Irish actor Liam Neeson has lent his voice to a chilling new Amnesty International video calling on the Irish government to decriminalize abortion.
Well known for his powerful voice, Neeson narrates the haunting short film urging the Irish to break away from the legacy left by the Catholic Church in forming our national legislation and to repeal the 8th amendment, allowing abortion in Ireland.
"It is the shadow of the country we hoped we'd left behind," Neeson says over black and white shots of graves, crosses and ruins – the memories of those Irish women who lost their lives because they were not afforded an abortion in their own country, despite the medical risks or negative effects on their mental health associated with continuing with their pregnancy.
“A ghost haunts Ireland. It’s time to lay this ghost to rest,” he continues.
Neeson joined "Father Ted" creator Graham Linehan and Amnesty International to create “Chains,” a short film spreading a powerful message of opposition to Irish women being bound by the nation's restrictive abortion laws.
Linehan and his wife Helen underwent a termination procedure due to a fatal fetal abnormality while the couple lived in England.
If Helen had undergone the same procedure in Ireland, despite being told that the fetus would not survive for more than an hour outside the womb, she could have received a 14-year jail term.
On top of this, any healthcare provider who is found to be providing those in their care with information on abortion or seen to be an advocate for abortion can be fined $4,000 ($4,529 ).
“Ireland's abortion laws are among the most restrictive and punitive in the world and that is why it was important to me to make this film," Linehan said.
— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) October 19, 2015
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) October 19, 2015
“There are many reasons why people might need an abortion. My wife, Helen, and I, had our own reasons, and although we had excellent care in the UK, it's shocking to me that we would have had a very different experience in my home country.
"Had we been in Ireland when we found out that the fetus Helen was carrying would not survive, she would have been forced to carry the baby to term. Getting the same procedure that she received in the UK would have led to her receiving a 14-year jail term.”
Graham and Helen were told after their 12-week scan that their baby had acrania (a condition that means the skull has not fully formed over the brain) and that the baby would not survive for much longer than an hour after birth.
“It was absolutely devastating,” Helen said.
“And when faced with something like that, the very least you should be able to expect is proper medical care allowing you to move on. It is unthinkable that, had we been living in Ireland, I would have been forced to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth to a baby that would be dead within minutes."
In Ireland, with the law as it stands, women are only legally allowed to terminate a pregnancy if there is a "real or substantial" risk of death, causing many women, including those who know they are dealing with a case of fatal fetal abnormality, to travel to a country where they can terminate their pregnancy without fear of a jail sentence.
“Today, and every day, ten to twelve women and girls will leave Ireland for the UK to access safe and legal abortions, because if they did so in Ireland, they could face up to fourteen years in prison,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“Ireland must stop criminalizing its women and girls and forcing them into temporary exile just so they can access a health service to which they have a human right.”
Using the mantra “She is not a criminal,” Amnesty International is promoting an online petition appealing to the Irish government to repeal the 8th and no longer treat women seeking an abortion as criminals. They ask Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny to “replace it with laws that ensure safe and legal access to abortion, at a minimum, in cases of rape, incest, risk to health or severe and fatal fetal impairment.”
A report from Amnesty released earlier this year titled “She is Not a Criminal: The impact of Ireland’s abortion law” revealed that since 1971 close to 177,000 Irish women traveled abroad for an abortion – an average of some 4,000 a year.
The current campaign is running on a wave of anger still felt in Ireland in the wake of the needless death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, although little has changed for medical practitioners since then. Halappanavar died from septicemia a week after being denied a termination despite doctors confirming 17 weeks into the pregnancy that the fetus would not survive and that Halappanavar would have a miscarriage.
— Roisin Ingle (@roisiningle) October 19, 2015
A poll completed on behalf of Amnesty in June of this year showed that 67 percent of Irish people wished for the act of abortion to be decriminalized.
While 25 percent disagreed, 81 percent were still in favor of significantly widening the grounds for legal abortion access in Ireland.
Do you support the repeal of the 8th amendment in Ireland? Should the Irish government decriminalize abortion, should the law remain as it is or should it legalize abortion with restrictions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.