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Monthly Archives: May 2018

Vote Yes, for those who can’t

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Guest post by Magda Jasinka of Dziewuchy Dziewuchom Irlandia

I guess I am coming somewhat late into the “game” but I couldn’t quite figure out how I could have my voice heard on the 25th May. I am living in Ireland and unfortunately don’t have the privilege of voting in matters that quite frankly could one day affect me and thouseands of others. I’ve decided therefore to share with you this little piece of my mind in aid of the Together for Yes campaign and also and very much so in hope that it might change someone’s mind to vote YES or to vote at all.

After making the decision to come to Ireland which was influenced almost entirely by some sort of a “promise” of a better life and more possibilities to succeed in many different aspects of life that have become important to me throughout those years. Being only 19 and feeling that my own country has somehow failed me and betrayed me I found comfort and a shelter in Ireland which in years to come I would call my home. I do however feel that much like where I am from, the 8th amendment has failed so many women and for this I am resentful. I can’t understand why someone would vote NO as somehow they cannot see that their vote is causing another woman’s trauma. I also can’t understand  that for some reason people think they have the right to take away a woman’s choice concerning her own body. I hate the fact that I’d have more bodily autonomy after my death as I’d have a choice to become an organ donor than I would have now if I became pregnant.

What I do find most outrageous as a female is the uncertainty yet predictable nature of the faith of offenders who by inflicting life threatening wounds to a pregnant woman can potentially get away with murder, quite literally actually as they most likely would face a manslaughter rather than a murder charge. Murder occurs if a person intended to kill, or cause serious injury to another PERSON, who dies as a result and whilst a scenario involving a death of a foetus by injuries caused by another person has not yet been heard by the Irish courts, the British case of AG’s Reference (No. 3 of 1994) [1997] 3 WLR 421 would become a valid precedence for the Irish courts in such circumstances. In AG’s Reference (No. 3 of 1994), a boyfriend (B) stabbed his girlfriend (G), who then prematurely gave birth to the child (S). S was injured by the stab wounds inflicted upon him by B and died after 121 days after being prematurely born. It was held that B could not be convicted of murder as he could physically not form an intention to kill or seriously injure S. The House of Lords stated that “until she had been born alive and acquired a separate existence, she could not be the victim of homicide”. The common law jurisprudence would suggests that only an independently living, self-sufficient human being can become a victim of murder and there is no authority in any common law jurisdiction to suggest that a foetus is considered an independently living and self-sufficient human being. In a further attempt to secure the murder charge, the prosecution tried to apply the doctrine of transferred malice which states that when the intention to harm one individual inadvertently causes another person to be hurt instead, the perpetrator is still held responsible for his acts. However in AG’s Reference (No. 3 of 1994) the House of Lords held that to transfer the malice directed at foetus initially and then hypothetically from a foetus to a born child with legal personality was described as legally too far to support a murder charge against B. As such, B was charged and convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 7 years in prison. To put it into perspective a woman who is found guilty of the offence of intentionally destroying unborn human life under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 will face up to 14 years in prison. Where is the justice here?

I guess what I would really like is for someone to read this and choose to trust women and protect life that the 8th Amendment has failed to do.

 

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Respect motherhood. Vote Yes.

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​Some of my best friends are mothers. I have to admit, I don’t envy them. I know they love their children, that they bring a lot of joy into their lives. I know if I had children I would feel that way too. But I also know that they had to give up a lot to become mothers, more than I would ever be happy to give up.

“Happy” is the wrong word, actually, because it seems that most of my friends are anything but happy about the price they’ve paid for motherhood. If anything, the ones who are co-parenting (at least with a man) are angrier about this than the single mams, because the fathers always promise more than they deliver. I listen as they share their frustration and resentment at how he still assumes the primary parenting and household duties to be hers; still feels entitled to aspects of his pre-parenthood life that she has long since resigned to the dustbin of her own past; expects praise and gratitude and a Dad of the Century award when he remembers to “help out”.

Added to this are the negative impacts that motherhood has had on her prospects for employment or promotion. The resentment she senses from female co-workers without children, who she suspects of seeing her reduced hours and frequent absences as a kind of special treatment. The barely concealed disdain from male co-workers, who she thinks see these things as evidence of lack of commitment to the job. Some of these male co-workers have children themselves, of course, but rarely have to prioritise their children over their work. That’s what their wives are for.

Then, too, there are the physical effects of childbirth [CN: obstetric trauma]. There’s a lot more of these than you probably know if you’ve never had children yourself, and as far as I can tell, none of them are good. Stretch marks, caesarean scars, vaginal laxity, hair loss, haemorrhagic periods, urinary incontinence – these are just the more common ones, the ones you can look forward to if you have a normal birth. If you’re one of the lucky ones. If you’re not, you could find yourself with a third or fourth degree perineal tear, pelvic organ prolapse, rectovaginal fistula, faecal incontinence, or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction which, in particularly bad cases, leads to permanent reliance on mobility aids. Did you know spontaneous symphysiotomy is a thing? Neither did I, until I met a woman who had one.

If these injuries themselves are not lifelong (and many are), the psychological effects of them usually will be – and not just on the woman. They’ve destroyed marriages. They’ve also complicated mothers’ relationships with their children. One woman I know told me of her lifelong sense of guilt for not being able to bond with her baby properly – she was so injured by his birth that she couldn’t hold him. Other women speak of feeling some resentment towards the child themselves. They say this hesitantly, and often with enormous shame; aren’t they supposed to think “a healthy baby is all that matters”? Then they always feel the need to add the disclaimer that they love their child and don’t wish they hadn’t had it, they just wish things had gone differently. No doubt many of them mean this, but we’ll never know how many don’t. The mother who wishes she’d never had children is the one voice that is completely silent in the Repeal debate, just as she is everywhere else.

And then of course there are the women whom childbirth actually kills. Nowadays (though this wasn’t always the case) it’s usually medical negligence that’s to blame, but the outcome for the woman is the same. Ireland may be a relatively safe place to have a baby but that doesn’t change the fact that every year, a number of women die in our maternity hospitals – nor the fact that every woman who brings a pregnancy to term takes the risk of becoming one of those statistics.

This is what listening to women who are mothers has taught me: Motherhood is risky. Motherhood is difficult. Motherhood is sometimes life-threatening. It is always life-changing. Most of these changes are profound, though few are recognised as such, especially the bad ones.

When women have abortions for “social” reasons, when Yes campaigners call for legalisation without restriction as to reason, it is not, as the No campaign claims, because we take abortion “lightly”. It’s because we take motherhood seriously. We understand what it entails, and know that it should never be forced on someone who isn’t prepared to take it on. When No campaigners portray motherhood as no more than a minor inconvenience – or, worse yet, as a suitable penalty for “mis”behaviour – they belittle every woman who has ever sacrificed an important part of her life in order to have a child.

My own mother was already a mother when she had me. She knew it was no picnic. She held an MSc which wasn’t put to use again for many years after my siblings and I were born. She could have had a legal abortion in the place where we were living. Of course, I am grateful she didn’t. But I am also thankful for her that she had the choice. Done under duress, I can’t imagine how much harder her job would have been.

For all that Irish society purports to revere motherhood, the problem is we don’t really respect it.  The myriad of ways that that needs to change are, for the most part, a subject for another blog post (I’ll just leave “proper remuneration” here for now). But we can take a big step very quickly by taking compulsory motherhood out of our Constitution – recognising it as too important a role to impose on the unready or unwilling.

Respect motherhood. Vote Repeal.

Open letter to Judge McMahon on #repealthe8th

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A reply to this letter to the Irish Times last week. The IT has not published it, so we are happy to do so.

A Chara,

The hypocrisy of former Justice Bryan McMahon (‘The Eighth Amendment’, Letters, May 4th) in calling for the retention of the 8th Amendment cannot go unremarked. McMahon’s strong urging of a ‘No’ vote suggests that he has forgotten the recommendations of the working group on Direct Provision that he presided over just a few years ago that urged quite the opposite. The McMahon report “strongly urges” that arrangements be made to enable women in Direct Provision experiencing crisis pregnancies to access proper supports including provisions for travel abroad, presumably to access abortion services. The McMahon report is very clear on this. It recommends “that a review by the relevant organisations of services for persons in the system experiencing a crisis pregnancy be undertaken immediately with a view to a protocol being agreed to guide State agencies and NGOs supporting such persons. Particular attention should be paid to addressing the needs of the individual in the context of the legislative framework. Issues relating to travel documents, financial assistance, confidentiality, and access to information and support services should be addressed.”

The working group on Direct Provision and the McMahon report can be criticised on many fronts, but on this front – the need to address the terrible circumstances faced by women experiencing crisis pregnancies in Direct Provision – the report is on the right track. It is clear that horrors of the sort inflicted on Ms Y can only be addressed by removing the 8th Amendment from the constitution and making sure that ALL women and pregnant people can access the supports that they need in this country. As groups such as AIMS Ireland and MERJ – Migrant and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice have shown us through research and personal testimony, this extends beyond abortion access to the whole issue of reproductive services and health care for migrant and ethnic minority women in this state. The women who have been most affected by the 8th Amendment – the women who have died because of the 8th Amendment and the disregard for the lives of women and mothers that it has embedded in our constitution – are disproportionately migrant women. Migrant women make up 25% of pregnant people in Ireland, but account for a shocking 40% of maternal deaths. Former Justice McMahon himself is very much aware of these facts and of the terrible circumstances that can face migrant and asylum-seeking women and girls. It is to his great discredit that he has chosen to ignore this evidence and awareness in his cruel and hypocritical call for the retention of this most cruel and hypocritical aspect of this state’s constitution.

Yours, etc,

Anti-Racism Network Ireland

AIMS Ireland

Migrants and Ethnic-minorities for Reproductive Justice (MERJ)

Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI)