Anti-abortion campaigners dodging the real question
What do we do about women with unwanted pregnancies if Eighth is not repealed?
Anti-abortion campaigners. The anti-repeal side are getting off too easily and have failed to carry their arguments to a logical conclusion. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
As long as women can become pregnant, some of them will want or require abortions. Another way of saying this is that not all women who are pregnant are in a position to carry their babies to full term: some can’t and some, for various reasons, won’t.
Sometimes these decisions are medically necessary and sometimes they are not. Some people describe this as killing a baby who otherwise would more than likely have grown into a healthy child and they describe some or all abortions as “immoral”.
I am not qualified – nor do I have the time – to tease out each individual case to satisfy someone else’s measure of what a “moral” abortion is, but what I am saying – very clearly and explicitly – is that globally, and irrespective of the legal context, a proportion of women who become pregnant seek to end their pregnancies with an abortion, a practice as old as medicine itself. This inescapable, logical, perennial statement of fact is, one thing at least, that both sides can agree upon.
That is not to say we cannot look forward to a future when our species has developed to a point where our lives are so healthy, bountiful and mutually fulfilled across society that women only hear about abortions when they become sick. Such a welcome phenomenon would involve a future with more balance - on both sides of the gender horizon – and it is a future all of us should be involved in creating.
Waiting for reality
But while we are waiting for reality to align with our collective ideals, and in the shadow of approaching referendum canvassers, it would be wise to ask the anti-repeal side what they propose to do, in the event of their campaign being successful, with the women who will become pregnant from that moment forward, who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not carry forward with their pregnancies.
Women do not have abortions because they are available: they do not have abortions because it’s easier than being responsible; they do not have abortions in highly restrictive jurisdictions to be rebellious – and not every unwanted pregnancy ends in abortion. Not every case involves cancer, rape or a fatal abnormality either.
For hundreds and thousands of reasons, too detailed and complex to address here, not every woman who becomes pregnant can mother the child she is carrying. It is a fundamental aspect of womanhood: you cannot force, counsel or convince a woman into having a baby if in fact she has made up her mind that she won’t – and it does not make her mentally ill.
Over the coming weeks, it is our duty as citizens, voters and commentators to ask the question until we hear their answer
In preparation for writing this, I reached out on multiple occasions to a number of leaders and spokespeople from the main anti-abortion campaigns. Apart from Renua Ireland, who said it was their wish to retain the status quo and provide indeterminate extra services, no one responded. I had the opportunity to ask two anti-abortion canvassers who called to my door the other night what they would have to say to a woman who for her own reasons was refusing to continue with the pregnancy she was carrying. They couldn’t answer me either, bar suggesting I read their leaflet. Don’t you think it’s quite a fundamental question for the anti-abortion side to answer, what we do about women who have unwanted pregnancies in the event that their campaign is successful?
Ask the question
Minister for Health Simon Harris is correct: the anti-repeal side are getting off too easily and have failed to carry their arguments to a logical conclusion. Over the coming weeks, it is our duty as citizens, voters and commentators to ask the question until we hear their answer: in the event that campaign to retain the Eighth Amendment is successful, what do they suggest we do about the women who become pregnant in the aftermath of the referendum who are certain they are not prepared to carry their pregnancy into motherhood?
Is this not something the anti-abortion side would be eager to address, given that maintaining pregnancies to term is their very raison d’être?
Anti-abortion campaigners do not like to acknowledge that the very constituency they oppose are pregnant women who are voluntarily seeking abortions. They have all the answers until faced with a woman looking to end her pregnancy.
Sometimes silence speaks volume.
- Áine Carroll was an administrator for the Technical Group of Independent and People before Profit TDs in the 31st Dáil and is currently a social care worker