Reflecting on Repeal

imag0887I took this photo a year ago. I clearly quite like it, because I’ve posted it before.

It was a time that will always be a weird mix of fuzziness and absolute clarity. I was pregnant, I had complications, I was emotional, I was tired, I was restless, I was nervous. I didn’t know how the vote was going to go and I had passed by some pretty obnoxious posters and people on a near daily basis.

I’ve only just started processing the past year properly. I’ve been listening to some podcasts about the campaign and the result and it feels like the campaign only happened a short time ago, but also like I’m hearing analysis of another time and place entirely.

I’m still elated about the result and I’m still really angry that we had to go through this at all. I’m angry that the legislation isn’t perfect but elated that people are getting the healthcare they need. I’m angry that a local election candidate who left his political party because the absolutely minimal legislation in 2013 was too extreme for him sidles past our repeal bumper stickers to look for our vote in a constituency which voted yes by a landslide.

I feel guilty that I didn’t do more and wonder if I was too lazy, and then I wonder if I needed to do more given the result. Then I feel guilty for trying to absolve myself of my guilty feelings. I’m not sure if feeling this guilt is good or bad at this point.

I look at my children and  that makes me happiest of all. All the marches and the chats and the donations and the support and the GIFs and the funny moments and the sad moments and the whole of the 25th of May 2018 when I barely functioned because of the knots in my stomach and the all over shaking when I thought about what might happen. I don’t want to say it was all worth it, but it happened and I can look back on it all in a slightly less garbled way than I would have even a few months ago.

I’m glad I have these memories; they’re part of me now. I’m equally glad that this morning when I moved my box of repeal stuff aside to get at something else in the attic I was able to tell myself that the box is a relic of another time already.

Reflecting on Repeal

Legisl8

davIt took 20 years to legislate on the referendums on the X Case. This week feels a little surreal. Less than seven months after we passed the 36th amendment legislation on abortion services is wending its way through the Oireachtas. It isn’t perfect legislation and it will exclude people who need to access abortion services when they have a diagnosis of a non-fatal foetal disability, those who don’t meet the 12 week deadline and those who face barriers to access like conscientious objections.

I’m torn on waiting to get the legislation to be more inclusive and seeing the need to pass the current Bill and keep working on service provision. It’s been hard to listen to some TDs talk about pregnant people, in particular the narrative I have heard and, for a long time, believed about abortion. There’s been some very nasty rhetoric that I don’t think I’ll forget.

I still think of Savita every day, and when I woke at 5.17 am today she was on my mind as I saw on my phone that the Dáil had passed the Bill to regulate the termination of pregnancy. My heart sinks when I think about whether we’ll have to hear about another Savita in order to get the law right. I hope we won’t, but the reality is that abortion services are going to be restricted in Ireland for the foreseeable future.

I do hope that come the new year people who need care won’t be getting their information from lampposts like the ones we’ve been used to seeing. I hope everyone who needs care can access it. I hope we don’t have more letters in the courts because we didn’t care for those who needed care. We’ve come a long way, but we know from bitter experience that this is not the end of the fight.

Legisl8

Limbo

Apparently limbo in Catholic theology means being on the edge of hell.

I don’t believe in the limbo that the Catholic theology used to teach. I don’t believe in hell either, or heaven for that matter.

But being in limbo can feel like you’re on the edge of something. Especially in Ireland, in April 2018 when there are posters telling you women are killers if they access healthcare.

Limbo

We Didn’t Start The Fire

The decision not to categorise female soldiers as soldiers despite their having fought for Irish independence in the 1920s. The decision not to pay them pensions as a result.

The mother and baby homes.

The Magdalene laundries.

The 1937 Constitution which put women in the home.

The marriage bar. The loss of income and pension rights as a result.

The different pay scales for women and men in the civil and public service.

The exile of Edna O’Brien.

Telling the Parliament that the first female police service recruits shouldn’t be too horse faced and that they should not be targets for marriage.

Symphysiotomy being introduced after it had fallen of out favour in most other countries.

Male only jury service.

The seizure of state run social services, including schools and hospitals, by religious orders loyal to another state.

The Irish Women’s Liberation Movement taking the train to buy condoms.

Mary McGee taking the state to court to buy condoms.

The eighth amendment.

Joanne Hayes and the Kerry babies scandal.

Miss X.

Miss Y.

A, B and C v Ireland.

Terminations For Medical Reasons.

Amanda Mellet.

Savita Halappanavar.

NP being kept alive despite being braindead and liquifying because the foetus inside her had a heartbeat.

The women passing illegal abortion pills into the hands of women minding their children.

The lack of anatomy scans because ‘What can you do anyway?’

The lack of a right to informed consent during pregnancy.

The 2002 referendum in which the Government wanted to do away with the right of suicidal women to abortions in Ireland.

The 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act where women who have abortions where their lives aren’t at risk face a jail term of 14 years.

Being told we’re all going to die as a reason to deny women autonomy.

The marches for choice.

I came very late to the repeal movement. I was antichoice for a large portion of my younger years. I was wrong. I was judgmental. I didn’t know just how much the Irish state has tried to keep us quiet. When you grow up somewhere that has a religious school system, where most of the population are the same religion and where the state broadcaster plays the catholic call to prayer twice a day any non-conformity can seem shocking.

This week it feels like something has shifted. I don’t know if this is the beginning of the end but I am very hopeful it is the end of a long beginning. Reading about the women who went before me is humbling. I admire their resolve and strength, and I don’t know how they didn’t spend a large amount of their time being mad as hell about things.

It will be long and hard and difficult to get to the finish line, but I think of all those who went before us and I take solace from the fact that, in their way, they’ve chipped away at some of the stoney silence around women’s rights and human rights in Ireland. And I thank them for that.

We Didn’t Start The Fire

Why I’m Marching

It’s been a year since the last March for Choice.

It’s been a year of highs and lows.

Among the highest of highs was the Sunday I spent on a windy beach, refreshing my twitter feed and growing increasing ecstatic about what I was seeing, as some of my fellow citizens voted again and again to show compassion and recommend sweeping change to Ireland’s abortion laws, which, thanks to an amendment introduced at a mad, dangerous time in 1983, are among the strictest in the world.

Our abortion laws are, thanks to the eighth amendment, at once black and white and myriad shades of grey. If I am pregnant in Ireland, I am considered exactly equal in law to a foetus. The grey comes in when adults and children are taken to court because of the law, with the foetuses in their uteruses granted the same level of legal representation as they are.

Doctors have kept a decomposing woman on life support because she happened to be pregnant because of all the grey around our laws.

The Attorney General issued legal proceedings against a 14 year old child, pregnant following rape, compelling her to return to Ireland because the foetus inside her had a right to life because of all the grey around our laws.

Savita, a woman whose glorious smile we are familiar with for all the wrong reasons, was kept in pain and anguish as she miscarried her very much wanted baby, and died because of all the grey around our laws.

I’m marching for these and many other reasons.

I’m marching because of the black, and the white, and the grey reasons people have for needing and wanting and having abortions.

I’m marching because while there are shades of grey, people of privilege like me will always have more options when it comes to healthcare, including access to safe and legal abortions.

I’m marching because I am healthy and alive despite the eighth amendment, not because of it.

I’m marching because, as much as we might want it not to be so, this is part of how we make change happen.

I’m marching because I can’t leave it to someone else.

Why I’m Marching

Woman Power

I found this via Reading My Tea Leaves. These are some very inspiring women and now I feel lazy and like I could be doing a lot more with my time if I stopped getting distracted by the internet.

In work I have very little power, but one power I can wield is changing every single use of the word ‘mankind’ to ‘humankind’. It always feels good, even if I know its a very minor victory probably edited out by those above my paygrade ten minutes later.

Woman Power