Should Ireland repeal the 8th amendment? Students have their say: Yes versus No

In 1983, the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution placed a ban on abortion in Ireland. Last week, the 4th annual March for Choice took place.

We posed the question to two students: should Ireland repeal the 8th amendment? Eoghan Scott and Fiona Larkin go head to head representing each side of the debate.

 

No

Fiona Larkin argues that protecting the life of the unborn is of prime importance

 

It seems that today we’re living in a society that demands choice. In many ways, it’s a day and age where we’re being heard and respected. Ireland’s repeal of the eighth amendment means so many things to different people. For the majority, it’s a triumph. For others, it’s a shame.

I’m a twenty one year-old student studying film and media. As a disclaimer I would like to make it clear that I do not wish to judge others. I just want to express my views. To me, abortion is the ending of a life. I wouldn’t call it murder because I don’t think that’s fair, obviously the people that are terminating the pregnancy don’t think of it in that way.

At the same time, it is a life, you’re deciding to end it; it’s yours and you’re ending it.   I believe my upbringing could have been a factor in determining my beliefs; however, I didn’t actually discuss abortion with my parents until talks of the eighth amendment began. 

Pregnancy for many students would mean that their lives would be ending as they would be forced to give up their dreams. For me, it would just be the beginning. When someone comes up to me and tells me they’re pregnant, I immediately light up. My hands rush to their stomach. It’s amazing; I think, wow, there’s a new person on the way. She’s going to a mom. I think if the very idea of a new baby can have that effect on you; it’s enough. It’s alive and therefore deserves protection. 

People often assume that those who are pro-life are guided by their religion. As a practicing Catholic, I feel it is a factor but not a determinant. I mean, obviously the church is anti-abortion. The church believes in protecting life, whether it’s new or old. However, I come from a human point of view. It’s how I feel about the innocence and vulnerability of the baby.

Ireland is moving from one of the most restricting countries to one of the most liberating. My greatest issue is terminating a pregnancy so late into the process. If I murdered a new born baby outside of the womb, there would be uproar. However, it’s okay to kill him or her in the womb? That doesn’t make sense to me.

In terms of allowing exceptions under certain circumstances; I do think that’s a tricky one because if you say yes to one thing, what’s to stop it from snowballing?  At the same time, I think if a baby and mother aren’t going to survive, the option should exist. Greater effort should be made to protect both parties but it should not be an automatic decision to get rid of the baby. In terms of the Savita Halappanavar debate, I think it should be pointed out that it’s not that the baby’s life was more important than hers but that at the same time, is it fair in saying that the mother’s life is of greater importance? How do we determine the value of someone’s life? It’s a living thing, not an object. 

I know a lot of people who would terminate, in a heartbeat, without question. If someone came to me, pregnant and unsure as to what they should do, I would try to convince them to keep it and give the baby up for adoption. There are families out there that would die for a kid.

 

If I was pregnant, even though it would be so hard to go through the pregnancy for 9 months and then to give up my child: it would be my only option. It would be hard, I understand that. For me, I would be thinking ; okay, I’m going to go through hell, but at the end I’m going to be giving at least three people a lifetime of happiness, that’s worth it, isn’t it? Sometimes you have to put others ahead of yourself. I think we’re losing that in society. It’s become all about self indulgence and the “me” mentality. It’s time for change.

Yes

Amnesty Volunteer Eoghan Scott says its her body and her right to choice

According to the Irish Family Planning Association, between January 1980 and December 2014 at least 163,514 women and girls have travelled from the Republic of Ireland to access safe abortion services in another country. These records in themselves are underestimations: they exclude the number of women who have declined to provide their Irish addresses for reasons of confidentiality, and the number of illegal abortions that are possibly carried out in the country.

The facts are right there in front of us, there is no skirting around the issue; abortion is something that happen. It is never going to not happen. Laws have never stopped abortions occurring, but only made it unsafe for women.

For instance, it is surely an undeniable fact that buying abortion pills online is dangerous and could likely have serious health consequences for women. For those who cannot afford roughly €1000 to seek an abortion abroad, many resort to purchasing abortion pills online at a fraction of the cost; despite the obvious risks. Should a woman be so desperate to terminate her unwanted pregnancy that she is willing to risk her own health to do so and in spite of the many well-documented dangers that accompany it, what is the alternative in this country at this point?

 

The issue of abortion in Ireland goes back as far as the 19th Century, with the introduction of the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act which sought to criminalise women who “procure a miscarriage,” made punishable by penal servitude for life. Obviously, in the years since we’ve moved on quite a bit from that – or so we would at least like to think; but in truth, the 1992 X Case is the first time in Ireland that any real turnaround occurred in regards to Ireland’s abortion laws. Resulting in the Supreme Court ruling that “if it is established that there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother, which can only be avoided by the termination of her pregnancy, such termination is permissible.” But this does not take into account the trauma and time pressures that it takes for a pregnant woman to prove her case worthy of an abortion.

For a long time now, the grounds for legal abortion in Ireland have been a highly contentious issue, with recent tragic cases such as the death of Savita Halappanavar still lingering fresh in the mind, not to mention the case in which a medically dead woman was forced to complete a full term pregnancy. The 8th amendment puts the rights of the women aside and this law sees them as a vessel; secondary to the importance of bringing a baby into the world whether they wish to do so or not.

Ireland’s draconian stance on abortion would be laughable if it weren’t such a disgrace. Consider this, that medical staff in Ireland could potentially be fined up to €4000 for referring a woman for, or even just offering information about, abortion. Even if it’s medically necessary or the embryo is unlikely to survive. It’s hard to believe, and yet this is exactly why 4000 women leave Ireland each year to have an abortion in another country.  

      Personally I wouldn’t consider myself “pro-abortion”, and I can’t speak for women but I don’t know if anybody does consider themselves so. Regardless, it’s not, nor will it ever be, my choice anyhow. The point is, I believe each woman should have the right to choose and neither I nor any other man or woman should have control in making a decision for somebody else’s body. It’s depressing that in the year 2015 we should even be having this argument, and likely will be for years to come.

The fight isn’t pro-abortion: the fight is pro-choice. Fundamentally, it is imperative that Ireland promptly revise its legislation on abortion, to be more open, less stigmatised and ultimately safer. It is crucial that women have the freedom to make their own choices, whatever that choice may be.