On Thursday 11 July, Ireland passed an abortion law legalising abortions for women if a woman’s life is under threat.
The critical part of the legalisation bill that I take issue with is the specification that a woman’s life must be threatened by the continuation of the pregnancy, including by threat of suicide, and that neither rape nor a woman’s values, interests and wants are given any consideration in the matter.
How positive a step towards women’s rights has the Irish government made if it considers death to be the only valid release clause from an unwanted pregnancy? By its own words, the state is content to withhold the power of a woman to control what happens to her own body to the point that she resorts to suicide as a final act of control. This is an act of a government that has no respect for its women.
Anti-abortionists need to recognise that suicide is not the only way a woman’s life can be destroyed by an unwanted pregnancy, and that failure to acknowledge this fact is a failure to acknowledge the value and personhood of women.
Imagine a medical student. She is in her first year of university when she is brutally raped and subsequently falls pregnant. Suddenly, any plans or aspirations she may have had – to finish her degree, begin her career, help hundreds of sick people, and start on the road to achieving any number of anticipated life-goals – are blown out of the water. The life she would have had is terminated, for better or worse, before a physiological threat to her life even enters the picture.
On top of this, this woman then has to face a number of oft unappreciated, sometimes grim, realities of pregnancy.
When carrying a foetus, a woman’s body is no longer her own, it becomes unpredictable, even uncooperative. She may get nauseous for weeks on end, feel exhausted, physically and mentally, her changed body may well prevent her from doing many of the things that she finds important or enjoyable, she might even lose her job.
She then faces uncountable hours of labour, the threat of post-natal depression, or other, non-life-threatening consequences of childbirth. But most importantly of all, she has to take responsibility for a human life, even if this takes the form of putting that child up for adoption.
Even with the smoothest of pregnancies, the changes it wreaks on the mother’s life will stay with her for ever. To assume that the threat posed by pregnancy to a woman can be such a simple, black and white, life or death calculation is insulting and sexist.
Historically men have been permitted, if not encouraged, to take out threats to their valued way of life, whether in the form of a household intruder or a war-time enemy. It is viewed as a necessary and sometimes honourable act, even if it means harming an unwitting assailant.
Yet when the threat is to a woman’s valued way of life in the form of an unwanted pregnancy, the threat is ignored and the woman is refused powers to protect herself. This sends the misogynistic message that a woman’s only real purpose is as a mother, and her life could not possibly have as much value and meaning to herself and society as that of the undeveloped foetus.
It is time opponents of abortion realise that the debate surrounding the legalisation of abortion is not simply a question about the biological health of the mother, or the imagined potential of the foetus. It is about the complexities of a human life, and respecting a woman’s intelligence, autonomy and desire for fulfilment as having equal status and complexity as any man’s.
Irish laws and Catholic church and political cowardice kill women in Ireland
The forces in Ireland who have blocked the right to have an abortion in Ireland are now scurrying to try and cover up their responsibility for the death of the young woman in Galway. It is not an attractive sight. Cowardice and hypocrisy are everywhere. What should we think about this?
On this blog we have explained that the Catholic church is the dominant church of capitalism. It was once the church of feudalism but it adjusted when capitalism became dominant. However it kept many of the most backward elements of its old traditions. Amongst these are its male dominated anti women policies. It believes that women are inferior to men. They cannot become popes, cardinals, bishops, priests. Part of this is that this male dominated hierarchy wants to control women and this includes women’s bodies. And this includes telling them what they can do and cannot do about their reproductive rights.
In Ireland the capitalist class were and are weak. They have needed and depended on the Catholic church to support it. In return for this the Catholic church have managed to accrue enormous power in that society, running the schools and hospitals and intimidating the majority of the politicians. So laws remained in place which allowed the health system to continue to be ruled by the all male Catholic anti women hierarchy. This is why this poor women died in Galway.
Every politician that voted to keep these Catholic anti women laws in place which enforce women to do the bidding of the all male Catholic hierarchy is a disgrace. They have blood on their hands. They should be drummed out of office. These laws have to be put off the books and these bishops put in their place.
But what about the membership of the Catholic church. We have said on this blog that we cannot understand how any progressive thinking person could belong to this church. We stand by this. We see the evidence of our position everywhere. The church’s right wing policies on the world economy where it unconditionally supports capitalism, its position on women’s rights, the degeneration of its internal life with its epidemic of sexual abuse, this is a rotten right wing corrupt organization. No progressive person should belong to it.
We understand that people have been in this organization their whole lives and their ancestors before them. We understand that the Catholic church has enormous power with its buildings, its full time apparatus, its art and music, and its insistence that only it can bring the child into the world and send the dying out of the world if they are to have a chance of not “going to hell.” and “burning there forever.” However we stand firm. We do not think that any progressive thinking person should be in this extremely reactionary organization.
For those who cannot bring themselves to leave we have this to say. It is utterly unacceptable to stay in this organization without fighting within it for change. Such changes have to include equality of the sexes, the right to elect the full time apparatus, the right to full discussion and to speak out at all the gatherings of this organization.
Either leave it or change it. If neither of these options are taken then members of this organization are also responsible for the death of this poor woman in Galway and all the women who die in childbirth and due to lack of access to contraception and abortion.
In closing we which to extend our admiration and support to Clare Daly TD and Joan Collins TD for moving their bill in the Dail to legislate on the X case. They have shown leadership on this issue. They are heroines. If the rest of the members of the Dail had acted as they did this woman would be alive today.