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On The Issue Of Abortion In Ireland, You Cannot Be Both Pro-Choice And Anti-Choice

Perhaps it is my analytical mind, a beneficial side-effect of a career in the IT industry, but for me the question of abortion has a clear and logical answer. It should be legal in all circumstances to all persons of adult age, or to minors in crisis circumstances, once an agreed set of regulations have been implemented (a twenty week cut-off point seems reasonable to me but I have no fixed opinion on it; in any case the vast majority of procedures occur within fourteen weeks). However the illogical attitudes which surround the abortion debate can be seen in the mixed results from today’s Irish Times poll on the subject. The survey shows voting majorities in favour of legalising the termination of fetuses in cases of rape, incest or where there are health risks to the mother, including self-harm. However there are significant numbers in opposition to legalising the medical procedure in those far more numerous and usual circumstances where the woman is unable to cope with a child because of her age or circumstances (or simply because she doesn’t want to be a parent in the first place, a common situation the pollsters seem to have overlooked in favour of presenting women as infantile individuals lacking intelligent free will of their own).

The rank hypocrisy of people’s views on the issue of abortion, of how they mentally parse the questions around it, absolutely fucking infuriates me. Because of such double-thinking we have a bizarre situation where people judge it appropriate to “kill unborn babies” if they were conceived through rape but not through drunken one-night stands. It leads to a position where many believe that it is wrong to force a person in poor health to give birth but quite justified if she’s in poverty. Of course, some women – and men – simply don’t want to have children, whether in the moment or as a life-choice, and by accident find themselves in that situation. Who are we as strangers unaffected by their decisions to dictate how they should or should not behave in those circumstances?

I am a single male citizen with no children and no likelihood of having any. Should I, for the well-being of society as whole, be forced to donate my seed to some national fertility bank to ensure a continuous supply of future generations of tax-payers? Should my reproductive rights be up for debate by others in pursuit of some perceived common good? Do my testes belong to me or does the State have the right to declare constitutional authority over their reproductive functions? If that sounds exaggerated then why do some individuals demand collective control of the reproductive rights of our female citizens? Why should we be allowed a prurient interest – or investment – in their sexual behaviour, their fertility, their wombs? Why have we permitted the religious extreme, or those they influence, to enact a daily dramatisation of The Handmaid’s Tale in our pharmacies, clinics and hospitals?

This whole debate about abortion and degrees of abortion is madness. If we accept that abortion is acceptable in some reasonable circumstances then it is acceptable in all other reasonable circumstances. The same criteria applies to fetuses, at whatever stages of early gestation. How does the general public decide that the termination of one fetus is acceptable but the termination of another is not?

This one was conceived through incest? Kill it!

This one was conceived through a lack of contraceptive care? Birth it!

At least with anti-abortion or “pro-life” activists there is a basic and cohesive logic to their arguments, a principled belief that life begins at conception and is inviolate thereafter (unless you are an American subscriber to that opinion, in which case you may also hold the entirely contradictory view that adult transgressors may be “terminated” for certain capital offences). I can respect the uncompromising stand made against abortion by the people of (misguided) faith or ethics. What I detest is the duplicitous fudge which so often counters it.

Either you are pro-choice or pro-life. You cannot be both.

21 comments on “On The Issue Of Abortion In Ireland, You Cannot Be Both Pro-Choice And Anti-Choice

  1. It’s funny that most pro-lifers stop caring about the kid’s life right after they’re born.

  2. As usual you sum it up, a Shionnaigh. Kill this one, birth that one. The semi-anti-choice camp is full of contradictions.

  3. I’d say it’s not a camp, rather a diverse lot of people who are torn between a feeling that abortion is wrong and the emotions they feel at the repugnant thought of being forced to bear offspring in the context of rape, incest, suicide.
    I might be wrong but I’d say these people are closer to voting against abortion than for it.

    • Maybe so, Bradhar. But a vote against is a vote for forcing births on those who do not wish them. Though, you are right, the situation is full of contrasting – and sometimes contradictory – emotions.

  4. What Else Could I Do?’: Single Mothers and Infanticide, Ireland 1900-1950 by Clíona Rattigan, this book is worth reading in that it looks at 300 cases of mostly poor unwed women who were forced to kill their new- born. Ireland had abortion facilities if you were rich and back street if you were poor. Infanticide was often the result of not having any access to contraception of abortion.

  5. I have long maintained that neither Church nor state has the right to dictate what women do with their own bodies. Furthermore, if a woman is totally against abortion for personal religious, moral or ethical reasons, she will never have one. Problem solved. Pro-life supporters will never avail of whatever abortion rights are ever made available in Ireland
    The pro-life lobby is just one more example of people imposing their views on others. By what authority do they have the right have to do that?

  6. I’ve had abortions.
    the only soul and spirit in my body was me. I think this is hard for those who ruthlessly sentimentalize pregnancy and “life” to hear. But it’s true. There was just me, and no one else.

    peace to all the women and infants at Tuam.

  7. ar an sliabh

    Without a social system to adequately support a “pro-life” extreme, coupled with the physical damage and the emotional toll an unwanted pregnancy carries with it, abortion or infanticide will always be part of human existence, at least until some form of high-tech contraception is made available to all that from the dawn of fertility to its end is capable of regulating and bending it to the individual’s will. Allowing abortions is therefore an unfortunate necessity in the current social construct and at the current level of medical knowledge. I call it unfortunate, as I was an unwanted child (it is hard to convey the emotion connected to that experience to someone not in that position), but I do love my life and am happy I was not aborted or killed after birth. Any one who has taken a course in biology knows that once the cells of a fertilised egg start splitting and that organism begins to strive towards development, it is a living being. This no different for humans. So yes, something is being killed. Most of the time it is the start of a viable human being. No “misguided faith or ethics” here. Abortion is an ugly process, it should be seen for what it is, and all reasonable efforts undertaken to minimise its occurrence. Criminalisation, we all know is not a reasonable such effort. Which is what I do not like about most “pro-life” proponents, as they only advocate a prohibition. They do not engage in even an attempt to initiate systemic changes (to potentially at least mitigate the occurrences), and many even have issues with mere contraception. That is simply unrealistic.

    • Thanks for the Comment. Certainly the greatest tool against abortion is comprehensive sex education and contraception. Those two things cut down abortions more than anything else. That and a fair social welfare system, a more equitable society, etc. But contraception is the beginning point for any rational pro-life argument.

  8. Abortion is not ugly. It Isn’t beautiful either. It is sort of mundane, really. The ugliness comes from stigma and shame and fury and hate.
    but abortion as a physical experience is not ugly. and it doesn’t have to be as a social experiences, either.
    I was unplanned, which is not to say unwanted, but unplanned just the same, and I can tell you that my life is different in so many ways from friends of mine who lives were eagerly anticipated. And i have experienced some bitterness about that and the ad hoc improvisation that defined my future. It’s not a great way to grow up.
    some day when contraceptive tactics have evolved (and men govern their sperm with more intent than they have shown in the past) abortion may be seen as barbaric and ghastly, but so too may pregnancy and childbirth. there has been more than one proposal to incubate fetus outside the body.
    we just can’t tell, can we? how our attitudes towards our durty, impulsive & carnal bodies may determine what high tech approaches we take to changing reproduction.

    • Thanks, Elizabeth. I know what you mean from my own personal experiences.

    • Nicely said Elizabeth.

    • ar an sliabh

      All killing is ugly and barbaric, there simply is no other kind. I was abandoned at one of Ireland’s homes as a small child in the early to mid-sixties and it wasn’t fun, but I still preferred that to death. The hardships I have seen women and girls who had abortions endure emotionally and physically in my time of working in non-profit human charities hardly make it mundane, even in societies and groups of people where it is deemed completely acceptable. Actually I am somewhat taken aback by the callousness which is expressed here, and find it almost insulting to those I have known to suffer. Perhaps you have the strength to intellectualise this process, but most do not. It was not but a few weeks ago that one of the organisations I work with dealt with an attempted suicide of a woman on the anniversary of the prospective birthday of her aborted child. She was from a section of the populus in the U.S., where her “attachment” to her baby was met with great disbelief. Not everyone has your strength or conviction, even if they share your beliefs. Glossing over human suffering to a political end serves no one. The human crisis created by the prohibition of abortion is as real as that created by its commission. A supportive, nurturing, and continuous care system must be available to support both, those who did and those who did not abort their child under conditions that would be cause to force such a choice.

      • have you ever considered that your ideas about abortion create exactly the stigmatized atmosphere and hardships that make women endure the hardships you speak of?
        you’re not wrong that continuous care needs to be available for women regardless of their choice (most reproductive health care advocates worth their salt have struggled to make this a reality, against formidable odds) including well- meaning people like yourself that insist that abortion is “repuganant and barbaric”. That’s an environment you’re making there with your words. You haven’t spoken with women like myself that felt relief, I think. You should talk with them.

        • ar an sliabh

          The reality is unfortunately that someone is indeed getting killed. That is not a mere idea. There is a difference in stigmatising someone, by calling them a murderer, for instance, and realising that the procedure is a very serious process. Had I been scheduled to be born some twenty years later, for example, I have no doubts that I would not be here. Not that I know much about my mother, all I know is that she was an unwed mother in Ireland at a time that made one an outcast, and that she was very poor. It was the stigmas that induced abandonment and abortions then, and in part still do so today. I am not judging anyone for what they believe they have or had to do, and I do not blame my mother either. I also greatly respect you and your position, just to be clear. Again, not many people have your strength, and in my line of work you rarely encounter strong people, they usually find a way out of their difficulties. I cannot say I have experienced that stigmatisation had all that much to do with the emotions I have observed over time, most of them appeared to be based on a profound perception of loss (although I did spent most of my time in the U.S. in California, where the practice is generally accepted quite well). Outside of work, I have met a few women who went through the procedure as young women or even girls, and who saw it through alright. I have not met anyone like yourself, however, who felt nothing but relief. But then, based on my life experience, I can imagine situations where that could very well be indeed the case. That is one of the many reasons I believe the 8th needs to be repealed. However, I also believe it needs to be done in a matter that is sensible and considers the individual, the totality of her situation, and the seriousness of the potential repercussions. It definitely needs to be administered by neutral parties that are entirely focused on the individual’s welfare and not on any religion or other ideology.

  9. If you can only be pro choice or anti choice does that mean you support a woman’s choice to terminate a fetus right up to term?

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