Article 40.3.3, known as the Eighth Amendment, was voted into the Irish Constitution by referendum in 1983. The amendment states: ‘The states 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.’ It equates the life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus, and has created an unworkable distinction between a pregnant woman’s life and her health.
On Friday May 25th, Ireland will hold a referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.
This is a highly emotive, divisive debate with both sides passionate about their beliefs and the choices available. I wrote the poem ‘Voices’ (see below) after I read of an attack on an individual collecting outside a Catholic Church, after being subjected to vile abuse from a Pro-Life Campaigner. The sheer level of hypocrisy and turning a blind eye just baffles me. The individual was quoted as saying ” I found it totally insensitive, totally disrespectful and indeed insulting, looking for money to promote abortion outside the Catholic Church”.
I found it sickening when the discovery of infant remains were unearthed in a septic tank, little babies thrown in like refuse, without a second thought or the dignity of a name to mark their short existences.
As a mother, I found it heartbreaking to read of tragedies and ruined lives because of childhood sexual abuse by priests and nuns and the lengths the Church went to, to cover up and keep these individuals quiet. It is disgusting, insensitive, totally disrespectful and indeed insulting that the voices trying to silence those (women), are at the centre of this tsunami in changing culture. Misogyny’s alive and kicking within Ireland and the Church.
The Catholic Church’s control and influence in Ireland has taken a severe hammering with accounts of clerical abuse, mistreatment of women in laundries, selling children and babies to Americans (and subsequently faking these children’s deaths) the discovery of infant remains in Tuam, Co. Galway and a total disregard for the suffering and psychological damage inflicted on siblings, mothers and fathers and relatives who search for any scraps of answers.
Respect, dignity and basic humanity have been lost in a vortex.
So many lives have been destroyed by these atrocities and the traumas never go away.
As an Irish woman and mother, it’s imperative that we vote, as choice is the bottom line here. I have had successful pregnancies and know the pain of an unsuccessful one.
Let’s remember contraception was only legalised in Ireland in February 1985. Though it was still illegal to advertise contraceptives and use of the birth control pill remained restricted, the vote marked a major turning point in Irish history, the first-ever defeat of the Catholic Church in a head-to-head battle with the government on social legislation.
I would like to live in an Ireland, where I know the health of my twelve year old daughter is deemed important and valued, and not at the expense of a malformed foetus, or that her mental health is compromised, because a medic deemed her unborn child’s right to life more important than her own. I would support my daughter in her choice, whatever that choice may be. That’s what mothers do. There have been avoidable deaths in Irish hospitals, because of this Eighth Amendment; and the subsequent court cases brought by grieving widowers / partners have brought this issue into the public domain. Had these women been granted abortions (many in the case where the pregnancy was unviable and/or the foetus had died) a lot of these women would be alive today.
And whoever thinks abortion is an easy option is deluded. I don’t think any woman ever undertakes this decision lightly. She must live with the consequences for the rest of her life.
This is about choice. Women will continue to have abortions and travel to England for them if this Article remains. Women will continue to have unplanned and unwanted pregnancies for many complex reasons. Women are at the forefront. Our bodies should be treated with respect and integrity, as should our minds and mental health. Compassion doesn’t have a price. I respect choice and differing opinions. I respect democracy.
Donegal poet and artist Lorraine Carey has had poetry widely published in: Prole, Epoque Press, Ariel Chart, Poethead, The Honest Ulsterman, Atrium, Live Encounters, The Lake and Picaroon among others. An advocate for mental health awareness, she has had two articles published on the website ‘A Lust for Life’ – an award winning Irish well-being movement. http://www.alustforlife.com/about-us. A runner up in the 2017 Trocaire / Poetry Ireland Competition and The Blue Nib Chapbook Competition, she has contributed poetry to several anthologies. Her artwork / photography has featured in Three Drops from a Cauldron, Dodging The Rain, Riggwelter Press, and Olentangy Review. Her debut collection From Doll House Windows is published by Revival Press. She lives in Fenit, Co. Kerry.
I have felt the flickers,
the flutterings of little arms
and legs in utero.
I have felt the drain of first trimesters,
the indescribable exhaustion,
sleeping afternoons away
as I waited for that glow,
I was told would definitely come.
I have felt that lioness love,
in the small hours watching
tiny fingers uncurl, pawing for
my milk like a blind kitten
as I fought to stay awake.
I have felt sadness for the child I lost,
would never feed, nor walk hand in hand to school.
Amending a clause for women’s rights
won’t quell the drain, the hastily booked, lonely flights
across the Irish Sea. The shame and fear incessant,
weaved within our culture.
Don’t think these women forget,
living the rest of their lives
reminded by a date, a newborn’s cry,
a boarding card stub.
Hear the voices, the tragic stories,
the denial of rights for the living,
the breathing, the menstruating,
the sepsis stories, the widowers accounts.
Save the judgement for reflection,
mirror in hand.
Those shouting loudest about rights,
are happy to preach about sin and contrition,
how soon they forget, selling children
to visiting Americans, dumping infants
in unmarked graves. They grasped dollars
and pubescent bodies with equal ferocity.
Undocumented abuse brushed under, relocated,
as thuribles belch loudly with incense and hypocrisy.
Save the throwing of stones, the shattering of glass
and hold that mirror close.