The Country With Legally Enforced Pregnancy
Imagine for a moment that you are a teenager who has been repeatedly raped and beaten and that you manage to make your way into a country where you think you will be safe. On arrival you find out that you are 8 weeks pregnant, as a result of one of the rapes you endured. Imagine if you will that the country that you sought sanctuary in ignores your requests for an abortion, restrains you in hospital and seeks court orders for permission to force feed you until you’re pregnant enough that they can cut you open and remove the baby.
Or how about this, your daughter who is 17 weeks pregnant suffers from internal bleeding and as a result is declared ‘clinically dead’ but due to the enforced pregnancy laws of your country her decomposing body is kept on life support until you can go to court to testify to your wishes that the life machine be turned off so you can mourn your daughter’s death.
If this all sounds horrific and inhumane then I’m sure you will be shocked to hear that the above two examples are true and that the country in question is Ireland. The same place that was the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriages by popular vote, the country that welcomes 9 million visitors a year to it’s shores and boasts an impressive diaspora of 70 million people spread around the world. Increasingly cosmopolitan Ireland has enforced pregnancy enshrined in law.
In Ireland abortion is effectively illegal. The law governing it is known as the eighth amendment. It was voted into the Constitution in 1983 and it recognises the right to the life of the unborn as being equal to the mother’s right to life.
“While it protects the right to life of the mother, it has no regard for her long-term health.” Leo Varadkar, former Health Minister rightly pointed out, speaking about the eighth amendment. Nor indeed does it have any regard or respect for her bodily autonomy, circumstances or age. So theoretically a 50 year old woman living in Ireland who had an unwanted pregnancy would be legally required to continue with the pregnancy regardless of the significant risks to her health and those of any baby she might have at her age. Or a 10 year old girl. Or a poverty stricken single mother of seven. Or one of Ireland’s currently 7421 homeless people. Or someone who has found out their wanted child will not live outside the womb.
If you have permission to travel and money to travel you can leave Ireland for an abortion elsewhere. If you cannot leave Ireland then you can try and import safe abortion pills, though you risk them being found by customs and facing a 14 year prison term (and presumably a child you do not want and cannot care for).
Worldwide there has been widespread condemnation of Ireland’s draconian abortion laws. The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee investigated a complaint made by Irishwoman Amanda Mellet, whose baby was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality and they found that Ireland’s abortion laws violated Ms Mellet’s right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The ruling also found that Ireland’s abortion laws constitute discrimination against women and thus they are denied equal protection of the law.
This international human rights court found that the criminalisation of abortion in itself results in human rights violations.
In his concluding remarks, Committee Chair and former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nigel Rodley highlighted that under human rights law, “Recognition of the primary right to life of the woman as an existent human being has to prevail over that of the unborn child and I can’t begin to understand by what belief system priority would be given to the latter rather than the former.”
Rodley also said that pregnant Irish women are “By the law treated as a vessel and nothing more” and that that was “very difficult for this committee to comprehend.”
Any Irish person with uterus is well aware that the state views them as a ‘vessel’ and nothing more, it has always been thus. Ireland has never been a country that allowed abortion, it has an historic policy of childbirth-at-all-costs, regardless of the health or life of the mother and regardless of the circumstances the child would be born into. As a result of this policy thousands of unwanted babies have been hidden, stolen, murdered, abused, had experiments done on them, died of neglect and been sold off to profit the Catholic Church.
But Ireland must have it’s babies. Though, as shown it cares very little for them once they are born. One in eight children lives in consistent poverty and the child poverty rate in Ireland has doubled since the recession. 2546 children are homeless in Ireland right now. Children born to single mothers are 340% more likely to live in poverty than two parent families due to social welfare cuts specifically targeting them. And a recent series of the nightmare-inducing scandals exposed Ireland’s foster care system as callous, cruel and inept. These are just some examples of Ireland’s recent treatment of babies and children.
Committee Chair and former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nigel Rodley ( I think it is worth saying his full title again) referenced the surrounding culture of antipathy towards women in Ireland in his closing remarks,
“Many of the social issues that have been raised…the Magdalene laundries, the mother and baby homes, the child abuse, the symphysiotomy, it’s quite a collection... it’s hard to imagine any state party tolerating. I can’t prevent myself from observing that all of them are not disconnected from the institutional belief system that has predominated in the state party.”
The ‘state party’ being Ireland, run by two main political parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail who have been falling over each other for decades now to avoid having to allow women (and other people with a uterus) control over their own bodies. Like Mr Rodley I am aghast at just how many crimes against women and children these state parties have overseen. The question is, for how much longer will the Irish people allow them to do so?