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What's Really At Stake In The Irish Abortion Referendum - Vogue

Abortion has been illegal in Ireland since 1861, but a few months after I was born, the Eighth Amendment was written into the Irish constitution. For the past 34 years, the law has stated that an unborn child and the mother have an equal right to life, outlawing abortion even in situations of rape and incest. But this May, in a historic referendum, Irish people will be given the chance to vote to repeal this amendment, and ultimately to allow parliament to draw up a law permitting abortions in Irish hospitals up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

Growing up in Ireland in the years following the intro­duction of the Eighth, abortion was not a word you heard often. Occasionally, a high-profile case would be mentioned on the news or during radio debates: the 1992 "X Case", for example, in which the Irish state tried to stop a 14-year-old suicidal rape victim from travelling to the UK to have her pregnancy terminated. But generally, in homes and schools, the word was taboo. The only time it came up during my secondary-school education was when we were shown an American anti-abortion video. A mousy-haired woman stared out of the TV, addressing 30 Irish schoolgirls, trying to convince them that even in cases of rape, abortion was not the answer. One girl left the room, crying and upset. "She's probably had an abortion," another girl whispered. The room buzzed, not with concern, but with prurience.

I wondered at the time: why did they bother showing us these videos? And why were there billboards with pictures of foetuses by the roadside? Abortion was already illegal; what more did they want? I realise now that the constant murmur of anti-abortion rhetoric ensured the stigma was maintained. I grew up with my own sense that abortion was necessary - I have always felt pro-choice - but the silence surrounding the subject meant I kept those views to myself.

It's good to see these stories coming out, living in the Netherlands it's been hard to fathom what's at stake a 1000 kilometres away.

by Bjinse on Thu Apr 26th, 2018 at 08:19:10 PM EST

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