On Friday 25th May 2018, Ireland held a referendum on the eighth amendment, and voted “Yes” to repeal it . The eighth amendment stated “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”, essentially meaning abortions were only allowed if the pregnancy posed a risk to the woman’s life. So basically, unless this was going to kill you, you were going to have this child whether you liked it or not. You have no choice. But now, thanks to 66.4% of voters, the amendment is going to be replaced, and I am incredibly happy for that.
I’m pro-choice. I believe if you are pregnant, you should have the right to choose if you would like to continue or not, and if you choose not to, then you should have safe and legal access to a termination. There are a gazillion reasons why a woman would choose to not continue with a pregnancy. Here are just a couple off the top of my head:
Too young. Too old. Not enough money. Homeless. School. Career. PARTY. Raped. Too many children already. Never wanted children. Contraception failed. Last pregnancy was too hard. Had a child that died, don’t want a “replacement”. Relative has died. Just been sacked. Risk to own health. Alcoholic. Eating disorder. Not ready. Not emotionally stable. Scared. Alone. Unable to care for child. Shame.
I mean, it doesn’t really matter what the reason is, and I don’t think you need to justify or explain yourself to anyone. Unplanned pregnancies happen all the time- whether you’re single, married, engaged, in a short term relationship or in a long term relationship- and maybe this time just isn’t right for you.
Maybe it is the right time, and you decide to proceed with the pregnancy. By allowing women to decide for themselves what to do, I believe benefits those who continue. My first short film, Unplanned, was about a young couple experiencing an unexpected pregnancy. It’s never explicitly stated what the outcome is, but it’s heavily implied that Katie chose to continue with the pregnancy. That’s right. She wasn’t forced by law, or religion, or society. She chose to keep the baby. Instead of being like “I was forced to keep you, and I learned to love you”, she can be all “I wanted to have you, and I loved you from the start”, which is a much healthier relationship.
But it’s not just unplanned pregnancies where abortions come into play. In my most recent work, In Utero, Jenni decided to discontinue with the pregnancy. Even though it was planned and wanted at the beginning, as the pregnancy progressed her feelings changed. The baby was predicted to be born with Edward’s Syndrome which would have seen the child be born with an assortment of health problems- if they survived childbirth. What’s right for the child in this situation? What’s right for the parents? For the mother? I honestly don’t know. But Jenni chose to terminate for her own well-being and for the child’s. Under the eighth amendment, Jenni would not be allowed an abortion. Which is bullshit.
The repeal of this amendment is a great thing, and I hope attitudes towards abortions and unplanned pregnancies change. Unfortunately, I still think there is some stigma towards women who fall pregnant outside of a long term relationship, particularly young women and girls. I think there are still snidey looks and comments, such as she’s a stupid girl or she should’ve been more careful. The fact is, you can be as careful as you like and still get pregnant. No contraception is 100% safe. I currently have the copper IUD fitted which is more than 99% effective when fitted correctly. But not 100%. I can still get pregnant. It’s an incredibly small chance, and I’ll be super surprised and pissed off if it happened, but it can happen. And if it does (fingers crossed it doesn’t. Please don’t get me pregnant. Urgh, please don’t), then I am thankful and relieved that I can decide what my best course of action is. Not the government. Not the church. Not you. Me. Whether I decide to terminate or not, I will do so with my head held high because I have made the right choice for me and this unborn baby. I hope the negative connotations and stigma disappear so women no longer feel ashamed for doing what’s right for them.
Women in Ireland have been given rights over their own bodies and will no longer have to go abroad to get a legal and safe abortion, or face going through a back-alley termination. This is a glorious time. Now, Northern Ireland- get your shit together.