The Eighth Amendment

 

Sir, – On International Women’s Day this year, some advocates for abortion will mark the day by claiming continuity with the suffragettes who gained the vote for women 100 years ago.

This continuity is entirely imagined. When the suffragettes and early feminists pronounced on abortion, it was almost invariably to condemn it, and to encourage society to provide better alternatives.

Typical of these early feminists is Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline, and fellow campaigner for women’s right to vote.

She was perfectly clear on the topic: “It is grievous indeed that the social collectivity should feel itself obliged to assist in so ugly an expedient as abortion in order to mitigate its crudest evils”. The “true mission of society”, she said, was to provide all the conditions for the safety and flourishing of mother and child.

The true heirs of Sylvia Pankhurst will not be marching for abortion access on Thursday, they will be knocking on doors, encouraging their friends and neighbours to save the Eighth Amendment, and to protect mothers and their children. – Yours, etc,

MAEVE O’HANLON,

LoveBoth Project,

Lower Fitzwilliam Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – As a fellow GP trainee, I would like to support Dr Anna McHugh’s “conscientious commitment” to provide Irish women with a full range of reproductive healthcare, including abortion (February 9th).

The World Health Organisation and the Guttmacher Institute have compiled statistics on the rates of induced abortion worldwide. These figures show us that the rate of abortion does not vary between countries depending on whether the procedure is legal or illegal – ie Irish women’s rates of abortion are likely on par with those of women in countries where abortion is safe and legal. Indeed figures from Doctors for Choice show us that abortion is the commonest gynaecological procedure among Irish women.

I, along with other colleagues, including Dr McHugh, make a full commitment to provide Irish women with full reproductive healthcare in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Dr M McCARTHY,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – On many occasions we have heard calls for “calm, respectful debate” when talking about the Eighth Amendment. I am strongly in favour of repeal.

When I talk about this, I am told I am not treating the other side with enough respect.

This is not an issue I can compromise on. This is about my life, my body and my freedom of choice. I don’t have the luxury of looking at the debate as a purely hypothetical dilemma. Sometimes we hear pro-choice women being described as “angry”, an insult that dates back to the Suffragettes. But I am not angry, I am defensive.

The Eighth Amendment says that from the moment of conception, my life is equal to that of an embryo. I disagree, I think my life should be prioritised for the duration of pregnancy. As such I am backing a repeal vote.

The debate has talked endlessly about women, but rarely listens to the very women at the heart of the issue.

I have heard how women are “vulnerable”, “misled”, and “making hasty decisions”. Who are these mythical women who have lived through this debate but have no idea what an abortion is?

The women who supposedly never even considered that they could become pregnant before they want to be. The women who are so easily led that the mere suggestion of abortion has them off to the clinics without a second thought. If this is what they think of the women of Ireland, we should all feel personally insulted.

Women who support the Eighth Amendment are already morally opposed to any intervention in pregnancy, and therefore will never be affected by the result of the referendum.

It’s those of us calling for repeal who will be directly affected by the outcome of the vote. There is no such thing as balanced debate on this issue. – Yours, etc,

CLAIRE WHITEHEAD,

Islandbridge,

Dublin 8.