal stories were the biggest influencing factor on voter choice. Lies, and sweeping everything they don’t like under the carpet… bloody big carpet, that! 🤣😂😩

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  3. You have a unique perspective, Ali, one that is informed. I am grateful that the birth mothers of my two children did not abort – I would have missed out on so much.

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    • Well I think it is a last resort in desperate circumstances, Noelle. I was offered an abortion when I was pregnant with Carys at 18 weeks, but I chose not to… I was in a loving relationship, and we both wanted this child, and loved her already. But it has been such a hard journey. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and one of the most awful things has been watching Carys suffer and not be able to do anything about it. But I know that within the confines of her life she is happy, and full of love. We try to give her as much life experience as she can cope with, but at times it has had a horrible impact on my two boys as well. We have to consider all the family, and no one can appreciate or understand that unless they have been through it. I wouldn’t judge anyone who felt they couldn’t cope. My boys will probably have genetic testing in a few years to see what their genes hold in regard to having children of their own. I want them to make informed choices. They have seen first hand what it is like to have a child like Carys in the family. We all adore her, but I wouldn’t wish it on them, and would respect their decision. At least now they have a choice. Carys was diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities. She survived. Doctors aren’t always right. We made the right decision for us. 😊 And your children got two wonderful parents, as well as you getting two fabulous children. Xxx

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  4. A great, heartfelt piece, full of the nuances that these types of debates so often leave by the roadside. You must be pleased with the results now that they’re in.

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  5. What a well thought-out post, Ali. I agree with you, a woman should have the right to make her own decisions, however traumatic they may be. She should not be penalised for making that decision either, or have to go overseas in order to have an abortion. As you say, nobody has the right to judge somebody else’s choice as there are many complex reasons for women wanting abortions as well as the more obvious ones such as rape and incest etc.

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    • That is true, Judy, I agree with everything you say. Abortion is a last resort for most women, And only in tragic circumstances. But it should still be there as an option, because it is a private personal decision, not one made for you by the state and the church, which always favours the child over the mother. Woman are more than just vessels.

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  6. Pingback: Hypocrisy, Truth and Lies #repealthe8th – lampmagician

  7. What a wonderfully considered and heartfelt post Ali. I agree with you wholeheartedly and hope the people of Ireland will choose wisely. I remember with my first pregnancy there were concerns about the size of the babies head, small head tends to be down syndrome baby. It was a worrying time but my daughter turned out to be small but perfect. A mother has to use her own judgment and look to her heart and you if anyone must know this. I admire you so much for your decision and for all that you do for your daughter. You are a very special person. Xxx

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    • Yes, pregnancy and birth can be very difficult and worrying times for the mother. Your story just proves just how even today’s doctors even with the best intentions, experience and most up to date equipment, can still get things wrong. Thank you for the compliment, but I just did what I felt was best for my child, and really that’s all anyone can do. Carys has changed my life in many ways, not all of them good, but it’s amazing what you can do when you love someone enough, and I believe a mother’s love is the strongest of all. 😊 Hugs to you and your beautiful, brainy daughters! Xxx

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  8. Such an honest and brave post, Ali – thank you. I’ve been a supporter of the Abortion Support Network for a few years now and have read some truly heart-breaking accounts of women and girls forced to travel here to access what should be a right in their own country. I also know several women who have had abortions, and while they certainly didn’t make their decisions lightly, not a single one regrets their decision, and nor should they. I’ve got everything crossed that the ‘yes’ vote succeeds today.

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    • Thanks Alison. There’ll be little else on the news over here tonight and all over the weekend, no doubt. There are some awful stories. In this day and age it just shouldn’t be happening. Everything crossed here too… makes walking a bit difficult!.😊

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  9. I basically never do this…but I’d like to share an article on Vox —
    https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2015/8/21/9183529/pregnancy-risks
    It’s written by my daughter Amanda Taub—human rights lawyer, columnist for the New York Times, and currently pregnant with her second child. In it she point out:
    “Pro-life activists tend to focus on whether a fetus is a person, and whether life begins at conception. But even if you do believe that the fetus is a person at any given moment in the pregnancy, the nature of pregnancy is an inarguable medical fact: It involves taking the mother’s body — her blood, her uterus, her vital organs — and using it to save the life of another person.
    We have a term for that: organ donation.
    It is uncontroversial in this country that other types of organ donation should never be forced. ”

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    • Barb, that is an amazing quote from your daughter’s article… I will follow the link to read the rest as soon as I have finished feeding Carys. I often had moments in my pregnancies where I felt that everything was out of control, the baby was going to feed off me and grow in spite of me, like a parasite and host. Horrid way to think, and felt so bad for thinking that way. I am devoted to my children, but I did not enjoy pregnancy. 😏

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    • Excellent article, Barb. That poor little girl. Similar things have happened here. Unlike Paraguay though, mothers have been allowed to die rather than risk the baby, so vile as it is, Paraguay policy is an improvement on Ireland’s as it currently stands. Hopefully all that will change after today’s vote.

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          • I’ve seen so little out of the ‘no’ camp, just the vile, guilt-inspiring horror pics of foetuses. Even the church is keeping its slimy gob shut (more or less). They know they’re on the skids.

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            • There was a massive no campaign. Ads on in between every children’s song Carys watched on youtube. Turned out they were all funded by America, and disappeared immediately. The debates on RTE have been really interesting. The church has been urging people to do evetything they can to support the no campaign without making it ‘public’. The no voters are using emotive language and turning up on people’s doorsteps trying to show videos of a baby inside the womb being aborted. Horrid shocking scare-mongering tactics. You know, the usual kind of stuff! 😁

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            • That was the impression I had, that the no campaign was an underhand one, funded by foreigners and often illegal so the ads had to be taken down. I’ve seen archbishops and bishops speaking out for a no vote but in mealy mouthed terms as if they’ve been told it looks bad to back a losing horse. I hope I’m right! But it’s what you’d expect. The vocal, articulate people in the towns were always going to vote for repeal. It’s the silent traditionalists that have to be won over.

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  10. An excellent well thought out piece which combines personal experience with rational thought a combination which is hard to refute. I support all you say in this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Excellently stated, Ali. I don’t ‘approve of’ abortion either, for all sorts of reasons… but I recognise that it is sometimes a medical, emotional or practical necessity and I absolutely defend the right of the woman to make that decision for herself. For the majority of women who choose abortion, it is a hard enough decision without being forced to break or circumvent the law.

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    • Thanks Sue. I totally agree. We have some horrid stories, like the 11 year old girl raped by a neighbour who was forced to carry her baby to term. Such stories are not isolated cases, sadly, or worst case scenarios, they really happen and its more common than people like to think. Of course we need to deal with issues like rape, too. I have to say, I really don’t know how today’s vote will go. In the cities people seem more open, but here in rural Cavan, few people are willing to discuss it.

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