As we get closer and closer to the vote on the Eighth Amendment, one thing is conspicuously missing. And that’s men. Where are the men?
I know many guys who are pro-choice. Some times they are vocal about it, but often only when asked. When it comes to social media, encouraging people to vote, sharing content, or marching they are notable by their absence. Now that’s not to say that all men are like this (#notallmen) but it’s noticeable. It’s clear there’s a sense this a women’s issue, a thought piece, some abstract notion that doesn’t impact men, and therefore it’s not their place. And this is a problem. In order for the 8th to be repealed, we need the support of men.
A few days ago I was trawling Twitter, and I came across this thread from author, Sarah Griffin, and it was jarring.
yesterday on the train I overheard 3 Maynooth students, young men, discussing the 8th. it was pretty terrifying. they had been at a party & watched as their intensely pro-life mate 'debated some girl into the ground' about it.
— sarah griff (@griffski) February 21, 2018
It’s something that I’ve often pondered. Have we created a system where to be right is to simply force the other person into submission? Regardless of the true implications, or legal/medical advice. In this instance this person “won”, because they were simply more verbose. It was an exercise. A game. Not something to be taken seriously – despite the very serious, and very real consequences, of what they are debating. Sure, debating is fun/ I enjoy it myself but this isn’t some game made up by college students, this is law. This is reality. This isn’t fun.
for the other two, one in particular, it was a case that women shouldn't be allowed have them when they want. they admired their pro life mate for having a go at that girl at the party, 'his debating skills' particularly.
— sarah griff (@griffski) February 21, 2018
When writing this piece, I reached out to several men – but only one replied. Writer and weekly columnist with avondhupress.ie, Donal O’Keeffe shared some of my same observations. “A recurring comment I’ve heard from a couple of men is that the Eighth Amendment doesn’t affect men, and therefore men shouldn’t have a say in the upcoming referendum. I understand the point they’re making, but with respect, that’s like saying heterosexuals should have abstained from voting in the marriage equality referendum. That’s not the way democracy works, lads, and it’s not the way universal suffrage works either.”
And this seems to be the problem. There is a disconnect. In many ways men aren’t directly impacted, so it’s merely something to be thought about and cast aside. It’s not a constant lurking weight hanging over their heads. This may seem dramatic, but it’s not. Ask around. Ask the women that you are friends with how they’d feel if faced with an unplanned pregnancy. It’s topic that’s constantly discussed by women, as we know we’d bear the brunt. We’re the ones who are questioned by pharmacists, and doctors. Who shell out for pills, and implants, and coils, and whatever else. Our bodies get poked and prodded, our consent can be stripped by the State. Medical information withheld and blatant lies told to our faces. The ones who stressing after every encounter. While the 8th does impact us all. There’s a very real imbalance at play. The worst part is that this imbalance is enshrined in law.
DYK that the majority of women who access abortions have been using a method of contraception that failed? 51.2% of women who accessed abortion services in @bpas1968 clinics in 2016 were using contraception #FebFacts4Choice https://t.co/4SqhfUj4sF @repealeight @NWCI @MSFCIreland
— Doctors for Choice (@Doctors4Choice) February 4, 2018
For Donal, this disparity is obvious. “It is…fair to say that the Eighth Amendment is exclusively unjust toward women: there’s no corresponding article in the constitution telling men what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. As a man, my bodily autonomy is an absolute given. The State does not tell me that my owning of my own body is conditional. And that is what the Eighth Amendment dictates to girls and women. The Eighth Amendment tells girls and women “You are full citizens BUT. You own your own bodies UNTIL. Your human rights are inalienable EXCEPT.”
This conditional state that women live in is dangerous. It’s led to people, being put through the most horrific ordeals. Ones that almost like something from a horror movie. Pregnancies are terminated in Ireland all the time. Some times, such as in the cases of ectopic pregnancies they are legal, but often times they are not. By binding the hands of healthcare professionals, the State has effectively created a system where medical best practice goes out the window as physicians are constrained too. This has led to untold hardship. Ones which Donal feels are a repetitive jumble.
Did you know that the average rate of unsafe abortion is estimated to be more than four times higher in countries with more restrictive abortion laws than in countries with less restrictive laws? #FebFacts4Choice @repealeight (@WHO, A global database of abortion laws, 2017)
— Doctors for Choice (@Doctors4Choice) February 17, 2018
“The Eighth Amendment has given us tragedy upon tragedy. Savita Halappanavar is a name we can never be allowed to forget, but the Eighth Amendment gave us an alphabet soup of horrors, with women and girls known only by letters, A, B,C,D,P,X and Y suffering a denial of autonomy no man can ever imagine.
You might remember Ms X. A 14 year old victim of statutory rape, she was injuncted by the High Court from travelling abroad for a termination.You might remember Ms Y. Against the express wishes of her grieving family, she was kept artificially alive because the doctors treating her feared jail if they didn’t do all they could to keep her unborn child alive. You might remember Ms P. A teenage refugee, the survivor of rape, she was force-fed by tube and kept alive until she could be carved open by c-section and delivered of her rapist’s child. Hard cases make bad law, but the reverse is true too. The Eighth Amendment is bad law and it makes hard cases, at least twelve a day, every day.”
DYK that a 2012 study showed that a majority (75%) of Irish GPs & GPs-in-training support the provision of abortion services in IRL in certain circumstances? 25% for limited circumstances & 51% for "any woman who chooses" #FebFacts4Choice @repealeight https://t.co/a1M8SAJ94s
— Doctors for Choice (@Doctors4Choice) February 9, 2018
These cases are abhorrent, and sent shockwaves through Ireland. Even today, reading the details you can’t help but feel overwhelmed. But this is part of the problem. Why are we able to pore over the details of the X case. Why is it that the way the State treated her is what’s remembered, rather than a child being helped and the perpetrator of said crimes punished. Instead, what was a very personal assault became very public property. We all shake our heads in disgust, but some of us don’t do any more. And we need everyone to do more. If we truly mean when we say “never again”, then we need the support of everyone. Every vote counts.
“The Eighth Amendment turns what should a private matter of healthcare for women into a discussion about the fundamental nature of our democracy. The Eighth Amendment tells Irish women they are not equal citizens. If one of us is not equal, then none of us is equal. If just over half of all Irish citizens are not equal, then our Republic is a Republic in name only. And that’s a problem for men every bit as much as for women.”
There needs to be an acknowledgement from everyone that it’s not up to us to decide what happens to another person when they seek healthcare. Staying silent on this issue, or worse, not voting on the issue asserts that you are happy to be stripping people of the power to make decisions in their healthcare. This might seem harsh, or unfair, but it’s true. By staying silent you are effectively supporting the status quo. The status quo is dangerous.
You don’t need to be pro-abortion, to be pro-choice. And the 8th doesn’t just impact on access to abortion. It’s much wider than that. If we want people to be able to be actively involved in their own healthcare, and for healthcare professionals to be able to do their jobs safely then we need the 8th Amendment to be repealed. In order to do that, we need the voices of men alongside the voices of women.
Repeal the Eighth.