Abortion – the Arguments

Socialist Worker 393

Abortion – the Arguments

“Abortion” is a word surrounded with stigma and shame, and it’s time to change that. We need open factual discussions about abortion; we owe it to every Irish woman denied control over her own reproductive rights. Irish women have abortions; last year 1,017 abortion pills were seized by customs and 3,451 Irish women procured abortions in the UK. Why does Ireland continue to stick its head in the sand? The majority of Irish people want to repeal the 8th Amendment which equates the rights of a woman with those of the foetus dependent upon her for survival. Irish women have died because of the 8th Amendment.

Why should we legalise abortion?

Abortion is illegal in Ireland – North and South- yet it is not illegal to travel abroad to get one. Some women cannot leave Ireland, meaning abortion is accessible only for those with the right and the mobility to travel. Furthermore the €1000 cost of the trip to the UK for an abortion is too high for many Irish families. Medically a woman should have a check-up 24 hours after an abortion, but the cost of an extra night in the UK means many women skip this to their own detriment. Aside from financial cost, they have responsibilities waiting at home. While we ignore and export the issue, they suffer; women should not have to leave Ireland for medical treatment.

Is it dangerous?

Physical health complications with legal, safe abortions are very rare. Pregnancy itself is more dangerous; 300,000 women die from pregnancy or delivery-related complications every year worldwide. 14.5% of these 300,000 deaths are due to “backstreet” abortions and could be avoided. Stigmatising women who have had abortions affects their mental health and significantly increases depression. As with most difficult decisions, it helps to be able to openly talk about it.


Abortion, as a personal, medical choice, should be available to any woman who asks for one, without judgment. The consent of the partner will not be required, nor of the parent in the case of pregnant minors- no one should ever be forced to remain pregnant to comply with parental wishes.

Concern over late-term abortions?

When abortions are carried out late in pregnancy it tends to be because of risk to the woman’s life or diagnosis of a Fatal Foetal Abnormality. The vast majority of abortions are carried out in the first 12 weeks. Abortion pills can be used safely up to 10 weeks; in Sweden 62% of abortions are home abortions using these pills. 66% of UK abortions are at 6-9 weeks, but Irish women get them later than this because they have to make travel and other arrangements. Ready access to safe, legal abortions means fewer late-term abortions.

Using abortion as a contraceptive?

When people have access to proper sex education and when contraception is widely-available fewer abortions are carried out. Abortion is equally accessible in Belgium and Russia, yet the abortion rate is much higher in Russia where contraception is expensive and more difficult to obtain. In developed countries the annual number of abortions dropped from 12m in 1990-94 to 7m a year in 2010-14. Contraceptives are not 100% effective, and most women who procure abortions in developed countries had been using contraceptives which failed. The idea that women just don’t bother with contraception and use abortion instead is an anti-choice myth.

Should we allow abortion of foetuses with disabilities

Reiterating the above “Abortion, as a personal, medical choice, should be available to any woman who asks for one, without judgement.” Evidence shows that abortion because of disability is rare. Only 1% of abortions in the UK were carried out because of disability. Women should be provided with the relevant information about the condition/disability and trusted to make their own, educated, decision. If a woman feels unable to raise a child with a disability that is her personal choice.

Will they regret it?

In 2010 research showed that 87% of Irish women who had an abortion said it was the right decision for them and another recent study supports these findings. Women “overwhelmingly expressed gratitude and relief” at being able to take the abortion pill. A tiny minority of women do regret it but their regret is not reason enough to prevent others from making their own decision.

Is it “wrong”? 

Anti-choice campaigns draw our focus away from the rights of women and proclaim that abortion is “murder of a baby”. This is sensationalist and designed to provoke feelings of disgust. A foetus is not a baby. Before 6 weeks there is no heartbeat, before 14 weeks there is no brain activity, before 23 weeks a foetus cannot survive outside of the womb (at 28 weeks there is an 80% survival rate).

A foetus does not have a life of its own and depends entirely upon the life of the woman. The law cannot force someone to donate an organ to a dying child, yet it can force a woman to carry a foetus against her will. Ask yourself if this is contradictory. Some believe life begins at conception, some at birth and others somewhere in-between, indeed once common was the belief that “ensoulment” began at 40 days for male foetuses and 90 days for females; note the blatant sexism! In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV determined it took place at 166 days of pregnancy, almost 24 weeks!

What about the Citizen’s Assembly?

The Citizen’s Assembly is a device by the government to play for time. They hope to be able , through the judge and ‘experts’, to influence and control its findings, maybe coming up with an ‘amendment to the amendment’. This is not good enough.

Because of our Abortion laws the EU, UN, Amnesty and others have lambasted Ireland as cruel, inhuman and degrading to women. We can’t keep ignoring this! Nobody born in the past 50 years has voted on the issue- a referendum is long overdue!

The Citizen’s Assembly is keeping the discussion out of the public forum, and the decision out of our hands.  Control over reproductive rights is crucial for women’s economic and social independence. It’s time for change. Repeal the 8th!

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