Monday, November 14, 2016

Abortion: right or privilege?

In Ireland abortion is unconstitutional. The Irish constitution, explicitly protects the right to life of the “unborn child” in its Eighth Amendment, which equates the life of a mother to that of her unborn foetus. This piece of legislation came about to reinforce the already stringent abortion regulations imposed on the country. The petition to ‘Repeal the Eighth’ looks to protect the rights of the mother o bodily autonomy. We must acknowlede that many of the reasons behind Ireland's strict abortion laws stem from the once very strong presence of the Roman Catholic Church in our country. In recent years, however, the grip of the church has begun to wane. Not all those that support the ban on abortion are doing so because they are devout Christians. Many do so because they genuinely believe that the termination of a pregnancy is murder, the life of the unborn foetus, who has no voice of its own, is to be protected.

In the aftermath of the recent presidential election it is evident that many of the U.S. natives I have encountered fear what is to follow this outcome. I have realised in this despair that many women fear whether their reproductive rights will change drastically. It is difficult for me to look at this despair and realise that a large part of what scares them is a part of my life at home, yet something that has never instilled such an emotion in me. 

In recent years, the Catholic Church has been the subject of many scandals, in particular the involvement of many priests in the molestation of children, leaving many Catholics struggling with their faith. The result of this was that reform was encouraged and celebrated in the country and things, such as the referendum to allow same-sex marriage, were celebrated. Considering these changes people became enlightened as to the possibilities that lay before them. Thus, the ‘Repeal the Eighth’ movement began.

Those in favour of the movement believe that abortion is a human right that should be made available to those in the Republic of Ireland. While the procedure is illegal there, no laws exist that refuse women the right to travel abroad for abortions to be carried out. Pro-choice supporters have acknowledged that, while this provides the women of Ireland with choice, it excludes the many who do not have access to the funds for such an excursion, thus excluding many vulnerable women facing unwanted pregnancy from this option. 

Many Irish celebrity figures have expressed their support in conjunction with the many civilians who are marching the streets in the hope that their rights will be recognised. However, while there is a large group in support of the campaign, there are also many that still favour the current laws. Abortion, to them, is fundamentally wrong and it would appear Donald Trump, the U.S. president-elect, seems to view it similarly.

Trump has expressed that he is likely to allow pregnancies to be terminated in a number of circumstances, but not all. He called for the punishment of those women who choose to terminate their pregnancies. This seemed to spark a great deal of outrage amongst the American people. It concerns me to see a nation that has made significant progress in such a controversial area potentially being forced to digress so drastically. It begs me to consider the question: is abortion a presumed right or is the choice a privilege for those to whom it is available?


Anaaf said...

Governments should not be given control over women's bodies. Women have reproductive rights and it should not be taken away from them. If abortion is taken away from women, that won’t stop them from seeking other unsafe methods. The way that some governments are regulating abortion is nothing but the remnants of the imposition of religious and traditional dogma over society.

Louise Trainor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Louise Trainor said...


Thank you for bringing our country's abortion laws to the foreground. I completely understand your confusion in deciding whether abortion is a right or a privilege. I believe this issue is a prime example of how a cultural context shapes the views of a country's citizens. As our restrictive laws is all I've known, it is difficult for me to imagine living in a country where abortion is legal.

In response to Anaaf's comment, I believe you give women's reproductive rights more merit than is perhaps warranted under this topic. Women's rights to contraceptives should be considered more closely here. A woman is given the opportunity to prevent a pregnancy using a range of contraceptive methods legalised by the Government. While I am not pro-life per se, (I believe in abortion in cases of rape or fetal abnormalities), I do not believe abortion should be utilised as a mere remedial method when conception took place resultant of consensual, unprotected sex.

Flamingo said...

Thank you for this enlightening post about abortion in Ireland, Julie! It is truly interesting to learn about the country's law and policies that are widely influenced by the Catholic Church.
I look forward to the future developments following the UN's Human Rights committee ruling of the Irish case last June. "To this end, the State party should amend its law on voluntary termination of pregnancy, including if necessary its Constitution, to ensure compliance with the Covenant, including effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland, and take measures to ensure that health-care providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services without fearing being subjected to criminal sanctions,” the Committee’s findings said. - See more at:

I completely understand that people have different views and opinions about abortion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, beliefs and culture. However, I do think that the decision should be the woman's in the end (or both the parents if the father is in the picture and the intimate relation was consensual). Being pro-life is perfectly fine but shouldn't it be every person's decision to choose whether to continue with their own pregnancy? I do not see any convincing reason why the State is legitimate to have a say in this. The option should be available, and then using it or not should be the real question. Of course, this is just my humble opinion.

@Louise : What about women who do not have easy access to contraception?
Because of an extremely religious family who would prevent them from going to a gynecologist or buying contraception, for example. Or because of a lack of knowledge, or monetary resources, etc.
What about the risk of getting pregnant even while taking the pill or another mean of contraception? No contraception is a 100% effective yet - see "Relative effectiveness of birth control methods" here :
I do not think that a lot of women would use abortion as a mere alternative "remedial" method. Abortion is a medical procedure, which can be painful and emotionally difficult. It is also expensive. Therefore, it seems unlikely to me that women would use it lightly.
But you may disagree and maybe all women in Ireland have really easy access to contraceptives, I have no knowledge about that and would be glad to learn more!