Repeal the 8th: sometimes you have to state the obvious

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

The reason I haven’t blogged about the campaign to repeal the 8th, and in fact abortion in a general sense, is for one rather boring reason: it feels too obvious. Abortion is a right, because bodily autonomy is a right, and I don’t need to hear the details of an individual woman’s struggle in order to understand that someone’s choices are their own.

But I’m writing today because sometimes it’s worth stating the obvious.

Abortion rights

If you’re a regular reader, I’d be gobsmacked if you didn’t agree that abortion should be legal, and that no one should have to leap through giant hurdles (financial, geographical, those weird ‘tests’ where you have to sit and listen to doctors tell you all about foetal development) in order to obtain one.

So if you don’t think abortion rights are important, chances are I’m never going to persuade you. The case studies, information, and impassioned pleas are out there, so nothing from me is going to change your mind. And so we end up with this: a blog post for people who agree with me, encouraging them to do what might seem silly – state the obvious.

Repeal the 8th

The Irish campaign to repeal the 8th amendment has been all over my Twitter timeline for the last few weeks, and I hope yours too. The 8th amendment criminalises abortion except in cases where to continue a pregnancy would result in death. In theory, it means that pregnancy knocks your status as an autonomous individual down to that of an animal or child: you can no longer make decisions surrounding your health because you are carrying something which – despite not yet being born – can be assumed to have personhood, and the right to assert it.

In practice it means that, since 1980, over 164,000 people have had to leave Ireland and go to the UK to obtain abortions. And that is a pretty huge hurdle to leap over, particularly at a vulnerable time.

But I shouldn’t need to say it’s a huge hurdle: that much is obvious. That’s why the law exists: to be a hurdle so large no one wants to jump over it. To make your bodily autonomy infinitely harder to assert if you happen to be pregnant. That’s the specific and deliberate aim, because the law is made by people who think it’s obvious that no one should have access to abortion unless their pregnancy will cause pretty much certain death. To those who made, and support, laws like that, that point is obvious.

State the obvious: repeal the 8th

This week, I saw an astonishingly awesome headline. After someone in Poland proposed a law that would criminalise people seeking abortions, people across the country gathered to protest. And this popped up on my facebook:

OK, so this won’t have totally solved the problem: abortion is still banned in most cases in Poland, and there will still be many women, trans and non-binary people in Poland who struggle to obtain an abortion – this particular change in the law is not, after all, the only hurdle to get over. But it made me realise how ridiculous it is that I’ve never actually written about this. That the thing that’s been stopping me is a fear of stating the obvious.

I live in a country where – by and large – abortion is free, legal, and easy to obtain. I don’t live in Ireland, with the 8th amendment hanging over me as a regular reminder that my personhood is only important until the moment I conceive. I don’t live in Texas, where regulators regularly try to sneak in rules that would make abortion far more difficult to obtain. I don’t live in any of the countries where abortion is flat-out illegal in anything but the most extreme circumstances. I might one day, though – thanks to the rise in anti-abortion campaigners in the UK, hanging around outside clinics and harassing people like those charmers in the US Christian right wing.

In Ireland, there is strong support for repealing the 8th amendment. There might be many people who see the groundswell of support for the campaign and think ‘great! They’re winning!’, just as I do, but forget to vocally show their support, for fear of stating the obvious.

But in Poland, hundreds of thousands of people turned up to protests to do exactly this. And it made a difference.

Maybe the growing confidence of anti-abortion campaigners is partly down to the fact that for too long many of us have been wary of stating the obvious. Where the anti-choice lobby is so vocal, angry, cruel and downright wrong, it often feels silly to actually come out and say so. Of course they’re cruel – they are literally standing outside abortion clinics showing frightened and vulnerable people the most appallingly distressing pictures. Of course they’re wrong – pregnancy can’t diminish your rights as a human being over your own body. And so often my response is to either sarcastically dismiss them or ignore them.

But while they exist, we need to be vocal.

We need to stand up and state the obvious.

Repeal the 8th.

6 Comments

  • The One says:

    Oh god I’m so so happy you wrote about this. Thank you thank you ❤

  • Steev says:

    In the meantime, there’s the Abortion Support Network (https://www.asn.org.uk/) which helps Irish women get to Great Britain for abortions.

  • Abbi says:

    It means so much to have others turn their eye on the situation and bring more attention to it. This is how we change things.

    Thank you
    Or as we say here Go raibh MÍLE maith agat x

  • K says:

    Damn straight. I am a British woman from England, who now lives in Northern Ireland. Still part of the UK, but a force of their own when it comes to lawmaking. We do not have access to abortion in Northern Ireland, despite it being the UK, despite multiple attempts to change the law.
    This is a country which is home for me now, and which I love, for all its faults; but if I had known this I would have never voluntarily moved here. Never knowingly, willingly, decreased my personhood and rights as a human being, to protect the sensitivities of old white men. No matter how beautiful the scenery.

  • sarah says:

    whilst i agree entirely with what you say, one thing stands out for me in this post, and it’s the cis-centric language you’re using which you usually work very hard to avoid. cis women aren’t the only ones who get pregnant. other than that, you’re right on. as usual.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Agh, damn you’re absolutely right. There was a big middle section of this which focused on the gendered arguments, where I addressed this, but I cut it to focus more on the ‘obvious’ thing. I should have edited the other language accordingly. Massively clumsy of me, thank you for pointing it out – will give it another pass and edit. x

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