Politics, News

Irish women are going on strike for abortion rights

In the U.S., the fight for free and unabashed freedoms regarding our sexual and bodily health is a constant push-and-pull. In Ireland, it's quite the same.

I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret: I’m a dual citizen of the United States and the Republic of Ireland. My father was born and raised in Ireland, and fell in love with my mom after he immigrated to America. While I’ve never lived in Ireland, I’ve visited numerous times, and have tons of family living there.

As a citizen of both countries, their domestic issues hit me twice as hard. So imagine how it feels when I see violations against women’s health rights in both places.

To be struck with disappointment from both sides of the ocean isn’t easy. As a woman, I feel acutely connected with the issue of bodily rights – more specifically, abortion rights. In the U.S., the fight for free and unabashed freedoms regarding our sexual and bodily health is a constant push-and-pull. In Ireland, it’s quite the same.

To put it simply: Ireland has some of the strictest rules regarding abortion worldwide. Abortion is allowed only when the mother’s life is at risk – not in cases of incest, rape, or fetal anomaly. Irish family planning can only be done in person, as it is illegal to provide information over the phone. Irish services have been said to intimidate women and misguide them in order to reduce their likelihood of traveling to another country to have the abortion. There are agencies that try to provide a different type of guidance that is more accepting and open, but the government of Ireland is strict on abortions.  The typical punishment for having an abortion is up to 14 years in prison. About 5,000 women travel abroad in order to have abortions.

Women have been trying to get around these laws for years.  In the Netherlands, a non-profit called “Women on Web” has been aiding Irish women in obtaining abortion pills such as mifepristone and misoprostol.  Two drugs that are considered essential by the World Health Organization.

Irish law considers a fetus to have the same civil rights as the woman does. Recently, women have taken up protesting against these strict laws.  And tomorrow, women will wear black, and will strike from work. Women have also been told to wear black on this day.  The point of this day is to withdraw from typical matronly duties, and therefore show lawmakers the importance of women in Ireland.  They believe their rights should be respected more than the current law allows.

Specifically, “Our demand is that the Irish government call a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment by the 8th of March. If not, Ireland will strike.”  There have been attempts in the past to change this law, but none have worked and women are not at their wit’s end.

Abortion in the United States has been a long-contested issue.  However, since the supreme court ruling of 1973 “Roe vs. Wade” the United States has allowed abortions.  Each state has their own specific rules and regulations, but abortion is much easier to obtain in the United States than Ireland.  Most states do not allow public funding for abortions except if the women’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest.  And 17 states use their own state funds for medically necessary abortions.  This means that federal funding does not go towards abortions.

Since the presidential election of 2016, there has been controversy over Planned Parenthood.  The argument has been to defund Planned Parenthood because of its abortion aid.  However, federal funding does not go towards abortions, or really towards Planned Parenthood at all.  According to Planned Parenthood, 60% of federal funding comes through patients who use Medicare and Title X.  This means that the clinic treats these individuals and then receives compensation for their expenses from the government. The argument that funding goes towards abortions is incorrect because there is already a law that prohibits it. The Hyde Amendment already prohibits abortions for Medicaid users except in terms of rape, incest or threat to the women’s health.

The only person who has control over what is growing inside of them is the mother and the father. Those two created the baby and those two have responsibility for that baby, whether you are in Ireland or the United States.  Abortions are important, because without safe procedures, women will still get abortions but in unsafe and more dangerous ways.  The reality of the abortion arguments is that no woman walks into an abortion clinic happily, or skipping or humming a tune.  No woman decides to kill something that is in her own body on a whim.  The seriousness of the necessity for safe abortions is immense, and I applaud the women who are fighting against strict and unfair laws.