This morning, all over the world, people woke up to just another Friday. They probably went to work thinking about their weekend plans and counting down the hours until 5.30.
But not in Ireland.
This morning, Friday 25th May 2018, people all over Ireland got up and headed to the polls to take part in one of the most historic votes of the century – the repeal of the 8th. For those that don’t know, the Eight Amendment states that an unborn child has an equal right to life as the mother. Put simply, it bans abortions in Ireland, even in the case of rape, incest and foetal abnormality.
The topic of abortion has always been one which has been shrouded in taboo. But in Ireland the taboo goes deeper, with many women openly admitting that when they took that plane to England to go through with the procedure they told no one, not their friends, siblings and certainly not their parents. They felt as if they had to go through with it alone. The NHS recently estimated that 10 women from Ireland make this trip a day – that’s over 3,500 women a year – if that doesn’t point to the fact that Ireland needs to have legal abortion then I don’t know what does.
Writing this, I am reminded about the time I took part in the historic women’s march last year, which saw women around the world come together to march for their rights. I was part of the London march, and somehow in the mass of people, my sisters and I ended up in the mist of the Irish pro-choice marchers. I’ll never forget how much passion they had in their voices whilst chanting “my body – my choice” over and over again.
It’s a heavily debated topic, and both sides are equally passionate about their views. Personally, I believe that a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy should be hers and hers alone. It should not be decided for her, not by anyone. I remember going through the standard pregnancy scare once (luckily I wasn’t pregnant) but I remember not being too worried as I knew there were systems in place in the UK which I could use. I can’t begin to imagine how different that experience would have been had I been living in a country where abortion was illegal. I also remember my boyfriend at the time saying that had I been pregnant he would “make me have an abortion”. I don’t think he was being particularly serious, and had it come to it he may have acted differently, but it was the narrative that stuck with me, the casual way he shrugged his shoulders when he said it. It was part of a well-known narrative – women not having a choice. It’s a narrative that every woman is familiar with and a narrative that this historic vote in Ireland is trying so hard to change.
I’ve got friends who’ve had abortions, I’ve spoken to women who have been through the process and are grateful that we have the systems in place for them to do that. It makes me so angry that some women around the world don’t have that choice. The scale and the importance of this vote can be seen just by looking at the amount of women who have flown back to Ireland specifically to vote. For many of them this is the most historic vote which will take place in their lifetime.
I know I’ve said this multiple times, but as I sit glued to the TV with my fingers crossed for a yes vote, I’m once again asking – isn’t it finally time that women had control over their own rights?