We have been told that we are having a referendum in Ireland in May.
We have also been told that this is a referendum about abortion but I don’t think this is entirely true.
To be quite honest, I think this upcoming referendum is about the status of women in Ireland.
The referendum will give Irish citizens an opportunity to repeal the eighth amendment to our constitution.
This amendment gives the unborn child a right to life equal to that of its mother.
At first glance, this might seem sensible.
Of course the unborn child is important and it’s only reasonable that it should be given every protection.
When I was pregnant with my son (who is now 15 months old), I absolutely wanted my doctors and all of my medical team to do all they could to ensure that my child grew strong and healthy while I was carrying him.
I also wanted everyone that I met as I went from place to place while I was pregnant to pay me a certain amount of extra care because I was pregnant.
That said, I was also aware of the stories of women who had suffered as a result of the eighth amendment.
There was the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, who died during a miscarriage because the doctors didn’t do as much as they might have due to being worried about the legal implications of interfering in a way that might endanger the child.
Savita’s story is well-known, but there are many others.
For example, there’s the case of a woman in Cork who discovered she had cancer while she was pregnant.
Her doctors would not proceed with treatment because they did not want to harm the child in her womb.
They were happy to place her health and her life in danger in order to safeguard the rights of her unborn child.
These stories and countless others prove that it’s dangerous for women in Ireland to be pregnant while the eighth amendment remains in place.
In practical terms, it doesn’t mean that your right to life is equal to that of the unborn child in your womb.
It actually means that you lose some rights.
You don’t have the same sense of bodily autonomy as you had before your pregnancy.
I have to admit that I felt this acutely when I was pregnant with my son.
Perhaps it had something to do with the endless debates about the eighth amendment and abortion that was to be heard in the media (we have been talking about this topic in Ireland for years now), but I felt that I was in actual danger.
I remember telling my partner about it.
I told him to be ready to fight for me if anything were to happen, if I were to have some sort of accident or fall sick in some way.
I told him this because I didn’t trust the medical community to have my best interests at heart.
The law meant that they couldn’t have.
Such thinking didn’t spoil my pregnancy but these thoughts did cross my mind from time to time.
I was lucky that nothing happened to me while I was pregnant so neither my partner nor I had to take on the doctors.
But there was a chance that something might have happened and as long as the eighth amendment remains in our constitution, women who are pregnant in Ireland will remain at risk.
The question of abortion is another question entirely and it’s not one that I am going to discuss here today.
We shouldn’t even be debating it quite as much as we are in the run-up to the referendum either. Because the question we are going to be asked is not primarily a question about abortion.
We are going to be asked whether we want the eighth amendment to be repealed or not.
The meaning behind this question is whether we want to leave women who are expecting babies in the vulnerable position they are in now or whether we want to make sure that they are safe and secure during their pregnancies.
Surely this is a very simple question to answer?