John Bruton and the Eighth Amendment
A chara, – I read with much confusion John Bruton’s assertion that repealing the Eighth Amendment “is not in accordance with the values of charity towards the weak in our communities that have exemplified the Irish over the last many centuries” (“Former taoiseach says Ireland should be ‘proud’ of Eighth Amendment”, News, March 12th; “Deficiencies with Eighth do not mean law should be removed, says Bruton”, News, March 13th).
He cannot be speaking of times when “our communities” were complicit in the locking up and removal of women’s babies in Magdalene laundries, nor when “our values of charity” allowed us to send children to be neglected and abused in industrial schools.
Presumably it doesn’t refer either to the struggles of people with disabilities to access appropriate services that they are entitled to within the State in 2018, or the parents begging for respite services but being ignored, nor the children living in hotel rooms up and down the country.
It most certainly cannot refer to Miss Y, a suicidal asylum seeker, pregnant through the result of rape, who was refused an abortion, force-fed and forced to undergo a Caesarean section at 25 weeks gestation.
It can’t refer to the case of Amanda Mellet, who the UN described as being subjected to “discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” in being forced to travel to end her unviable pregnancy.
Our values of charity did not extend to the brain-dead pregnant woman who, in 2014, was kept artificially alive because of the Eighth Amendment, while her family battled in the courts for the right to let her go peacefully; nor did they extend to Miss X, the raped and pregnant child we chose fit to ban from travelling with her parents to access abortion services.
Ireland will not, and cannot, live up to the aspiration values John Bruton speaks of until we remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution, treat women with compassion, and allow them the right to make private decisions to do with their health and lives themselves. – Is mise,
A chara, – The Government proposes to hold a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment and replace the same with legislation by the Oireachtas that will allow for medical termination up to 12 weeks.
The problem that many perfectly reasonable and decent people have with this is that they are very uncomfortable with unrestricted terminations generally. They also feel that such unrestricted terminations are unwarranted and will end up becoming widely used and, as they see it, abused as just another readily available form of contraception. At the same time those people have considerable sympathy for the very real victims, howsoever innocently unintended, of the present Eighth Amendment. There is a very genuine fear out there – warranted or not – that many “activists” or “progressives” will not be happy with the proposed legislative restrictions post-repeal, and if adopted, will merely treat the same as a “stepping stone” in their campaign for further change and continue advocating for, and indeed insisting on, new legislation to ultimately allow abortion on demand. These same people also fear that an overwhelming vote in favour of repeal will inevitably be subsequently construed and portrayed as a vote – indeed a clamour – for far greater legislative change and liberalisation than is presently proposed. The reality today is that politicians – often with good reason – are simply not trusted and these legitimately held fears cannot be ignored. Aside from what future members of the Oireachtas may vote to do, many such people, while they may have very considerable sympathy with the victims of the Eighth Amendment, may thus strategically vote No to repeal out of a genuine concern at what they perceive is the message that an overwhelming vote in favour of repeal may send and indeed how it may be portrayed and misused. The difficulty with this is that too many such strategic voters may end up defeating the proposed constitutional change that may remedy the legal defect that they currently identify and which they may want to see remedied. Too large a vote in favour, however, may result in the proposed “12-week” legislative replacement merely being the short stepping stone to unrestricted abortion on demand that many dread.
What to do? – Is mise,
Sir, – If fundamental constitutional rights lead to much-valued social and civil freedoms, I believe the Constitution should never become the place to enshrine the potential to terminate the life of the unborn.
There is no way that the practice of such appalling loss should ever be construed as a fundamental freedom. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The women of Ireland need us all – men, women, of all ages and in all circumstances – to support their right to body autonomy and listen to how the Eighth Amendment has impacted their lives and that of their loved ones.
Yes, Ireland’s women are a force to be reckoned with – but in a democratic vote our voice could be lost if our communities fail to support us. No one should assume that this referendum can be won without their vote. No one. Every voice counts. Young people who may have never voted before: this is your country, your future. Show your Government the kind of Ireland you want to live in. Our Constitution should reflect our hearts and minds; not the will of an outdated patriarchy. Trust the women of Ireland to make informed, reasoned and compassionate decisions about their own bodies. Help us take back what is rightfully ours. Repeal the Eighth Amendment. – Yours, etc,