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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

Column: No woman has an abortion on a whim

Stitch up the X Case’s dangling loopholes and then hold a referendum to legalise abortion in Ireland – because no woman wants an abortion just for the hell of it, writes Carol Redmond.

Carol Redmond

THE ABORTION DEBATE raging at the moment in Ireland must be viewed by the rest of the civilised world as anachronistic, if nothing else. Leaving aside the moral dilemmas, constitutional and medical arguments, what is it essentially all about?

It all starts with a woman who, by whatever means, has found herself pregnant without making the decision to actually have a baby. She did the dastardly deed without the motive of procreation. Contraception failed, she was raped or she was the victim of an incestuous attack. Or she was just being human… “to err is human, to forgive, divine”, as Alexander Pope said.

Regardless of the cause, the effect is a zygote, embryo, then foetus growing inside her. This woman has a cognitive reaction to the consequence of this unplanned event and as an intelligent human being should have the right to decide if she will go ahead with the pregnancy, irrevocably ending in the birth of another human being, or to terminate it.

Finding yourself in a crisis pregnancy situation

This woman in a crisis pregnancy, seeks help. She is told of the three options, to be blunt: Keep it, kill it or give it away.

But there is a catch. If she ‘wants’ the ‘kill it’ option she has to travel to another jurisdiction to carry this out as it is still illegal in this country. Your baby is medically unviable? Sure just have it anyway, or get on a plane to some god-forsaken land full of pagans that kill babies. You are having suicidal thoughts because of your situation? Ah, don’t be making a mountain out of a molehill. Inflammatory stuff that!

Emotive language says a woman who has an abortion is ‘killing a baby’. This verbal hokum cannot be compared to a person going into a school and killing children with guns, or bombers intentionally killing by planting their awful devices. Abortion is the ending, termination, of a pregnancy. End of.

The decision should lie with the woman

The foetus is a potential person but only when it is viable outside the womb on birth, once it is capable of independent existence, but the crux is until the birth, that zygote, embryo or foetus is dependent on the mother for its existence and the mother is the one who should have the choice of whether to go on with the pregnancy or to end it. No one else has that right.

That pregnant woman is the one who has the right to life enshrined in our constitution. Savita Halappanavar had that right. The potential child inside a pregnant woman has no independent right as it’s not an independent being, it is not a citizen of this country, until the woman decides to make it one by the action of allowing her pregnancy to go to term and subsequently giving birth.

This country has dragged itself out of the dark ages of mental asylums, Magdalene laundries and banned contraception. Women have come out from under the rock of religious control, fear and subjugation. Yes, women are designed to have twenty-plus pregnancies but this is mother nature’s way of making sure a smaller number survive harsh environments to perpetuate the human race.

Women are not just baby-making machines

This is where the anachronism comes in because we live in the 21st century, a society where women are not just baby-making machines, pushing out a child every year of her fertile life, then laying down and dying. This is an enlightened society where each person has the right to life and to live in a society where civilisation has thrived due to advances in medicine, science and education.  We have risen above just existing, struggling for dominance over each other, fighting for our food, like dumb animals.

But in this country, in the 21st century, we still have thousands of women per annum travelling abroad to have legal abortions, where the rest of the civilised first world have accommodated a woman’s right to choose. How very backward and barbaric of us.

We can’t continue to just blame the church while its teachings are still enshrined in the constitution, we have to change the constitution to back up the enlightenment of the people living in this democracy and relieve the church of any last vestige of control over this now pluralist society.

Protecting the life of the woman

Back to the woman. Our first duty is to the living, breathing woman who has become pregnant and is not in a fit state to continue, for all the reasons we have heard about over the time this debate has droned on. No woman’s life should hang in the balance if a termination can save her, whether she is in physical or mental danger. No mother, no baby. Simple as.

Every woman who has suffered the indignity,  pain and barbarity of that trip over the water to Britain in the time abortion has been, and continues to be, illegal in this country, deserves the constitution to be changed to allow a civilised nation to make an informed choice, after receiving the support, guidance and counselling required to allow this choice to be made, so that her sisters will never have to be put in the degrading, hostile and lonely position of booking that clinic in a foreign place.

Maybe the reason the women who have had to do this in the past, the women who are now expressing regret for what they did, suffer more from the illegal label abortion carries in this country, than the actual decision of going ahead with the abortion at all. The overwhelming post-abortion emotion generated is relief, which should be guilt-free.

Never an easy decision or one that is made lightly

I would wager absolutely no woman has an abortion on a whim. A crisis pregnancy is one of the most awful positions to find yourself in. Every woman that does has to make a profoundly difficult decision against the clock, against the background of a totally individual set of circumstances which no one else can advise them about as you are not that frightened, often extremely young, person – so butt out and allow her make her decision guided by professionals who are there to help.

If a woman could sit around and weigh up every nuance and consequence of going ahead with the pregnancy or not, of course the outcome could be more measured and a decision to keep the baby may be an option, but unfortunately, and especially, in the case of medical unviability for the foetus, it is just not the case. Then we force our women to leave the country to avail of the empathic and humane care she has a right to.

Walk in their shoes, pro-lifers, and see how you like it. Lets just cut to the chase, stitch up the X Case’s dangling loopholes, then bite the bullet and hold a referendum to legalise abortion using successful models, as in the UK, as our guide and bring this country into the 21st century. Respect that individuals are capable of making choices. If they regret them, they can avail of help to come to terms with the outcome of those choices as we do with other decisions taken as a matter of course throughout our lives.

One thing is for sure, we will not have women indiscriminately queuing up demanding lunchtime abortions, getting back to work in time for some water-cooler gossip, just for the hell of it.

Carol Redmond is qualified Life Coach and holds a certificate in psychology from NUI Maynooth. She lives in Delgany, County Wicklow.

LIVE: Oireachtas hearings on planned abortion laws>

As they happened: Oireachtas hearings on planned abortion laws>

Majority support abortion where mother’s life is at risk of suicide>


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