On this date three years ago I was home for a holiday in Ireland. I had come #HomeToVote in the same sex marriage referendum. I sprung from my bed early that Saturday morning with a feeling of trepidation. Living in the Netherlands I had been spared the toxic horror of the six month, public trial that the LGBT community had been subjected to during the campaign. Having arrived home a couple of days before the vote, I had managed to haul my bones around Limerick for a lunchtime leafleting campaign; and an evening door to door campaign. There had been a tension in the air, but nonetheless an air of cautious optimism. An unverifiable inkling that the country might be about to improve.
And on that glorious morning as the voting tallies came trickling though, something incredible happened. The Yes side was winning by a landslide. It was the most spectacular triumph – an acknowledgement that we were citizens. It was astonishing and quite emotional.
Fast forward three years and here we are again. Except this time there is no excitement or anticipation. This time there is no air of celebration or hope with the Yes campaign. It’s down to one fact – the topic of this referendum is different. This time the topic is abortion.
The topic of marriage is an easier sell for a lot of people. Love is good. A wedding is usually a happy event. We like to celebrate commitment to each other.
True, the No side in the marriage campaign were bigots – vinegar lipped in their prejudice and spite. To this day I have yet to hear a valid reason why gay people should be denied access to the civil contract of marriage. I have heard persuasive arguments why the institution of marriage itself ought to be abolished for everyone. But none that justifies exclusion of a specific, law-abiding segment of the population.
Marriage equality was a big win for the nation. A righteous deed that was long overdue.
All the No campaigners in the marriage referendum are back for the abortion referendum – this time with bells on.
Abortion is a lot more complex as a topic. It involves women in with unwanted pregnancies in crisis situations. In Ireland to access abortion women are forced to travel – often alone – outside this jurisdiction to access legal healthcare that they are denied here. Or they are buying abortion pills online, taking them at home, without medical supervision, and risking 14 years in jail if they are caught. Some of these women have been raped. Some are carrying foetuses that cannot survive outside the womb. Some are teenagers. Some cannot afford a child at this point in their lives. Some are pregnant because their contraception failed. All are in crisis.
Abortion is not a happy event in the vast majority of cases, I would guess. There will be no cause to party if abortion is legalised. It will simply address a medical necessity and a reality. No cause for balloons and streamers.
Ireland’s constitution with its 8th Amendment holds pregnant women hostage. Unless they are at an immediate risk of death themselves, by continuing with the pregnancy the a termination is illegal – and as seen in the tragic, avoidable death of Savita Hallapanavar – sometimes not even then.
The venom with which this topic is being discussed is predictable yet still shocking. The misogyny of the No side is brutal. The woman with the crisis pregnancy is being ignored– they harp on about the human rights of twelve week old foetuses, as if this shuts down any and all discussion about the women carrying them. They prefer to ignore awkward facts like pregnant rape victims or women pregnant with babies that have a zero chance of survival outside the womb. Instead they discuss those lazy, murderous sluts, that are pretending to be mentally ill, killing babies because they are expensive (OK I am paraphrasing here – but their intent is obvious).
They claim that the ‘hard cases’ – the rape victims etc. – could have been dealt with in a different manner other than by repealing the blanket ban on abortion. Strange that they’ve only discovered a concern for these ‘hard cases’ in the last few weeks, despite having had thirty five years to address this.
Any discussion about a woman’s human rights is sidestepped.
‘Dead babies’ they shriek in reply.
The atmosphere in town is unpleasant and intense at present. It is not unusual to see the No campaigners howling abuse at people on the Yes side. I was called a ‘baby murderer’ by a swivel-eyed, lunatic bigot on a bike last week, for shouting ‘Vote Yes’ after he’d called the young woman handing out ‘Yes’ leaflets a ‘fucking abortionist’.
Last night was one of the final television ‘debates’ on the topic. The sinister figure of Katie Ascough appeared (I have written about her PREVIOUSLY) almost apoplectic in her ‘horror’ at how disgusting she found all the videos of abortions she had actively sought out, and voluntarily watched on YouTube. Silly Katie- had she any sense she’d be watching open heart surgery videos, as apparently they are a laugh riot.
I just want this to be over.
The result has to be Yes. Roll on Saturday.