Abortion should be legal for all who need it: The Femedic view

repeal the 8th

On 25th May, Ireland will vote in a referendum that could effectively end the country’s ban on abortion. The eighth amendment to the country’s constitution recognises the equal right to life of mother and unborn child, meaning that abortion is illegal, including in situations when the mother-to-be has been raped, or continuing with the pregnancy has severe implications for her health.

The amendment has been in place since 1983, but on May 25th, voters will be given the option to vote “yes” – repeal the 8th, or “no” – leave it. The latest poll shows 47% will be voting Yes, and 32% No.

So what will happen if the amendment is repealed? It will allow the Irish government to form new legislation on abortion, most likely making it legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Currently in Ireland, if someone accesses an abortion in the country they face 14 years in prison, with the same punishment applying to the health professional or anyone else who assists them in getting it.

The lead-up to the referendum hasn’t been all that civil. Just yesterday (May 3), graphic imagery relating to abortion was displayed outside a Dublin maternity hospital.

Currently in Ireland, if someone accesses an abortion in the country they face 14 years in prison, with the same punishment applying to the health professional or anyone else who assists them in getting it.

Under the proposed new legislation, the penalty would be removed, and there will be no circumstances where a woman can be criminalised, although abortion would only be legal for up to 12 weeks, and only longer in specific instances. If the new legislation is introduced, anyone performing any abortion outside the law would still face a potential penalty of 14 years in prison.

If the amendment is not repealed, then the current legislation will remain in place, that is: a woman will only be able to access abortion in Ireland if it is deemed her life is at risk.

A Yes vote doesn’t mean you are pro-abortion, but rather pro-choice: the choice of a pregnant women to make a decision based upon what she knows about her health, her body, and her current life situation.

Currently, stories of Irish women’s attempts to access abortion are quite chilling. Since 1980, more than 170,000 Irish women have had to travel abroad to access abortion – at great expense, an expense that is impossible for many.

Other women have resorted to buying abortion pills online, which is dangerous. An estimated 1,500 abortion pills are used in Northern Ireland and the ROI every year, roughly five pills a day. While these pills are medically approved in other countries, it is currently illegal to take them in Ireland, meaning women are unlikely to go and seek help from their GP should they experience complications or side effects.

A Yes vote doesn’t mean you are pro-abortion, but rather pro-choice: the choice of a pregnant women to make a decision based upon what she knows about her health, her body, and her current life situation.

Accidental pregnancies happen all the time. Contraception can fail, people make mistakes, people change their minds. For a woman to have full, autonomous control over her body and what happens to it, abortion should be made legal, for all women the world over.

There are a huge amount of reasons, too, why a woman may wish to have an abortion, and the decision to have an abortion is very rarely made without deep, and sometimes agonising, thought, consideration, discussion, and conversation with health professionals.

A woman may wish to abort her pregnancy if her living situation changes and she realises she can no longer support a child financially. A woman may wish to abort a pregnancy after rape. A woman may wish to abort a pregnancy if she is in an abusive relationship. A woman may wish to abort a pregnancy if she decides she is simply not in the right mind frame and position in her life and career or education to bring up a child.

While a decision should never be taken lightly on whether or not to have an abortion, no one should be forced to go through with a pregnancy until birth if they do not wish to. While the proposed changes to Ireland’s constitution should Yes win are not perfect, they will be a huge step forward for the rights of women.

Imogen Robinson

Deputy Editor, The Femedic

Imogen joined The Femedic after working as a news reporter. Becoming frustrated with the neverending clickbait, she jumped at the chance to work for a site whose ethos revolves around honesty and empathy. From reading articles by doctors to researching her own, and discussing health with a huge variety of women, she is fascinated by just how little we are told about our own bodies and women-specific health issues, and is excited to be working on a site which will dispel myths and taboos, and hopefully help a lot of women.

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