Content note: hostility to agency, anti-choice rhetoric, suicide
So, it’s happened. The Dáil has passed the second stage of Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill by 138 votes to 24. While I’m pleased that our elected representatives have finally ensured that pregnancy need no longer be a death sentence for a woman, I don’t really feel like celebrating. I’ve outlined in an old post why I believe this legislation does not go far enough, but having reflected on it more in the meantime, I’ve come to the conclusion that, not only is this legislation too narrow in its remit, it is actively harmful. It is too restrictive, too punitive, with its terms almost feeling like an Inquisition of the Pregnant.
The reprehensible section 22, which recommends a jail sentence of FOURTEEN YEARS for those who have terminations outside of the law absolutely needs to go. It is cruel, inhumane and cements abortion stigma in the law of the land. It conjures up for me a vision of a future where a suicidal pregnant woman who has been denied an abortion, but survives an attempt to take her own life is convicted under this law because the pregnancy was ended. It paves the way for a repeat of the horrendous story of Bei Bei Shuai in Indiana, USA. Even if this law is *never* fully enforced, its mere existence it creates a climate of fear and shame, and places women who have abortions outside the terms of this legislation into a category alongside some of the most violent, most heinous criminals out there.
A referendum needs to be held to repeal the Eighth Amendment. We absolutely need to legislate for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities and for pregnancies arising from rape and incest, that’s a given; I’d go further, and argue that we need to legislate for abortion on request. In my ideal world, a person who was pregnant and no longer wanted to be should be able to end their pregnancy safely and legally.
In an Irish context, given our oppressive history and long-standing hostility to abortion and reproductive justice, the success of this bill is a massive breakthrough, I accept this. However, I’d have a bit more of a spring in my step this evening if this legislation was less, well, anti-choice.