On Friday 25th May, I will walk out of my last exam, board a bus to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and fly to Knock, Ireland, to make, in reverse, a journey many an Irish woman has made before me. I will be doing this so no one will be forced to do so again. Between 1980 and 2016, almost 170,000 women travelled from the Republic of Ireland to England and Wales for abortions.
On May 25th, Ireland will be voting on whether to keep or repeal the 8th Amendment, Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which, since a referendum in 1983, prohibits abortion in all but the most limited of circumstances. Not even a foetus that stands no chance of living outside the womb can be aborted, casting pregnant people as little more than incubators. Their freedom of choice is gone, as is their bodily autonomy, and, therefore, their humanity is erased. The 8th Amendment places foetal rights on par with women’s rights, infringing on access to healthcare options that may damage the foetus.
There is nothing so cruel as to take away someone’s control over their own body. It can be described as nothing short of torture, the deprivation of healthcare as a woman’s life slips away, all for the sake of an Article inspired by a fundamentalist, reactionary version of religion.
I will be voting Yes to repeal for women like Savita Halappanavar, who died as a result of sepsis in October 2012 after she was denied an abortion and was left to suffer while she miscarried.
I will be voting Yes for my sister, who should have every right to choose as I do as a man.
I will be voting Yes for my friends, who have been fighting tooth and nail for control of their own destinies.
I will be voting Yes for later generations, who should not have to face the same difficulties their mothers and grandmothers have had to overcome.
We would view it as abhorrent to force a person to get pregnant, so why should forcing them to remain pregnant be any different? My vote is for choice, not for abortion. Bringing life into this world is something people should choose to do, not be forced into. My vote is a rejection of centuries of oppression, it is atonement for the enslavement, torture and death of women in the Magdalene Laundries, and for the women who have had their lives taken away by a patriarchal society.
This is for the women who have had to travel alone and in fear, for the children and rape victims who have been doubly traumatised by the loss of autonomy the 8th subjects them to, and for the non-binary people who feel compelled to avail of abortions because their access to healthcare is limited and complex. This is for people who choose to continue with pregnancies as much as it is for those for whom it is not possible. This is so Ireland can stop exporting its problems, so it can stop outsourcing its healthcare to its neighbours. We have shipped away enough of our people. Now it is time to stop. Voting Yes to repeal the 8th Amendment is our chance to end the legacy of oppression and the culture of shame.
If the Yes campaign is defeated on Friday, abortion will not end, but it will be unsafe and largely unregulated. Suffering will continue. Promises of a better alternative are hollow at best. Over three decades have gone by with nothing to this end. A No vote is a vote for a broken status quo.
Friday is our chance for change.
Featured image by Luke Ryan (Instagram: @m00sejaws)