Would you force someone to stay pregnant against their will?

On International Safe Abortion Day pro-choice campaigner Tara Flynn explores what it means to be pro choice

Pro-choice campaigner Tara Flynn at the March for Choice, which was organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign, in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Eric Luke/ The Irish Times

Pro-choice campaigner Tara Flynn at the March for Choice, which was organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign, in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Eric Luke/ The Irish Times

 

I once cried when our old washing machine was taken away. Obviously, I quickly cheered up when I realised the replacement didn’t need a crowbar to unlock it or a bucket at the door when you did prise it open. But we’d always had that old machine and it had somehow managed to do more or less what it was supposed to. Until it didn’t. It was broken, not even good for the clothes. Still, its presence gave me something, I’m not sure what. Stability. Continuity. Change is often frightening, challenging, but there comes a moment when you realise it’s the only way.

Even conversationally broaching the repeal of the Eighth Amendment can cause consternation here in Ireland. I understand: talking openly and frankly about reproductive rights is brand new to us. Personally, I’ve had a lot of reading to do; I realised I didn’t have the facts, even the words. We’re not taught them.

You can be strongly morally opposed to abortion and still be pro choice

Until now, the narrative has been weighted towards only one set of beliefs. It doesn’t help when such a nuanced issue is crudely framed as binary debate, yet the media love of a bunfight (not solely an Irish concern) and multitude of commentators seemingly bent on obfuscation shape it as such. So often, this leads to the wrong question being asked:

“Are you for or against abortion?” It’s a fine question if you’re faced with making the decision. It’s something you should know. But it has no place when talking about other people’s bodies and their right to determine their own lives and futures. That’s none of our business. No two pro-choice people will have the same response to that question. Attitude to abortion is not what makes a person pro choice.

Pro-choice people come from wildly varying backgrounds and positions on when life begins, or whether we’d ever have an abortion ourselves. What unifies us is the firm belief that the pregnant person knows what’s best for them. We trust them. We believe them.

In the two years since I came out about having an abortion, I’ve found most people to be supportive. Even those who find the topic unpleasant will say “That’s your business.” They might not realise it, but they’re pro choice. You can be strongly morally opposed to abortion and still be pro choice. It’s the “that’s your business” part that’s key.

I, for one, wouldn’t want to put grieving families through legal hoops at such a time

That we all need rounded, balanced education on this issue is an understatement. We need to assess what’s already happening in our country and ask more useful questions. Like, why would people ask for later gestational limits, if the mantra is “as early as possible”? (The majority of abortions take place prior to 12 weeks.) Well, the vast majority of later cases are wanted pregnancies gone tragically wrong. I, for one, wouldn’t want to put grieving families through legal hoops at such a time. I’d prefer them to be able to access the appropriate medical care for them. I believe most people would.

Tara Flynn. “Why do we say that the stance that abortion is acceptable only on grounds of rape or incest is not a moderate one?” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/ The Irish Times
Tara Flynn. “Why do we say that the stance that abortion is acceptable only on grounds of rape or incest is not a moderate one?” Photograph: Cyril Byrne/ The Irish Times

Why do we say that the stance that abortion is acceptable only on grounds of rape or incest is not a moderate one? Because the procedure in those cases is the same as for an abortion for any other reason. So it’s not the procedure people oppose; it’s the circumstances under which the person got pregnant, and whether they’re deemed to have suffered enough. That’s quite extreme, when you think about it. Not to mention legally and practically unworkable.

However, asking for broad access, I’m sometimes told, is “scaring people”. That’s what’s scary? What about people being forced to continue pregnancies with which they can’t cope? Or harming themselves? Or risking a 14-year sentence? Or for those lucky enough to have means, being forced to travel for the medical care they need?

It seems, for some, there’s comfort in denial. They may like the idea of Ireland being abortion-free, but it’s not. Nowhere is. Our rates are comparable with countries where it is legal, the only difference is the hardship we inflict on pregnant people trying to access it.

Change can be frightening, but it’s not as frightening as the status quo

And on that point, good news: should the Eighth Amendment be repealed and our laws made more compassionate, the landscape would not change. Rain would still fall. Buses would still arrive two at a time. Washing machines would still break down. If we get safe abortion access here, those who don’t want to think about it can go back to pretending it’s not happening.

There are plenty of questions to be asked about this issue, but only one truly pertinent one: “would you force someone to remain pregnant against their will?” And, if “yes”, “what would you do to enforce that?” I believe most people’s answer is, “that’s your business”. I thank them for their compassion. Change can be frightening, but it’s not as frightening as the status quo.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.