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Recent claims that the Eighth Amendment has resulted in 100,000 babies being born need
to be looked at from another perspective. It implies that the amendment has forced 100,000 women to continue with pregnancies whether they wanted to or not and regardless of their circumstances.
If that seems more like a boast from Ceausescu’s grim Romania in the 1980s than something to celebrate, maybe that is because the Eighth Amendment dates from that era.
In fact, our constitutional ban only prevents those who are too ill or those who cannot afford to travel from accessing abortion services outside Ireland. Those with money have always exercised their right
to choose in England and other countries.
We even wrote their “freedom” to travel for abortions into the Constitution in a referendum in 1992. The word “freedom” was used because if we were to give women a “right” to travel the State might have to pay their costs.
In most European countries
(except the Vatican and Malta) abortion is legal — and offered as a health service — because it is recognised in European democracies that there are many valid reasons why women may terminate pregnancies.
They include when they have
been raped, are experiencing a pregnancy that will not end with a live child, when women cannot cope physically or mentally, or they simply cannot afford another child.
It is time that Ireland also recognised that women can have very complex and different experiences of pregnancy; that our state fails to support and value parenting, provide affordable childcare, or even to ensure that educational opportunities are genuinely free and equal; and that many families struggle on low incomes and live with the threat of — and increasingly experience — homelessness.
Quoting made-up statistics only hides the realities many women, couples and families face when considering whether someone can take on the lifelong and crucially important work of motherhood. It is time to repeal the Eighth Amendment and deal honestly with these issues.
Dr Sandra McAvoy
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