Wednesday 13 November 2019

Joanna Kiernan : Get your hands off our wombs, Lucinda

Joanna Kiernan

I am not a mother. I have never been pregnant. I would not presume to know or appreciate fully the highs and lows of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.

In her speech in the Dail last week, calling for amendments to the already very restrictive abortion legislation, Fine Gael TD and Minister for Foreign Affairs Lucinda Creighton made the point that she has never met a woman who regretted having her child, but has met women who regret their abortions.

I wonder if Lucinda has ever met a woman who felt she would have preferred to have her children at a different time in life perhaps, or in different circumstances? I have met plenty.

I don't condone abortion as some form of convenient contraceptive or view it as tantamount to a dental procedure.

However, I do not believe that women in modern secular Ireland should be left to travel to England for abortions, or order pills on the internet and bleed alone in their bathrooms for days, too frightened to seek medical help for fear of a criminal conviction.

Abortion has always happened here, because women have always been vulnerable. There are those who choose to ignore our desperate historical tolerance of Magdalene Laundries and back-street abortion clinics. The result? Some women died, some lived miserable, guilt-ridden lives as outcasts and – to use the term very loosely – the 'lucky' ones lived the rest of their lives with no one knowing the terrifying trauma they had been through.

More than 100,000 Irish women have travelled abroad to end pregnancies since the X Case ruling 21 years ago.

I do not believe that women who have unwanted pregnancies should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term as some form of penance for having sex in the first place.

Nor do I think that my beliefs – which inhibit me from using the term 'foetus' or viewing the baby as 'a clump of cells' as some of those in the pro-choice camp tend to do – should take precedence over their more disconnected views.

For the record, as well as being anti-choice Lucinda Creighton is also anti-same-sex marriage and same-sex parent adoption. Now in what would appear to be another thinly veiled nod to her religious supporters, Minister Creighton is using the abortion conversation to object to the term 'suicide' being used in Irish legislation for the first time, while simultaneously objecting to it being established as a grounds for abortion.

Apparently, if we don't hear the word 'suicide' as much, if it's not used in legislation, we won't commit it. Thanks for your help Lucinda, but we are about as likely to consider ending our own lives at the Government's mere utterance of the term as the women of this country are to start lining up to be declared suicidal in order to have handy abortions on our lunch breaks. The view is not only insulting to the collective intelligence of Irish women, but ascribes a level of callous, she-devilry which Ireland is surely past in the year 2013.

For extreme pro-lifers out there reading this, you can save your death threats and bloodied letters, because I am, personally I must qualify, moderately pro-life.

I want to say that I would never have an abortion, but I can't. There is no reason for me, in my current circumstances, to terminate a pregnancy. I am a reasonably mature, semi-successful 27-year-old with a home and a loving, long-term partner, and I love children. However, I cannot say what I would do if I became pregnant as a result of rape, or if I were told during a much-wanted pregnancy that the baby would not survive outside my womb. Would I, could I, go through nine months of being patted on the belly by wide-eyed well-wishers asking about baby names?

I don't think so, but I would never tell other women what decision they should make.

This is why I shudder at Lucinda Creighton's judgemental hijacking of the issue last week. This is why, when I drive by the Life Institute posters or see young women from Pro-Life groups pushed to the front during press calls – the same women who oppose sex before marriage and contraceptives, and who rally against marriage and adoption rights for homosexual couples – I am consumed by despair.

As one young pro-choice woman recently said, "I'm pro-abortion like I'm pro-chemo: I'd prefer if wasn't needed, but if it is I'd like women to have the option."

Hands off our wombs, Lucinda. You don't speak for the majority of Irish women, just yourself it seems – and that is not what you were elected to do.

Irish Independent

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