It's time for Ireland to start trusting women - Ellen Norton
As we reflect on International Women’s Day, I can’t stop thinking about the women of our country, north and south who don’t have full control over their bodies. I also can’t stop thinking about how this should have been a celebration of our fierce and strong sisters but how can we fully celebrate International Women's Day when we don't even have basic healthcare rights? The cruel 8th amendment forces approximately 4000 people to travel abroad every year to access services that they should be able to access at home. Not to mention the fact that travelling abroad for a termination is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone could ever go through and that's only if they can afford to travel. If they can't afford to travel they must seek abortion pills or use a coat hanger or drink bleach. Where is the equality in that? This disgusting policy discriminates against me and against anyone who calls this country home.
“The 8th amendment saves lives”, I'm sure this is something we've all heard while campaigning for Repeal, but the fact is that the 8th amendment does not save anything or anyone, the only thing it does is put people’s lives at risk. Just because the 8th restricts safe legal abortions happening in Ireland does not mean that they don’t happen. Unsafe terminations happen everyday, home abortions happen everyday, people take abortion pills everyday, people contemplate taking their own lives because of a crisis pregnancy everyday, people travel to England every day. Don’t let the anti-choicer’s fool you for a second by saying the 8th causes any good to this country because quite frankly the only thing it causes is hurt and discrimination and the only thing it does is take rights away and make people second-class citizens.
As a 16 year old girl, repealing the 8th amendment is always one of my top priorities but I have to admit that there is certain minorities who I feel are going unrepresented in the campaign to Repeal. Let's take a look at the transgender and non-binary communities who are being completely left out of the debate. 95% of pro-choice posters and slogans say “I stand with her” or “trust women” but what about the people who have a womb but don't recognize themselves as male or female or the transgender men who already don't feel like they have control over their own bodies, who are already living in a society that doesn't want them, in a country that does not cater for their needs. These people are being extensively underrepresented in society in general but particularly in the whole debate around the 8th amendment. Yes 11 women leave Ireland everyday to access abortion services which is appalling but the harsh reality is more Irish citizens then just these woman leave the country every day. How many trans or nonbinary people leave every day? No one knows because no one seems to care enough to find out. All I ask is that next time you have a debate with someone about the 8th amendment mention trans or non-binary people who don't feel like they have a voice in this debate.
Another group of people that are being completely overshadowed in this debate is the people who live in the six counties. We ARE going to win the referendum in the south and have abortion rights for our citizens but I can't help but think about the people in the north of Ireland who won’t have the same rights as their fellow Irish citizens in the south. People who live less than 15 miles away from me don’t have the same right as I will have, on what planet does that make even an ounce of sense? Not to mention the fact that England Scotland and Wales all have abortion services but the north still won’t.
It’s clear that majority of people have had enough of the status quo. We won't wait around anymore we want choice without borders for our citizens now. So in the weeks leading to the referendum, use the inspiration from International Women’s Day to try and educate people on the rights that women don't have whether it's abortion services, equal pay, under representation or anything else you're unhappy with. Spend more time with your girlfriends, your sisters, your comrades, your mother, your granny or any other fierce formidable and fabulous women you know. Spend it celebrating because we've never been closer to having equal rights and that's something extraordinary to celebrate.
Ní saoirse go saoirse na mban!! ✊
Ellen Norton - Louth ÓSF