Today is a historic moment in the Republic of Ireland. The referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution—the one (written by men) declaring that a woman and her fetus have an equal right to life. The one that has driven women for decades to make difficult, lonely, painful, shame-filled journeys to other countries to terminate pregnancies.
It was meant to ban Irish abortions. In reality, it only banned them on Irish soil.
As you might expect from a country under the thrall of an extraordinarily reactionary Church for centuries, Ireland has some of the most repressive laws on the planet WRT women’s reproductive rights. Basically: a woman has no rights when it comes to what goes on inside her uterus. The Evangelical Taliban in my country looks to these laws with drooling envy.
The hashtag #Hometovote is trending across Twitter as women (and men, to be sure) are traveling back to the old country to cast their votes—some No, but the preponderance Yes. Bankok, Los Angeles, Stockholm, Toronto, Hanoi, Sydney—some booked their tickets as soon as the referendum was announced. Some, unable to fly home themselves, have offered to pay the fare for others able to go.
The stories told in the length of each tweet (just cast your eye here, if you’re wondering) are at once uplifting and heartbreaking. The #Repealthe8th movement originated out of sorrow, following multiple cases where women (and girls) were forced to carry deformed or dying fetuses, or bear children resulting from rape; where women died from dangerous pregnancies because abortions were denied them.
I see that the opponents are waving the false flags that we see here; if abortion becomes legal then hardly any pregnancy will come to term. Blah, blah, blah. There’s a lot of talk from the Church about the sanctity of life and women’s sacred role in it. This ignores the fact (noted above) that Irish women still get abortions; they just have to leave the country to do so, or seek back-alley providers, as women have done for centuries. And it’s not a good look for an institution that for decades brought the Irish the Magdalene laundries and endemic sexual abuse of Irish children by Irish priests who were protected by the entire Church infrastructure.
(Look—I’m not anti-Church. Entirely. I’m anti institutions that do not accept accountability for their crimes, and which still think they’re living in the Twelfth Century, and that we should join them there. I am of the opinion that they should either catch up to us here in the Twenty-first, or shut the fuck up. This includes the Republican party.)
If the referendum passes, it’s likely that the Dáil will enact legislation allowing abortion under some conditions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy. This is hardly the abortions-on-every-corner state the Noists are predicting. I get it—allowing women to make decisions about their own reproductive plans is a massive threat to the Patriarchy. Getting the vote in the first place was bad enough; #Repealthe8th is another shove at the pillars of the Temple of Men (by Delilah, not Samson).
But—whether it’s this time or the next, or the one after that—it’s coming. Vote, my sisters (and my brothers). Be brave and proud. Make history.