Abortion Repeal Reveals Greener Pastures

By Jack O'Dwyer

Image from: togetherforyes.ie | This is the logo for one of the main “pro-repeal” movements in Ireland

Image from: togetherforyes.ie | This is the logo for one of the main “pro-repeal” movements in Ireland

Let’s talk about role reversal. The most interesting thing about role reversal is that it always seems to happen when you least expect it. It’s always surprising -- in varied aspects. Sometimes you’re standing in the shoes of someone across the table. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where what you once thought was on the rise has now taken a sharp decline. In essence, the larger the circumstances, the bigger the upheaval.

Now, imagine that happens on a global, international scale. Imagine a place you thought was once entirely based on the notion of equal liberty finds itself almost archaically behind the curve.

That’s right. I’m talking about Ireland’s Abortion Referendum repeal.

Originally, it was known as the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland. It was officially enacted in 1983 -- roughly thirty years ago -- but abortion had been a crime in the country since the late 1800s under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861. However, this new particular piece of legislation made legal action possible against those who attempted the procedure. Call it an official memo of sorts. It was introduced the year prior in November, was approved by 67% of voters, and then signed into law in October.

The biggest supporters of this were the Fianna Fáil, a center-right political party also known as “Fianna Fáil – An Páirtí Poblachtach” or “Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party”, the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign (PLAC), and, obviously, the Catholic patriarchy hierarchy. It was opposed by Ireland’s political left, namely the Labour Party which has been described as democratic socialist.

Essentially, this amendment was supposed to recognize “the right to life of the unborn” and, barring any kind of life threatening circumstances, will always work to enforce that right. This could be overruled if the woman was in severe danger or suicidal. Afterward, a proposed Twelfth Amendment attempted to get rid of this “loophole”, but was promptly rejected. The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments made abortion available to women if they travelled abroad for the procedure. Another attempt to outlaw the suicide condition was made in 2002, but again was just barely rejected. Predictably, not everyone has supported the repeal of the ban, despite the rather poetic 66% turnout in favor.

So, what changed? Well, the country has certainly experienced a change of heart and a departure from its historically -- but not traditionally, as this pagan would point out -- strict Catholic values. Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage via popular vote in 2015. This became the Thirty-fourth amendment to the constitution and started being enforced in November of that year. I remember seeing the commercials for the campaign, my favorite being the younger generation purposely bringing the older generation together to vote “yes”. I guess you could say that the cheese-dust colored spray tan shadow on the United States’ horizon has become a proverbial boogeyman to others.

The recent sociopolitical climate both domestic and abroad has all but completely destroyed the confidence most US citizens have in our safety inside the country -- especially those of us who are less privileged than your average Republican. Many have been looking to escape to safety in other countries like Ireland and quite a few of them consider the overturn of the Eighth Amendment to be the last of a series of hurdles to make the country ideal. I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be among them, having been born a natural citizen through my father. For me, as it is for many, the saying “If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough!” rings eerily true.

Personally, from the accounts I’ve seen on either side, I’m overjoyed by the end of the “out-of-state” abortion era. That whole situation feels like a contemporary comparison of the way it still works here. I’m sure many women have been made aware of given the ridiculous rules and standards for a practice to even think of offering services related to terminating a pregnancy. I wish there was more to say here that involved a triumphant passion, but in truth I’m more disenchanted and angry than anything else. After all, it’s 2018 all over the world except for where I live. It isn’t irrational to be upset if the world around you refuses to catch up with everyone else. If anti-choice laws were a thing of the 80’s, why are they still active now? Each day spent staring down the street of my current neighborhood is like staring down the barrel aimed toward civil rights and legislative reform. It must be embarrassing, really. Ireland, commonly heralded as the Catholic country, has a better grasp of the vital separation between church and state than a country founded on freedom from such persecution.

Having read this far, it probably won’t surprise you that this isn’t the first time Ireland has been ahead of the curve -- especially when it comes to feminist values. There have been two female presidents so far: Mary Robinson, a senator, and Mary McAleese, a professor at Trinity College. Both are pretty cool ladies, by the way. After her term as president, Robinson did work for the UN and serviced other international issues like climate change. McAleese campaigned for the legalization of same-sex marriage, referring to it as a human rights issue. If you like this, you’ll love the strong words she has for the church. So far, the United States has only had one female major party nominee. She went on to win the popular vote. However, thanks to another political relic we keep around for who knows what reason, we’ve now got a guy who enabled an STD outbreak in his own state as our vice president.

You’ll have to humor me with this bit of druidic wisdom, but trees that do not bend in the wind are often the ones to break. Nobody wants to be around falling trees, dear reader. It seems that the pastures beyond our wall are in fact, dare I say, greener.