[A quote from one of my favourite books, Anne of the Island, by LM Montgomery.]
Today is International Women’s Day.
Today we finally have a Bill which proposes to repeal the eighth amendment.
Today I really started to hope this will happen.
Today felt like progress.
Today has been a long time coming.
Tomorrow the debate in Parliament will begin.
I am looking forward to a tomorrow when these kinds of posts will be obsolete.
Work this week is going to be difficult. Not only will it be a long week, I’ll have to deal with some very tough topics. I’ve had weeks like this before and I try to make them character building. It’s always good to have your views challenged and to listen to every side of an argument, but it’s not always easy to actually do this. I’m more or less forced into having to listen, which I’m trying to see as a good thing.
With this in mind, I’m much more organised than I was last week and I have a fridge of healthy food to keep me going. I dropped the ball big time last week and the deliciousness of Offbeat donuts was too tempting to resist. This week for my sanity, health and well being I’m determined to eat properly and engage in a bit of self care.
I know I should probably try to stay off the tweet machine as much as possible. I think that’s a harder temptation to resist than the donuts. But I’ll give it a try.
I’m pretty happy about the opinion polls on repealing the eighth amendment. I wish the media would stop calling it the abortion referendum, however-it affects every single pregnancy.
I have continued to obsessively track the Mueller investigation via my subscription to the New York Times (the best money I spend each month), social media and political commentary. Rereading All The President’s Men again might be in order.
I’ve signed up for the Frugalwoods’ frugal challenge for January. It’s a little extreme for me but I would like to work on my finances a bit and January is a birthday, plan free zone for us most years.
I am glad to see the back of 2017, but then I was glad to see the back of 2016 for myriad reasons. I really hope something comes of the Mueller investigation, that we repeal the eighth and that my finances spark a lot of joy this day next year.
The joint committee tasked with looking into the eighth amendment of our constitution, which places me in the unenviable position of being equal to any foetus residing in my uterus or fallopian tube unless I can travel to another country for healthcare, is due to issue its report next week. The report has already been leaked and I don’t think most of it will come as any surprise to many.
The three men who don’t think I deserve an abortion when my life is at risk are issuing their own report on how all pregnant people should be forced through pregnancy next week. I don’t think it comes as any surprise to those that didn’t know already that all three are white men who are practicing Catholics.
Ronan, Mattie and Peter think people who are suicidal and pregnant shouldn’t be able to access abortion care in Ireland.
Just let that sink in.
They want you to take your chances with the mental health services in Ireland, or travel to another country, or have ongoing suicidal thoughts which you may act on, rather than allow you medical care in your own country.
This, apparently, is best for mother and babies and part of the ‘love both’ mantra we’re going to hear a lot more about in the coming months.
The committee on the eighth amendment, dealing with the (very unexpected, I suspect) recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Ireland’s constitutional guarantee to ensure only those who travel can access abortion, rolls on towards its conclusion in the next week or so. Many of its members have clearly gone on a journey during this process, and hearts and minds have been changed. Most have engaged in a thoughtful, open-minded way, with three notable exceptions.
The committee chairperson, Senator Catherine Noone, has done sterling work and seeing her in action is a reminder to me of just how little I would want to be a politician. I ma far too hot headed and reactionary to ever be as patient as she has been. I’m glad to see the work of other female politicians being recognised too.
Senator Noone reads out a paragraph or two at the start of every meeting, as happens in every other Oireachtas committee meeting, reminding all those present, members and witnesses alike, of their privilege. Politicians speaking have absolute privilege when speaking to either House of the Oireachtas or to a committee convened by the Houses.
Privilege is something that I was reminded of again and again when I watched proceedings and followed updates on Twitter. The privilege of seeing parliamentary processes in action. The privilege of having political representatives who want to engage with the process. The privilege of being a woman of means who can travel for medical care abroad. The privilege of hearing all the arguments play out in public and people slowly coming to the realisation of the horror this amendment has perpetuated.
Privilege comes in many forms. The three men who didn’t want to engage with the process, tried to frustrate the process and didn’t ever intend to change their minds are privileged. They are white. They are Catholic, in a country whose parliament starts every day with a Catholic prayer. They are men. They are Irish. They have never had to weigh up their options on seeing a positive pregnancy test.
They have a very special privilege that many of us will never have. When they speak in the committee, they are absolutely privileged. This means they can say what they like. They can manipulate statistics. They can lie. They can make accusations. They did so, again and again and again. I recognise the importance of privilege in a parliamentary debate, and the importance of the checks and balances of our republic. But seeing three privileged men exercise absolute privilege in defence of a law that kills women is difficult to take.
One of my very favourite Christmas songs is on rotation on Christmas FM every year. I adore the lyrics and music of Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas. It has become more like a poem to me, as it sums up a lot of how I feel about the festive season, in terms of my memories of it as a child, how I experience it now and how I think future years might pan out.
It has been hard to be hopeful this year, for many reasons. This Christmas, I’m hopeful that:
- Modern medicine can deliver in myriad ways.
- Mueller’s investigation continues apace.
- Our plans for the short and medium term come to fruition.
- I get to meet everyone I haven’t seen since last Christmas as friends come ‘home’ for the season.
- Next year will show some changes in the political system, at home and abroad.
It is five years since the death of Savita.
It is five years since I woke up to the reality of what the eighth amendment has done.
It is five years since me and my husband went on our very first march together.
Thousands of people have travelled since then for medical care abroad.
I look back at ‘the before’ and I wonder why I was asleep for so long. I was not a socially conscious college student. I had never protested anything in an active way. I was privileged, and while I knew I was privileged I didn’t appreciate or understand that privilege.
I’ve never had a slowly growing fear inside me because my period was late. I’ve never had to get information on medical services from the back of a toilet door. I’ve never had to send a message to a person I don’t know and hope against hope that he or she would turn up with pills that could land me in prison for 14 years.
I could have done more. A lot more. But I didn’t, and I am deeply ashamed of that. I am deeply ashamed of the antichoice views I held, and the fact I held them without really analysing why. I could have marched, and donated time and money, and been more invested in a movement I feel I’ve piggybacked onto.
I repeat ‘Better Late Than Never’ and I try to do more and to do better. I mourn Savita, a woman who died because of our laws. I mourn for the thousands we’ve forced abroad. I mourn for the people who are right now hoping against hope that the pills will turn up because otherwise they are out of options.
My mourning broke five years ago, when it slowly dawned on me what we had done, and putting the pieces back together has done me a world of good. Never again will I be so blind.