Ireland’s Anachronism (Trigger warning)
An account has emerged this week of a woman being subjected to egregious misconduct by the HSE. Ireland which is notorious for its archaic abortion laws has only reinforced what many already know: They oppress women, trans men & some genderqueer people with impunity. This latest incident just underscores the necessity of reform to the 8th amendment at the very least.
A woman who was impregnated by rape was denied access to abortion by the state despite being suicidal. The ‘Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Act Of 2013‘ which was introduced following the negligence of staff at a Galway hospital which subsequently led to the death of Savita Halappanavar permits an abortion under the circumstances that a woman’s life is in danger, including suicide. However a provision in the bill states that the abortion is contingent on the agreement of all three physicians; there is also no barrier in the act precluding the delivery of the baby when it is capable to do so. In this case, two psychiatrists determined she was in fact suicidal and should be offered access to abortion, but an obstetrician disagreed on the grounds that the baby could be delivered pursuant to the act. The woman however sought an abortion when she was 8 weeks pregnant, but the state forced her to remain pregnant for 17 weeks. The woman then went on a hunger and fluid strike but the state intruded going to the high court to get a order preventing her from starving herself. The baby was then delivered between 23 & 25 weeks by caesarian section.
This constitutes a gross violation of human rights and highlights the prevalent maltreatment Irish women, genderqueer people and trans men face at the hands of the state and the inherent flaws present within the ‘Protection Of Life During Pregnancy Act Of 2013′.
Because of the provisions in this law, it is ripe for abuse, as this horrific example testifies to. When you have an obstetrician who is not qualified to assess someone’s mental health overruling the verdict of two psychiatrists, you have a major problem. It is clear that in Ireland when a woman or trans man becomes pregnant they relinquish their rights and become subordinate to the foetus in the eyes of the state.
This is compounded if 1. You’re impoverished, as the cost of travelling abroad to access abortion is not affordable & 2. You’re an asylum seeker, as you must be granted permission by the government to travel abroad. In both cases subservience to the state is increased.
Denying women, gender queer people and trans men reproductive freedom and autonomy over their personal body is deplorable enough, but coercing a suicidal woman to go ahead with the pregnancy is bordering on moral turpitude.
How many more indictments of this callous law do we need before the government wake up? Inaction is tantamount to complicity.
A United Nations panel has concluded that Ireland’s laws on abortion are restrictive, stringent and oppressive. They exhorted the government to provide legislation to decriminalise abortion.
Currently a woman, genderqueer person or trans man who unlawfully has an abortion can face up to 14 years in prison. Unlawful abortion includes cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormality and serious risks to the health of the mother.
The government are abdicating their responsibility to protect Irish women, genderqueer people and trans men; they are fundamentally imperilling Irish women, genderqueer people and trans men by perpetuating this odious law.
It is incumbent on them to provide a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment – anything less than that is inexcusable.
This debacle is a stain on the great country of Ireland – it should sicken us all to the core. We cannot purport to be a humane country and deny one half of the population its rights.
It’s long overdue that we repeal the 8th Amendment and join other European countries in treating women, genderqueer people and trans men with dignity and respect.
They’re not radical concepts after all.