"If I had a vote in Ireland, that is why I would vote to change such a ridiculous amendment. Women should not be criminalized."
DUBLIN: Walk down any street in any Irish town and the abortion referendum posters hit you between the eyes.
Some are deliberately shocking. At a pro-life rally last weekend a reporter friend says he was handed a leaflet with bloody fetuses on it by what looked like a five-year-old girl.
On May 25, for the fifth time in 35 years, Ireland will vote on an abortion-related issue, and the shrill posters and leaflets are an indication of how divisive it has become.
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Abortion is always emotive, but this vote it is especially so. It divides families. I have a brother with a beautiful Down Syndrome son who is deathly afraid that any legalization will lead to Down children being casually aborted as appears to be the case in Britain.
I have another brother, an elected politician for the governing party Fine Gael, who feels that tragic cases, like that of Indian mother Savita Halappanavar who died in childbirth in Galway in 2012 after the hospital would not abort her non-viable fetus because of religious concerns, should be no more.
What is underlying the issue is whether there is equal protection for the mother and the baby. As it stands now the baby appears to be favored, and many want equal consideration of the life of the mother.
In a more recent case than Savita’s, a woman was essentially forced to her physical limits to give birth though she was deathly sick and an abortion at an earlier stage would have saved her huge pain. It was clear the doctors attending her wanted the baby to live at all costs.
Both sides have their share of extremists, but the middle ground folk who will decide this issue seem genuinely conflicted.
The polls show the pro-choice forces are winning, but everyone here takes that with a grain of salt.
As my politician brother Fergus states, he finds people very reluctant on the doorsteps to discuss what their vote will be.
No one is ruling out a pro-life vote even though the polls show that result to be behind. Unlike same-sex marriage which passed overwhelmingly in 2015, there is no feel-good factor here. People are not rushing to tell pollsters how they will vote.
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Looming over it all is the reality that over 3,000 Irish women a year will go to Britain for abortions anyway, and that number may be a drastic undercount.
If a 12-year-old girl is raped or is a victim of incest she would still have to go to Britain f0r a termination.
But perhaps the greatest wrong in all this debate is that the Eighth Amendment criminalizes a woman who has an abortion. That doesn’t happen in any country in the civilized world, but the law under the amendment is clear in Ireland.
As Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole noted, “What the Eighth Amendment requires is blunt: 14 years behind bars for a woman who takes an abortion pill. This is not a throwback to Ireland’s dark past. It is a present reality.
“A little over a year ago, Bríd Smith proposed a Private Members’ Bill to replace the 14-year sentence mandated by Irish law with a token €1 fine. The Dail voted overwhelmingly to keep the 14-year sentence in place. It did so because the advice from the attorney general was that the Eighth Amendment left it with no choice.”
If I had a vote in Ireland, that is why I would vote to change such a ridiculous amendment. Women should not be criminalized for what in many cases may be a termination of pregnancy caused by rape or incest for instance.
This defies logic and the Eighth Amendment needs to go as a result. There are many arguments I'm sure on the other side that are valid, but when it comes to common sense criminalizing women makes the least sense of all.
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