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Letters to the Eighth Amendment

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Last semester, An Focal ran the popular series Letters to the Eighth Amendment. This clause of the Irish Constitution gives equal right to life to both a mother and an unborn child. Read the full letters that featured in the paper below:

By Kathleen O’Sullivan

Dear Constitution (Con),

I hope you don’t mind me calling you that, I presume we’re on nickname basis, considering you’re very involved in my personal life, with having certain control over my body and what not. I was wondering if we could have a chat sometime.

It seems many don’t want to speak about what really matters, but I’m willing to.

I have a few topics to discuss – the weather, the housing crisis, double standards.

The Eighth Amendment.

See, what troubles me is that so many people talk, but say nothing about what matters.

What troubles me more is the ones who remain silent.

I don’t mean to get technical with you, I know you don’t appreciate it, but according to The Journal, 51.9% of politicians who were asked a really simple question refused to respond.

‘Are you personally in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment?’.

I was within the understanding they are there to speak on behalf of the welfare of the people.

I’m really just writing to you to let you know that I’ve gained I’ve pounds and cut my hair.

I thought you’d be interested in knowing that. I hope you approve; I know how you feel about me making my own decisions.

I’m in college now, I’m already working really hard. The transition has been difficult, as you said it would be, but you understand I’m perfectly able to mind myself.

Or maybe you don’t.

I think about my life now and all the opportunities I have and the choices I get to make every day, compared to many women who have gone before me.

You say I’m privileged. I should be ever so grateful, but I thought making my own choices was a basic right, not a privilege.

You confuse me sometimes.

We live in a very dangerous world these days. So many bad people and bad places. So many risks we can avoid taking and many others we can’t avoid taking.

If I’m at risk of losing my life because of a choice I am not given to make, I doubt people’s silence can save me.

My life could depend on them, on what people like politicians could use their positions of power for.

If the Eighth Amendment is not repealed, my life could so easily depend on them. On their silence.

I bet you wish you could throw the sexism card at me – that always seems appropriate during these discussions.

Interestingly enough, one can’t deny that the Eight Amendment and repealing it for that matter would affect very many men’s lives.

I knew you wouldn’t believe me, so I took more figures from the poll mentioned above – in the public poll, 53% of men are in favour of the Amendment being repealed compared to 45% of women being in favour.

This matter may not affect men physically as it does women, but the emotional affect it can have on both genders, of all ages and ethnicity is substantial.

I wish I was someone of importance or urgency. Maybe then, I would be taken seriously and allowed to have full control of my body. Maybe I could save my life.

I take care of myself sexually, mentally and physically, I don’t understand why you don’t trust me enough to give me this choice.

However, something tells me you won’t listen to us, to anyone. I am beyond proud to say such incredible people like Anne Enright, Christy Moore, Cillian Murphy and of course the controversial Louise O’Neill are all advocates for the same cause as I and many other ordinary people are.

Unlike many political figures, they are speaking. Their efforts are respected despite the end outcome- but it will not end until justice is achieved.

In my eyes, the media can’t make up its mind.

Staying neutral is fine – if they did that. I understand different components have different opinions but as a whole I feel any media organisation should stand for something, not stand on the fence.

The media sometimes has too much information from sources that they forget about the people who are not so loud, the people who are us.

Every morning I wake up. I look in the mirror and I put on makeup. I put on my favourite dress. If I say so myself, I have been competent up to now.

Maybe If I was prettier, you would trust me with myself? Do you not trust me? Maybe if I was smarter?

Do I really have to prove myself to you? What is there to prove? Why do you think it’s okay to have any opinion on my body at all?

If I can dress myself, wash myself, respect myself, is this not enough to be given full control of my body? Is this any better than the man who wolf whistles at me when I’m crossing the street or the woman who tells me I look bad in my favourite red dress?

My body is a temple.

The constitution is a bible I can’t believe in until the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

Please give us the choice to make the right choice. Let the ones who matter, take care of the matter.

I hope we may have that chat soon. The silence is killing so many people.

Regards, the quiet ones.

P.S. I don’t want your opinion on me gaining five pounds.


By Hannah Carr-Murphy

Dear Eighth Amendment,

I know you must think of me as an interloper in this conversation.

After all, I’m an American citizen. I won’t have a vote when a referendum to repeal the eighth goes to the people of Ireland.

I also never had to campaign for the right to get an abortion, because Roe v. Wade was decided long before I was born.

I was born into the right that Repeal campaigners are currently fighting for, and have taken it for granted for much of my life.

I know you’re probably worried, Eighth, that you will be forgotten as soon as the Repeal campaign is successful, but I’m here to assure you: your legacy will live on.

For the men, women, and nonbinary/genderfluid persons campaigning for reproductive justice in Ireland, the fight won’t end when the eighth is repealed, it will just change shape.

For example, in the current dumpster-fire-turned-presidential-election, the Republican field of candidates originally included former CEO Carly Fiorina who, at a televised primary debate, told a graphic and fictional story about evil scientists harvesting the brain of a helpless aborted “baby.”

This type of fear-mongering works.

It plays on the stigma of abortion to give people without clear opinions on reproductive rights a horror story that confirms their undefined concern about the ethics of abortion.

And Carly Fiorina’s fabrication was only one small footnote in what has been a rough election cycle for women’s healthcare – and women in general.

Even forty-three years after the Supreme Court of the US ruled abortion to be a right, there is significant pushback against abortion providers and those who affirm the right of uterus-having people to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

Forty-three years later, and universities in the states still have Right to Life organizations on campus.

People with giant, gory banners depicting “dead babies” stand outside the student union and loudly preach to young women – who are simply trying to get to class – about the mortal sin of abortion.

Forty-three years after losing the fight to restrict the rights of others, protestors still scream at people going in and out of healthcare facilities that offer abortion.

There is a lot of ugliness in the anti-choice movement (which would more accurately be named a “standstill” than a movement), and it won’t disappear when the eighth has been repealed.

In the US, the Hyde Amendment and other sneaky legislation limit the access to abortion and other vital healthcare services by cutting funding or forcing reproductive healthcare centres to close.

The Republican party platform, a committee-written document outlining the values and stances of the party on a host of issues, named the elimination of Planned Parenthood as a goal for Republicans in government.

This is an unprecedented move from a party desperate to slow the progress of gender justice in the US in any way they can.

Once you win the fight for your right to choose, you have to fight against the erosion of that right.

But I have seen the character of the Repeal movement in the short time I’ve been in Ireland, and I’m confident they will succeed and keep on succeeding.

I am heartened by the diversity and thoughtfulness of the movement, and how people speaking on behalf of Repeal the Eighth have been strong while remaining civil to those they disagree with.

I know, Eighth, you’re probably not looking forward to being repealed, but know that you will never be forgotten.

Whenever women are told they can’t do something, you will live on.

When women have to deconstruct stigma before making the choice to terminate an unwanted or unviable pregnancy, you will be there.

Wherever there is reproductive coercion – a form of intimate partner abuse where the partner forces a woman to become pregnant – you are there too.

So long Eighth Amendment, and good riddance.

Sincerely,
Hannah


By Kenneth Conlon

Article 40.3.3°,

Medieval, archaic. Just some of the words used to describe you, and people like me, who agree with having you in Bunreacht na hÉireann.

In 2016, thirty-three years after you took your place in the Constitution, people are calling for your removal.

Only last year, Ireland was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote.

The Emerald Isle was then labelled a socially liberal nation.

Realising this, a connection was made, and sections of the pro-choice movement sought to bring attention to the Eighth Amendment, believing that if a majority supported this referendum, then a majority would support a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

It is neither correct nor fair to assume that those who voted yes to one Referendum would vote yes to another.

Nonetheless, the issue of the Eighth Amendment has resurfaced in recent years, with the case of Savita Halappanavar, who died tragically due to septicaemia, of which a termination of pregnancy would not have been a cure.

More recently, however, the #RepealTheEighth has appeared on social media, as well as a Twitter account which live tweeted the journey taken by two women as one of them sought an abortion in the UK. Several TDs wore REPEAL t-shirts to the Dáil last week, which resulted in “Baby Killer Out” being spray painted on the wall of AAA TD Mick Barry’s office in Cork.

With all this media attention, you would be forgiven for thinking that the entire nation wanted to do away with you. However, this is not the case.

People like me are almost afraid to admit that we oppose abortion, for fear of being lambasted by the pro-choice movement.

The first port of call is to refer to me as a religious fanatic, and blame the Catholic Church for its grip upon Irish society.

Let me tell you, I was born and raised Catholic, but I’m not the best, to be quite honest. I go to mass about four times a year, and I look around in bewilderment at the rest of the congregation, when I realise that yet another part of the mass has been changed since I last attended.

You see, the church isn’t my moral compass; I’m not pro-life because the church says it’s wrong to end another human life. Religion has nothing to do with it.

People like me are also told, that because I don’t have a uterus, I don’t have a say. That is hypocritical, because, these very same people claim that they should be allowed make their own decisions, i.e. have their own opinion, yet we are not.

Naturally, I don’t agree with their line of thinking. I ignore these silly comments, just like the “If you don’t agree with abortion, don’t have one” argument, because this doesn’t get to the core of the issue: The right to choice vs the right to life.

Of course, we all love to have choices, we make many choices every day. However, despite the UN condemning our abortion laws, they also state that the right to life is a fundamental human right, so for me, that far outweighs the right to choice, which justifies why you should remain in the Constitution.

You see, you serve a very important purpose. You protect those of whom have no choice, and no voice – the unborn.

There are many different camps among the pro-choice movement. There are those who believe that an unborn baby is just a “cluster of cells”, although I didn’t realise that a cluster of cells was capable of pumping blood despite only existing for six weeks.

These people want abortion on demand, because to them it’s not a baby, yet having seen images of aborted foetuses in secondary school, I couldn’t possibly describe it as anything other than a baby.

There are those who believe that it would be better if some babies were aborted rather than having them being raised unloved. To that, I say there is adoption.

Countless couples would love to have children, but sadly cannot, and while adoption is never easy, it at least gives the innocent child a chance at life.

As of 2014, there were at least 14 times more couples wanting to adopt children than there were children available in Ireland, according to the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

Then there are people who believe that there are certain circumstances in which a termination of pregnancy should be allowed, such fatal foetal abnormalities, but there have been cases where children have lived, despite doctors telling devastated parents that their child would not live.

Fine Gael TD, Kate O’Connell spoke on the very issue in the Dáil not too long ago, and showed how doctors don’t always get it right.

Every case is different, so how can you legislate for something like that?

The easy option would be to remove you from the Constitution for that reason, but for me, life is far too precious, even those with severe disabilities.

It saddens and angers me to think that in the UK, a woman can abort a baby up to full term if the child has Down Syndrome.

Where is the value in human life gone?

Can you honestly tell me that a parent doesn’t love their child the same regardless of whether they are born with a disability or not?

Hope you don’t leave any time soon, you’re rather important,

The concerned ones.


By Megan Thornton

I hope reading the word feminist doesn’t turn you off reading this piece.

Chances are you are probably scared or rolling your eyes, but give me a chance you might not regret it.

Firstly, I know this topic has been very well covered in the past by many different people, even in this newspaper itself, but I am going to try and give as balanced a view as I can until the end.

This topic is not black and white. I feel that both sides are using propaganda to make their points heard.

In the case of one video by “Youth Defence”, the Repeal the Eighth campaign is compared to slavery and the Holocaust which is, whatever way you look at it, completely false and misinforming to the general public.

On the side of Repeal the Eighth, there is a video that compares the women of today to the women of the past that were branded as witches.

Although this video is very artistic and powerful, it does not include any facts about abortion in Ireland.

Both of these videos appeal strongly to our emotions as this is a very emotive issue, but I think it is necessary to know all the facts before you decide whether you are pro- choice or pro-life.

According to abortionrightscampaign.ie, abortion is technically legal in Ireland since the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act was passed in 2013, but only if a woman’s life is at risk (including suicide) and only if they are assessed by six doctors.

The latest national statistics from Rape Crisis Centres show that approx 197 women and girls who attended their centres in 2013 were pregnant as a result of rape. 25% of these survivors went on to terminate the pregnancy, meaning they either had to travel for an abortion or illegally take abortion pills in Ireland.

According to the Irish Times: “3,451 women gave an address in the Republic when attending clinics in England and Wales in 2015, more than nine a day.”

I’ll be honest, before I started writing this letter I didn’t know any of these facts and didn’t know the extent of the issue and the amount of people are affected by it.

I understand the pro-life’s position on the issue as well as the pro-choice side.

For example, there are many arguments on the basis of religion for the pro-life side.

Personally, I am prochoice and always will be.

I believe in people having control over their own lives and I feel like there are some extenuating situations that people can’t control and the law at the moment is too strict and doesn’t account for these things happening.

I don’t believe that if abortion is legalised in Ireland it means the abortion rate will rise dramatically.

Abortion is, and still will be, a very big decision that will affect a women’s life.

At the moment, women are travelling abroad to have these medical procedures and when they come back they may not be able to seek the support they need for fear of being prosecuted or facing a jail sentence.

The Bill to legalise abortion has been stalled this week in the Dáil due to a pending report on abortion by the Citizen’s Assembly.

I feel this is unacceptable as this is an issue that is important to both pro-life and pro-choice sides.

In a democratic country, I feel that if something is that important to people a referendum should be held.

These are people’s lives we are talking about.

I do agree both men and women have opinions on this issue. However, women only make up 22 percent of the Dáil at the moment which means we are not being represented equally in this argument despite the fact it’s women who this will affect directly.

I do believe in the right to a choice over your own body – whether you are a man, a woman, cis, transgender or anything else under the spectrum.

I believe whatever side you are on in this argument, we can all agree, a referendum is necessary because this is an issue very important to the Irish people and is something very close to all of our hearts.


By Dara O’Dwyer

For the past few issues of An Focal, we have all read the various letters written and addressed to the Eighth Amendment.

This has been really interesting as we have heard the voices of some students, listened to their concerns and views on the issue.

We have heard students speak up in defence of the Eighth, and those who are longing to see the back of this provision.

We can keep writing letters to the Eighth, but I felt that I should bring your attention to another means of expressing your views.

The Eighth Amendment is merely a provision in the Constitution. Article 40.3.3° will not change itself, it cannot change itself, and unfortunately, our letters to it aren’t yet able to change it.

While our letters to the Eighth can inform the students of this university, and encourage them to stand up and make their views known, we cannot change anything.

We do not yet have the power to make this change by vote, as we have not been given the opportunity to have our voices heard through a referendum.

We can keep writing to the Eighth, but our words still can’t make a difference.

The decision is not yet within our reach. T

The people of Ireland are calling for a referendum, but we are unlikely to be granted this request any time soon. Why? Because of the formation of the Citizen’s Assembly – 99 citizens of Ireland gathered together, chaired by Justice Laffoy to consider a number of issues.

One of these issues is the Eighth Amendment. They will deliberate on the amendment, hear submissions to aid them in their discussion, and later report to the government on the matter.
This Assembly, while it may be a stalling tactic on behalf of the government, a government not yet willing to put the question to the people of Ireland, it is useful.

The outcome of this Assembly will hopefully provide a resounding opinion on the part of the people as to what they want.

This could pave the way to a change, if the Assembly finds that this is the wish of the people.

And this is where you come in.

It’s time to address the Assembly, it is time to make them aware of what you think.

For the last semester, we have taken the opportunity to put our views forward, because An Focal have given us the platform to do so.

But what we also need is the opportunity to speak to those who will be making the decisions regarding the future of the Amendment.

If you feel strongly about the Eighth, now is your chance. The Citizens Assembly has begun their work and are now calling out to us.

They want the people of Ireland to have their voices heard on the matter, they are inviting us to make submissions.

I’m not writing this article to advocate a side, I am writing this to let you know that it is time to have your say.

We have not yet lost our voice; we can still contribute to the discussion.

Until December 16th 2016, the Assembly will be receiving submissions. You can do this online (the easy way) via citizensassembly.ie. Or you can write to them at: Citizens As- sembly, 16 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

I encourage you to take this action if you feel strongly on the matter.

Personally, I will be writing to the Assembly myself, to let them know of all my reasons in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment, and I think it would be fantastic if all of your opinions could be heard too.

If you care about the matter in such a way that you have been writing a letter to the Eighth, then please use that passion and also direct it towards the Assembly.

We are being given the opportunity to speak out through An Focal and to speak to the Assembly itself, there is no excuse to stay silent anymore.

We all need to take a little time and contribute. Have your voice heard by the people making the decisions, have your say.

It’s time to also write about the Eighth, not just to it.

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