Monday, 10 March 2014

International Women's Day - Reproductive Freedom!

On Saturday the National Women's Council of Ireland held a soapbox event, which took place in O'Connell Street just opposite the GPO. Many women (and a few good men) from different walks of life spoke, yelled and shouted about what would make this world a better place for the women who live in it. (BTW just heading this one off at the pass: International Men's Day is November 19th). The topics were as numerous and varied as the people speaking about them. Safer childbirth practices, emigration, disability, poverty, Margaretta D'Arcy were among the many,many topics discussed. I was proud to be among all those wonderful voices on Saturday, and I'd like to thank the NWCI for holding such a great event.

I represented the Abortion Rights Campaign, and spoke about women's right to reproductive freedom and this is what I had to say:

"I am a member of the Abortion Rights Campaign, and what we need to change for women is that we need to allow every woman to have the right to reproductive freedom.

It has been said that hard cases make bad law. The reverse is true. Bad law leads to hard cases. A law that governs anyone’s bodily integrity and ability to make decisions on what’s best for them is a bad law.

The law moves slowly, slower than the people it is meant to represent, slower than advances in public opinion, social justice and medicine. This is especially apparent when it comes to women’s health, and obviously apparent in Ireland where it took the powers that be more than two decades to legislate for the needs of just one of its many constituents. More than twenty one years on the people have moved forward, the law has not. The legislation that was passed last summer leaves the majority of women without the access they need to abortion in this country. And it has worsened the situation for so many women who can’t travel by adding a clearly possible prison sentence to abortion within the state.

And so we now look at the Eight Amendment to the constitution which equates the life of a pregnant woman with that of an implanted embryo. This does not reflect public opinion in Ireland. The Eight Amendment is discriminatory. It has a chilling effect on all pregnant women, their partners, their families and the medical professionals who treat them.

Restrictive abortion laws do not restrict abortion. They don’t change a culture where women are legally punished if they do or economically and socially punished if they don’t. Restrictive abortion laws more it more difficult, more dangerous and more detrimental to women making the decision to terminate.

Choice respects each person’s right and responsibility to make their own decisions about their own bodies, including the choice to continue with or end a pregnancy. Every person should be able to carry out their choice safely, with dignity and without having to circumvent coercion, stigma or unnecessary obstacles.

A commitment to choice means that we have to work to make sure there is a level playing field, so that the ability of a woman to act on her choice is not limited by economic, social or political factors.

No society can truly call itself free and democratic if people are prevented from freely deciding what happens to or within their own bodies. The law has no place to govern inside us and the Eight Amendment needs to go!"

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