“I do not want to live in a country where a friend could die due to an unintended pregnancy.”
Ireland holds a unique standing in the world for many reasons – but having a constitutional ban on abortion isn’t one we should be proud of. The 8th Amendment hangs over our women with an immovable weight, alongside those who aren’t women but can still get pregnant. We know what it’s done to women in the past, both nameless and named – the lives that have been lost, and the pain it has inflicted. How many more must we put through this before changing it?
As a queer woman, this is the second time in three years that my rights are being debated on the airwaves. It’s the second time I’m out canvassing for something that so personally affects me. Our LGBT+ community worked hard on the Marriage Equality referendum, campaigning to change hearts and minds. This, in turn, has lead to acceptance of LGBT+ people in Ireland changing for the better after that historic vote in May 2015. The MarRef and the Together For Yes campaigns are very different from one another, but I can’t help but feel I’ve been strengthened by my experience with both.
Life isn’t Black and White
I want this to be the last time anyone has to fight for rights through a public vote due to our constitutional structure. A Yes vote recognises that life isn’t black and white and that there are specific and tragic situations that are worsened by the 8th. You can’t reduce those complex medical situations to two rigid sentences in a Constitution, but that’s precisely what the 8th Amendment does.
A Yes vote recognises the harm that can disproportionately affect pregnant people with chronic health issues and disabilities. I do not want to live in a country where a friend could die due to an unintended pregnancy because of having to come off their medication, or how their bodies may not cope with pregnancy. Thousands of people every year already travel to the UK to access abortion, but not everyone has the health or funds to do this.
A Yes vote is a vote for compassion and care for any person who needs to access abortion care. It means that our country doesn’t agree with healthcare being exported to other countries. It would end the practice of people ordering abortion pills from unregulated sources and taking them unsupervised because they feel it’s their only choice.
This ask isn’t extreme. The current proposed legislation to follow, if the Yes vote passes, would bring us more in line with international best practice regarding abortion care and access. It would bring Ireland in line with most other European countries, yet it’s still more restrictive than others.
Let us do the women of Ireland justice, and trust them to work with their healthcare providers to make the best decision for their situations and health. The vast majority of obstetricians and gynaecologists support repeal, and I trust these experts on this.
For all of the above, and so much more – they are my reasons why I’m voting Yes.
Sharon Nolan is a queer activist, co-convener of the Galway Together for Yes campaign, and a local coordinator of Bi+ Ireland.
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