On May 25th, Ireland will hold a referendum that decides whether the 8th Amendment should be eradicated from the Irish Constitution. At present, the foetus has an equal right to life as the mother. If a woman is put into a situation where she feels like she cannot continue with the pregnancy, she has to disregard her judgement, her feelings and endure the remainder of the pregnancy. Above all, as the woman represses her feelings and bares the brunt of the pregnancy, the right to her own body is denied. Her body is no longer hers, but a vessel for the foetus to grow and maintaining the foetal health will prove priority over the health of the mother.
This does not represent the view I have of ‘modern Ireland’, the country where I grew up and received my education. The country that gave me everything denies me the right to choose what I do with my body. I want the women of Ireland to live in a country where they are treated equally. Where their voices are heard and their decisions, no matter how differently people think about them, are respected. My vote to repeal the eighth will tell the women of Ireland that they matter and that women’s rights are important. That no matter the conclusion they come to, that it was their decision to make and it should be honoured. “Modern Ireland” should provide women with access to proper healthcare in these situations and adequate after-care instead of making its women put themselves in danger and force them to cross borders. Travelling home for me will be easy in comparison to the journey other Irish women have had to take in the past and nine women take the journey per day. They had to keep their journey a secret, but I will make sure my journey home to vote won’t be.
No matter what side people are on in the referendum, it is important to look at the reality of abortions in Ireland. That is that they are still happening. Whether women are travelling over to England or whether abortion pills are ordered online, they are happening, it’s just that nobody talks about it. Abortion exists in Ireland, we just choose to ignore it.
I never doubted that I would travel home to vote. I have only recently moved to London after being lucky enough to travel across South East Asia for two months. It was a chance to make a new life for myself in a new city with multiple opportunities. But I am reminded that with my decision to move to London, many women living in Ireland have no choice but to travel to England, not with a new life in mind but with a difficult decision and a heart-breaking story behind it. The accounts vary from woman to woman. No matter the story, women shouldn’t have to beg to have their rights given to them.
Like with everything, I believe it is essential to be informed on both sides of any campaign. Having spent some time listening to the Pro-Life campaign and listening to the stories of the ‘Yes’ campaign, it reiterated what I had always believed: that the private rights of women should be kept private. It should not be determined by a religious organisation or by a government. True freedom lies in bodily autonomy. A “No” vote will continue to emotionally cripple the women of Ireland and force them to continue to live in secrecy and shame.
So why am I travelling home? I’m travelling home for all the women who had the tragedy of a fatal foetal abnormality and weren’t able to bury their children in peace. I’m travelling home for the nine women a day who travel to England with someone or alone. I’m travelling for the fathers who didn’t get to say a proper goodbye because they couldn’t afford to travel with their partner. I’m travelling home for my niece who I hope will grow up in an Ireland where women are equal in society and in law. I’m travelling home to repeal the 8th Amendment.