I lose my temper approximately thirty-five times a day. It’s a thing with me. I’m not proud of it, and I disperse it as safely as I can, but the fact of the matter is that things aggravate me quickly and I have a short fuse. There’s a difference, though, between my short fuse and my anger. I lose my temper a lot but few things in life make me brain-meltingly angry; it takes a while for things to build up to that point, you know. There are a few things, however, that are instant triggers and where my general ‘Live and Let Live’ approach doesn’t so much fall by the wayside as get ambushed, mugged and left for dead at the mercy of the elements.
One of those triggers is a woman’s choice to terminate an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy. I have made a point of reading all the points of view, and I have listened to all the arguments and nothing has convinced me that anyone else should have a say in whether or not I continue a pregnancy other than me, and possibly, the father of what will in time become a child.
To have a hope of understanding what I’m saying here, you need to know that I’m not writing this as a militant feminist or man-hater. I’m not a rabble-rousing hussy and I’ve never been on a Slut Walk – though I admire all who have and think they’re an excellent idea. I quite often aspire to their courage and audacity. No, the only thing you need to know about me is that I am a thirty-five year old woman in full time employment, with a husband and two children. And I have had two abortions, one after each full-term pregnancy. You also need to know that I made the decision to have each termination on my own, and I never doubted myself once. Unlike many women living in Ireland, I understood that I had options, never felt the need to apologise for them and didn’t believe that a pregnancy had to result in an addition to the family. Nor did I feel that it was something that a woman should be ashamed of, or be made to feel ashamed of. In my world view, abortion is a Human Right – yes, in capitals – both for the pregnant woman and that woman’s partner/family/unborn child.
Here’s the thing: I trust myself to know what I am capable of dealing with in life and I am, as a relatively intelligent human being, comfortable with my abilities and strengths, as well as my many flaws and short-comings. As, for example, a legislating politician, the chances are high that you have never met me and, let’s face it, this is unlikely to change. I don’t go to a lot of parliamentary functions and you probably don’t hang out around Oldcourt Park very much. It’s cool; you’ll get no argument from me on that score, after all, we all have our own lives to live. But there, of course, is the crux of the matter. I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to eat for lunch, never mind passing laws that could reasonably be said to dictate the next eighteen years of your life. It’s wrong, it’s inexcusable and I wouldn’t stand for it if someone tried to pull that stunt on you.
Come on, think of it for a moment with me. What would you say if someone had the outright cheek to tell you how you should spend your money? How would you respond to someone who inflicted mental anguish on you for nine months or more? Would you feel good if someone told you that your daughter must continue with a pregnancy even though her baby would die within hours of being born? How would you react if someone told you that you weren’t allowed to buy your own house, or go on holiday, or put food on the table for you and your spouse? What would you say to the person who says that your sister can’t follow her desire to go to college but, equally, she should be ashamed to be on social welfare because she can’t get a job, and she can’t afford childcare? Do you believe that all people are emotionally, physically and financially capable of raising a child?
To my mind, when you deny a woman the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, this is what you are telling her. The Irish Government blatantly says “you are not worthy of sufficient respect or even thought and we do not care about your hopes, your dreams or your future. We know better than you and we will force our will on you whether that means you live your life in poverty, or depression, or if you pass these conditions on to your child. You have no say in your future because you made a mistake and got pregnant and because of some archaic values that the Catholic church drummed into us for years, you will be made to suffer, even if an alternative option exists.” I suppose this should not be a surprise to people who’ve watched Ireland internal record on Women’s Rights generally. Don’t get fooled for a second by our international Human Rights record; if it’s a case of sending a UN peace-keeping force, the Irish are all over it and get endless praise. If it’s promoting better health care or standard of living for its women-folk, or making amends for even some of the cruelties of the past, though, you’re out of luck.
Let me break it down for you a step further: denying a woman easy access to abortion services when she needs them is on the same footing as rape. If rape is about power and control – the forcing of a woman against her will – then making, or keeping, abortion illegal is the same thing. No human being should be made to carry a child to term that they do not want to bear. It’s cruelty, plain and simple. There are myriad reasons why a woman may feel that she doesn’t want to continue a pregnancy and the simply fact is that they are nobody else’s business. End of story.
Most importantly, it’s not just about a woman carrying a pregnancy to term; it’s as much about what happens after that. What comes of pregnancy, after all, is a life, a new human being. Isn’t that human being entitled to certain things too? Because being born is no guarantee of a good life, a good education, health care or, more basic yet, love, shelter, warmth or food. Just because someone in the State senate or the Oireachteas demands you be born doesn’t mean they’re going to give a damn about you when you arrive. So this, ultimately, is my point. Being pro-life is not the same as being Pro-birth. If we believe every foetus is a human life, and that every life is sacred, we must build a society where everyone has access to everything they need in order to live a good life. If we can’t do that, either as politicians or parents, I believe we need to reassess our standpoints. In the meantime, legislate for things that are your business, like crooked bankers and Church authorities ignoring the laws of the countries they practice in. This will help the country. Let women’s conscience decide what they do with their own bodies.