To­gether for Yes lo­cal cam­paigner urges a yes vote

The Sligo Champion - - NEWS - By PA­TRI­CIA GAR­DINER , SLIGO TOWN

WE are just a few weeks away from the ref­er­en­dum on re­peal­ing the Eighth amend­ment. As a woman from County Sligo, I will vote Yes on 25 May. I’d like to ex­plain why.

This ref­er­en­dum is not a vote on abor­tion be­cause abor­tion is al­ready here. Ev­ery­one ac­knowl­edges that. Just look at the num­bers. Between 2012 and 2016, 172 women from County Sligo trav­elled to Eng­land to have abor­tions. That does not take into ac­count those who did not list their home ad­dress, or who trav­elled to other coun­tries to ac­cess care.

Nor does it ac­count for the many women who, un­able to travel, choose in­stead to or­der un­reg­u­lated abor­tion pills on­line from un­known sell­ers. These pills are safe when taken un­der the su­per­vi­sion of a doc­tor, but that’s not what is hap­pen­ing.

The shame and iso­la­tion of this act means that girls and women tak­ing abor­tion pills may de­lay get­ting emer­gency care when bleed­ing be­comes se­vere.

The threat of 14 years prison sen­tence if they are dis­cov­ered means that many suf­fer and put their lives at risk be­cause they can­not ac­cess sup­ported abor­tion care legally here at home. Many never even tell their doc­tors, or seek their sup­port.

And so, this is re­ally a vote to de­cide if we will choose to reg­u­late and make safe the abor­tion that is al­ready here, and prove care to women.

In the 35 years since its ad­di­tion to our con­sti­tu­tion, there have been far too many public cases of girls and women who have been harmed by the Eighth Amend­ment.

This goes back to the dev­as­tat­ing story of Miss X in 1992 when a young girl, just 14 years old, be­came preg­nant as a re­sult of rape. This experience was so trau­matic and des­per­ate that she be­came suicidal. In a time of unimag­in­able trauma for Miss X, the Eighth Amend­ment pre­vented her from be­ing able to ter­mi­nate her preg­nancy in Ire­land and start to heal the wounds of her hor­rific experience. It is cases like these and many oth­ers that led both the Cit­i­zens’ As­sem­bly and the Joint Oireach­tas Com­mit­tee on the Eighth Amend­ment to rec­om­mend leg­is­la­tion that al­lows ac­cess to abor­tion up to 12 weeks.

Af­ter hear­ing hours upon hours of ex­pert and per­sonal tes­ti­mony, pan­els of reg­u­lar Ir­ish cit­i­zens and our elected of­fi­cials both re­alised that it is nearly im­pos­si­ble to leg­is­late for cases con­cern­ing rape and in­cest. The most com­pas­sion­ate and log­i­cal laws we can cre­ate of­fer ac­cess un­til the 12-week mark.

The re­al­ity is that life is com­pli­cated – we all know this. There will be a time in all of our lives when we are forced to man­age med­i­cal emer­gen­cies and uncer­tainty. When this time comes, ev­ery­one hopes for com­pas­sion­ate, sup­port­ive care from doc­tors that we know. We sim­ply can’t re­duce com­plex med­i­cal sit­u­a­tions to two rigid sen­tences in a Con­sti­tu­tion.

But that is pre­cisely what we’ve done with the Eighth Amend­ment. Rather than al­low­ing our well-trained doc­tors to do their jobs, we have con­strained their abil­ity to pro­vide the best care pos­si­ble for their pa­tients. That is why our na­tion’s top ex­perts on women’s health, the In­sti­tute of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists, and the vast ma­jor­ity of its mem­bers are all in favour of re­peal­ing the Eighth Amend­ment. When faced with com­plex cases, their hands are cur­rently tied by the con­sti­tu­tion. The re­sults of this can be dis­as­trous for women.

As polling day ap­proaches, I ask you to think about a woman you love, and con­sider what you would want for her if she ex­pe­ri­enced the hor­ror of rape or in­cest and be­came preg­nant as a re­sult. If she re­ceived the dev­as­tat­ing di­ag­no­sis of a fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­ity, what would you want for her?

Fi­nally, I would ask you to con­sider the fact that abor­tion is al­ready here in Ire­land, it is just un­safe and un­reg­u­lated. Women - most of them moth­ers - are tak­ing abor­tion pills at home alone with­out any med­i­cal su­per­vi­sion what­so­ever. All the med­i­cal ex­perts say this is dan­ger­ous. Vot­ing Yes means we will reg­u­late abor­tion in Ire­land, make it safer, and pro­vide care to women in Ire­land who need it.

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