In the run up to the referendum on the 8th Amendment, we keep hearing things are going to get nasty – but do they have to?
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to the back teeth of people saying it’s going to be battleground. Things are going to get nasty. Get vicious. Get dirty. From some there’s almost a glint in their eye as they say it. As if they’ve been waiting for this day to come and now they can unleash. But who do this help? Does it help the Irish people who are travelling every day? Does it help the Irish people who are ordering pills online? Does it help the Irish people who are struggling to make the right decisions for their families right now? Does it help us to achieve the outcome we’re hoping for? No.
"I think it will probably get quite nasty" – Peter Boylan discusses the mood surrounding the debate on the 8th Amendment #pknt.
— Pat Kenny Newstalk (@PatKennyNT) October 19, 2017
What we need now is for people to come together. For divisive tactics to be left aside, and to focus on education around the 8th Amendment. I know this is tiring. It takes patience, and work. But remember that all of us have changed our minds about something in the past. Doing so is a sign of learning and progress. It’s likely many people have not sat down and talked through the realities of the 8th and all its implications. We change our minds by having rational discussions and doing research. Encourage people to do said research and have such conversations.
The 8th Amendment debate, whichever side you're on, is going to be absolutely vicious. Most divisive issue in modern Irish history.
— Jimmy Darmody (@fiachramacs) August 6, 2016
How to Deal with Discussions on the 8th Amendment
- Getting nasty solves nothing – I feel like we need to go back to childhood basics on this one, but name-calling, aggression and generally being overbearing never won anyone over.
- Stop perpetuating the cycle – if you feel yourself being whipped up into a fury step back and take a breath. It’s easy to respond quickly when riled up but it’ll never play out how you hope. The reality is there are even more reading what you post and not engaging. Try to remember that what you post doesn’t just impact the person you are talking to but also everyone else reading it.
- Listen – there are lots of people out there who haven’t made up their minds, or might be unsure of what’s happening and are leaning towards retaining the status quo out of fear. Take the time to actually listen to their concerns, and try to address them as best you can.
- Don’t make assumptions – ageism/sexism/racism and pretty much every other “ism” is rife in this debate. But the reality is that there are many people who have been fighting this fight (publicly and privately) for decades. Don’t assume that just because some is “old” they are anti-choice, or because some is “young” they are pro-choice. Don’t assume because someone is religious they’re going to vote a certain way. If we’re to repeal the 8th, then we need people from all sectors of society to support the campaign.
- Don’t call people out – for various reasons not everyone is going to be as vocal in their support. And that’s perfectly acceptable. People shouldn’t be berated for not changing their profile pic, or not sharing content, or Tweeting furiously. At the end of the day, what matters is how people vote. So conversations are a much better gauge than your Facebook newsfeed.
And I’m not calling for a silencing – by all means make as much noise as you humanly can. Protest. Chant. Write letters. Send emails. Donate. Volunteer. Call radio stations. Bang drums. And take to the street. Agitate against the 8th Amendment with every fibre of your being, through every channel and every avenue. But do so with passion not vitriol. Whipping things up into a frenzy is not going to win this campaign. It’s not going to make the next few months any easier. And it’s certainly not going to win support from the wider population. What we need now is calm. We need conversations, we need to be offering support. Counteract misinformation with the truth. Share stories. If someone asks a questions don’t deride them. If someone presents a differing opinion to yours ask them why? And present them with the facts. We know presenting the facts works. Again. And again.
Don’t know, where to start? These can help.
What is an abortion?
What is the 8th Amendment?
When is the Referendum?
How do I know if I’m eligible to vote?
How do I find my local TD?
What was the Citizens Assembly?
How can I volunteer?
How do I find abortion rights groups in my local area?
Some pro-choice groups: Doctors for Choice, Repeal Coalition, Abortion Rights Campaign