**Warning: This is a long blog post. I am not apologising for that, because this is a big issue – I’m just letting you know in advance!


Please Note:

Due to the sensitive nature and seriousness of this topic I want to clarify a few things before (or if) you read this: 

  1. I am a health advocate, by my word, and by my work.
  2. In this post I am not advocating how people vote – I am asking for advice.
  3. I am, however, advocating that people vote. 
  4. I am not a medical or legal professional.
  5. I am simply sharing my own thoughts from information to hand. 
  6. I am open to people sharing opinions with me in comments sections.
  7. Please correct me if I get my information wrong, and I will edit thereafter and will reference these editions as [Insert No [date]). 
  8. I will remove online comments that are insensitive, aggressive or forceful.
  9. I welcome politicians to respond to help address some of my concerns.
  10. I am a female citizen of Ireland. I will be voting on the 25th May 2018.

So now that that’s out of the way, I want to share with you where I am at with the upcoming Referendum on the 8th Amendment.

I am not at anywhere. I cannot make a decision.

I feel guilty if I vote yes. I feel guilty if I vote no.

Further on, I will give some insight into why this is.

The 25th May is only next week, and I am doing everything I can to learn about what happens if this law changes. This is the thing – we, the people of Ireland, are being asked to, not just change, but remove (repeal), a law in Ireland – permanently – and add a new law in it’s place.

This is the proposed change:

Image: www.refcom2018.refcom.ie

For me, this has to be one of the most difficult decision making processes I have ever gone through.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Once upon a time, just a few short years ago, I heard the rumblings of a term I hadn’t heard before:

Repeal the 8th.

I know I may sound dreadfully ignorant when I say I did not know what it meant, but I’ve met many people who were the exact same as me, and this somewhat consoles me in knowing that I was not alone in “not knowing”. So one evening, a few years ago, after seeing the term again on Twitter, I decided to look it up online. I quickly found that Repeal the 8th was a campaign to change our abortion laws in Ireland – specifically related to the 8th Amendment which is written into our constitution:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right

This law was explained to me on a website and it basically meant that it is illegal to do anything (e.g. abortion) which could impact on the unborn’s right to life, for the most part.

So what did “Repeal the 8th” mean?

I learned that the Repeal the 8th campaign aimed to change this law, with numerous reasons as to why: to give all women autonomy over their bodies, to ensure a woman’s health (not just life) was prioritised over the unborn; to protect women who had gotten pregnant through rape and to allow women be able to make a choice to end a pregnancy if their baby was diagnosed with a Fatal Foetal Abnormality [FFA] (i.e. the baby would not live for long/at all after birth).

I remember reading one personal account from a woman who told of her little unborn baby who was diagnosed with a Fatal Foetal Abnormality. Not mentally able to continue with the pregnancy, knowing what she now knew, she made the difficult decision to have an abortion. However, because of the 8th Amendment she had to travel to England to do this. She spoke of the loneliness on the way over, and the way home. The anger at being made feel like a criminal. A box being delivered to her door with the remains of her baby inside. The stigma.

I was so sad and lonely for her. I cried.

I remembered reading Savita Halappanaver’s case. Even though medical negligence was cited as the cause of her death, I felt the 8th had a role to play too?

While I had never had an abortion myself, and knew from a young age that I would never have one, I had friends that did. Whether I thought it was right or wrong at those times, I supported them in their decision to do what they needed at that time.

At a much younger age than I am now, I went on the journey with them, much of the time not knowing what to say.

But I was there for them.

So at this point in time, after reading these stories, and knowing my friends, I was adamant that we needed new laws.

Why should anyone have to travel to England to access a procedure that they needed to have?

Of course I was going to change any law that would do that.

So, roll on a few years and suddenly the news hits that a referendum is going to go ahead. Immediately, I know I don’t have to think too much about this.

My vote is yes, Repeal the 8th.

Two Sides to Every Story

And then, out of nowhere it seems, in an almost explosive manner, a ferocious yes/no campaign starts jumping into all my feeds across all social media platforms. I start noticing terms like “pro-choice” and “pro-life”. Statements such as “all rights removed”, “no restriction”,  “viability”, “autonomy”, “trust women”, “women’s lives in danger”.

Foetus versus Baby. Science versus Faith. Emotions versus Facts.

Sometimes all being used at the same time by both campaigners. One minute evidence based research was accurate, and the next minute it wasn’t – depending on the views of either campaign side. It wasn’t long before I saw the aggressiveness coming out on both sides too – not just the organisations, but individuals too.

I witnessed, like many others, the online onslaught of one’s opinion.

Individuals from both sides making disrespectful, and sometimes downright disgusting comments to one another.

But not all comments were like this. Compared to the time when I first visited that website to learn about Repeal the 8th, this time through social media, I saw two sides of the story:

Women sharing personal stories of keeping babies, with no regrets. Women sharing personal stories of aborting babies, with no regrets. Women sharing stories of aborting babies, with regrets.

Women sharing stories of being forced or coerced to abort.

Women sharing stories of aborting babies who were diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities. Women sharing stories of giving birth naturally to babies with fatal foetal abnormalities.

Women sharing stories of aborting babies diagnosed with non-fatal health conditions. Women sharing stories of keeping babies who had non-fatal health conditions. Women sharing stories of having babies with non fatal health conditions – that were not diagnosed in pregnancy.

People speaking of themselves only being alive because of the 8th (adoption/medical intervention).

People and families speaking of women and loved ones dead because of the 8th.

Women not being given access to life saving medical treatment while pregnant. Women receiving life saving medical treatments while pregnant.

Women being forced by the Courts to have an abortion. Women being forced by the Courts to keep their unborn baby.

Men whose partners/wives had made decisions to abort, without their knowledge. Men whose partners/wives had made decisions to abort, with their knowledge.

Health professionals sharing opinions on how the 8th does not impact negatively on women. Health professionals sharing opinions on how the 8th does impact negatively on women.

Legal professionals saying the law should have been amended. Legal professionals saying it could not have been amended.

Obstetricians saying they provide abortions and have no issue with it. Obstetricians saying they performed abortions, and now have huge issues with it.

Even with all of the to-ing and fro-ing I stood by my stance that women should have access to safe abortion.

That was until I saw a random comment on Twitter which said:

“By removing this law, all rights for all unborn babies will be removed”.

And suddenly, I was uneasy.

Suddenly, I was not so sure.

Why?

Because it was at that moment that I realised that maybe this was a bigger deal than I thought it was. Did this mean we were completely removing the right to life from unborn babies who wanted to be kept by their mothers too? I had honestly thought we were just adding a law that allowed for abortion, in certain circumstances. (Please, again, forgive me for my ignorance – I honestly did not know this at the time).

This made me pause.

As it happens, at that very moment when I was on Twitter, I glanced at my own pinned tweet on my account, and for the first time I focused on my own words I had used to describe myself. It said:

I care about equality for all.

I knew why I wrote it that way when I did. I had simply forgotten that I had done so.

You see, I don’t advocate for one disease group over the next. I don’t advocate for one age group over the next, or one gender, culture or anything else over the next. I advocate for all. I advocate, and deeply care about, equality for all.

For me, that “all”, also includes my four beautiful daughters – as they are now, and before they were born.

For the first time since the campaigning started, I thought back on my pregnancies.

[If you want to skip my personal story and just get to the point of my blog please scroll down to the heading: The LAW]

My STORY

I have had “surprise” (or as others might say) “crisis” pregnancies.

After my leaving certificate, I had decided to take a year or so out before deciding on furthering my education. I had been sick in my last year of school and while I had been accepted into college for electronic engineering, I just needed a break for a while.

Then, I found out I was pregnant.

I was just twenty years old.

I cried when my doctor confirmed it. Told him I was too young. Told him I was scared to tell Fintan (then boyfriend, now husband). My doctor didn’t judge me. He told me it would all be okay. Told me to come back to him if I was still feeling anxious, alone or upset.

I remember he did not discuss abortion with me, and so, this is why I think, I didn’t think about it.

Thinking back now, I remember the fear. I built scenarios in my head that everyone in the town would judge me. I kept thinking “I’m too young”.  I was so scared, so absolutely terrified. Terrified of being pregnant. Terrified of labour. Terrified of losing a future of college and careers that I had imagined in my head. Terrified that I wouldn’t be a good enough mom. Terrified telling my mom, that I was pregnant. Terrified that she might think I let her down.

Terrified. Full stop. Looking back, I was in no right state of mind to make big decisions.

For the first three months, I was in a complete state of denial.

And then, I told my mom. I sat there shaking, tears running down my face. Ashamed; I refused to look her in the eye as I said the dreaded words:

“I’m pregnant”.

She got up immediately and hugged me. Told me that being pregnant was nothing to be scared of, it was not an illness – it was actually the complete opposite. Told me that a little baby would bring me joy and happiness, “wait and see” she said. She told me everything I wanted to hear, and hadn’t heard for those first three months of pregnancy.

If only I had told her sooner.

I felt so, so relieved. And to be honest, surprised. I never imagined she would react that way. It’s funny how we can imagine the worst when faced with the unknown. I knew, with her support, and that of my partner (now husband), I could face whatever happened.

I was lucky, I know that. Many others don’t have this support.

And then, in August 2002, my beautiful baby girl, Micaela, was born. Immediately, I fell in love. All my fears for me went away. I felt a fierce protectiveness for her.

A baby I had only seen in black and white pictures days before, was now in my arms in full colour: rosy pink cheeks, jet black hair and the bluest of eyes.

I fell in love again when we went on to have our beautiful blonde-hair, blue-eyed baby girl, Nicole, and then three years later, our third; Mackensie  – our tiny little heart warrior, who  made sure she wouldn’t be forgotten about when she needed major surgery at just 5 weeks old!

Life went on, and over time all of my three children at various stages in their lives were diagnosed with complex chronic health conditions.

None of these conditions were found in scans in pregnancy.

Then in 2012 my gentle dad passed away. Not long after his passing, I found out that I was pregnant. As I was so full of grief for him, I was emotionally all over the place.

I remember Fintan kneeling in front of me in the kitchen as I sat on our wooden bench, telling me it would all be okay. He made me think about the joys of another little human being and stirred up my imagination of all the fun times we had with the girls.

I began to feel happy and excited.

And then, just like that, I started miscarrying, or as is medically known, I started having a spontaneous abortion.

I had lost our baby.

I felt so guilty. Did I do something wrong? Was I being punished by the universe? Why get my hopes up only to be taken away from me? This is how I was thinking at the time. We decided to name our baby Charlie. While we didn’t know if he was a boy, I felt he was. Naming him made me feel connected in some way.

After this, myself and Fintan discussed our future. Should we try again, or stop?

I was afraid to have another baby in case it had a health condition like my other girls.

And so, myself and Fintan decided we would have no more.

Until then, just last year, at the age of 35, I found out I was, yet again, pregnant.

Honestly, I had never felt fear like this fear. What if the baby is sick? What if I’m too old and don’t have the energy that the baby will need from me? What about my teenagers, how would it impact them: a 15 year gap between my eldest and this baby? Would we be able to provide for another baby – I would have to pause my work, meaning less income?

On reflection, I compared my fears from the 20 year old me and the 36 year old me. I noticed that these new fears were not about “me” as they had when I was twenty years old – they had changed to fears for “the baby” and for my other children. Many of my initial fears were related to social stigma and thinking I could not pursue my dreams, just because I had a baby. My new fears were about my baby, and my family.

When I was twenty I thought I would never be able to go to college, or gain a career. But I did. I now have two Fellowships and ten prestigious awards for a career that I love .

I knew I would have to face my “new” fears, much the same as I did so many years ago.

Abortion never came into it. Not once. We were having this baby.

I, again, told my mom. Again, she was happy – and was actually really excited for us.

I had an extremely tough pregnancy though, physically and mentally. I requested anomaly scans on account of our family history – thankfully all was well with baby. And while this reassured me, I still suffered from anxiety and depression, constantly worried about the future. I gained 7 stone in 9 months.

I, truthfully, hated being pregnant.

But then, on a Thursday evening last September, our fourth little baby girl, Madison Rose, was handed to me.

It was at that specific moment, as she lay on my chest feeding, looking up at me with big beautiful eyes, I knew, no matter what, all would be okay. I had fallen in love again. My protectiveness for her kicked in immediately.

I remember after her birth I cried for days. I felt so utterly guilty that I didn’t feel happier during my pregnancy; I hoped she didn’t pick up on it. I hoped that nothing bad would happen to her. I knew I couldn’t go back and change time. But I knew I could change the way forward.

And then, just like that, my deep dark depression was gone.

Much like when I had my first born, my focus shifted – my love for her overcame my fears.

Madison saw our paediatric cardiologist, due to our family history. He was just as surprised as I was when he told me she too had a heart condition that would require heart surgery. Again, it was not picked up in her anomaly scan – actually, her condition couldn’t be as it was something that would only show afterwards.

I was thrown back into a place I didn’t want to be. I had already been through the heart surgery journey with Mackensie. I was shocked, sad and scared. As is every parent when they hear their child is unwell. But that is, what parenting is. We never know what’s around the corner. As the shock wore off, I did what I do best – I got on with it.

So taking all of that into account, I thought about the care both I, and my unborn babies got while I was pregnant.

Nobody described my baby as a foetus to me, not when I was pregnant, and not when I miscarried. When I shared my fears with health professionals, nobody discussed abortion with me. Instead I was given loads of advice, and provided with anomaly scans – these were for my babies, not me – just in case they needed medical interventions when born. I was given Anti-D injections so that my body would not reject my babies. I was offered counselling during my pregnancies, and afterwards, to help me cope mentally. My last baby was provided with a full paediatric team at her delivery, to reassure me. I was provided with senior obstetricians in my labour. This was all done through the public health system. They listened to me. I felt safe. I felt my unborn, and then born baby, was safe.

And so, this is what I care about. I care about women, and I care about unborn and born babies. Equally.

I care about the future of my four daughters. And their future children.

And it is this law that will impact them in years to come.

The LAW

The law as it stands right now advocates for the right to life. The proposed law coming in, does not advocate for a right to life. It advocates only for termination.

And it is this which is causing me issues.

Compare the law now and the new proposal again…

Note that there are no limitations written into the proposed law – and this is the only statement which we are voting on.

Nothing else.

This excerpt from the official Referendum website states exactly what we are/are not voting on:

We are not voting on the proposed schemes i.e. time limits, specific cases, consent etc. This will all be decided by Government after the Referendum, if we vote yes.

To be clear, the official Referendum website states exactly:

  • You are not being asked to vote on whether termination of pregnancy ought to be lawful up to a certain point in the pregnancy

  • You are not being asked in the Referendum whether or not you support the legislative proposal set out in this Policy Paper.

  • If the referendum is passed, the Oireachtas may enact laws that differ from this legislative proposal.

  • That will be a matter for the Oireachtas in the event that there is a Yes vote.

 

And this creates an issue for me.

I just do not feel at ease with a law that is so broad, and well…final. No statement at all in relation to the rights to women’s lives, or their unborn babies.

Just a law to terminate a pregnancy, full stop.

As I said earlier, I thought our constitutional law was going to add limitations in, and be more specific. I had really only been glancing at different websites up to this point, and now I decided to look further afield.

I started looking at the law.

I learned that what we are voting on is the removal of one of the fundamental rights in our constitution, in this case the right to life of the unborn. We are essentially being asked to give full authority to our government to legislate on all issues of abortion going forward, so it seems there would be no necessity whatsoever for the public to vote on this issue again.

I learned that the general scheme (proposal) by the government stated what the limitations would look like.

Assuming the law passes and the Government legislate for this scheme, without changes, I decided to analyse it as best as I could (bearing in mind I am not a legal or medical professional). I personally agreed with some parts, but not with others. For instance, the “wait period” is just 3 days (72 hours), and not 5 days like it is the UK. There is no actual definition for time (weeks) of what viability is, this would be left to health professionals to decide. There seems to be no time restriction at all for abortion on the grounds of fatal foetal abnormalities. The date from when 12 weeks is decided is based on a woman’s last day of her period, not an ultrasound – this concerned me – not everyone remembers their period cycles.

But, irrelevant of my views, this is the thing – it is only a proposal. And while we can aim to influence our Government as to what goes into it, if we vote yes, from what I gather, we (the people) don’t actually get to vote on this.

It got me to thinking back to the history of abortion in Ireland…

100 years ago abortion in Ireland was not much spoken of. Over 30 years ago a law was brought into Ireland, as voted by the majority of people of Ireland, we decided that women and unborn babies had an equal right to life. Over time this law changed, to protect women, and new sections were added to allow for women to have abortion if their lives were at serious risk; they could also access abortions overseas, and for governed information to be made available to women who wished to do so. Subsections also allowed for health professionals to provide care for women who had had abortions abroad.

Today, just over 30 years on from the 8th being activated, as per latest polls, the majority of Ireland are now in favour of abortion being legalised.

You see, time changes people.

While our politicians today may do the right thing, what is to say in another 30 years time people will change their minds and feel abortion up to 9 months is okay without limitations, if the woman chooses to do so?

Okay, I know I’ve touched on a sensitive topic, but I am not shying away from this.

Did you know…

In Ireland, as current law stands, we do allow for abortion up to 9 months.

Links to reference: The Journal 2016  

In truth, I shudder at this. For this alone, I would be in complete favour of the 8th being removed – the thought of aborting an unborn baby at 9 months for no other reason than the woman not wanting to have a baby? Nope. That’s not for me. There is only one thing in Ireland that prevents this from happening today and that is as follows: abortions can only be performed in Ireland if a woman’s life is at risk.

Thankfully, I do not know of any case in Ireland where the “9 month rule” has been used as I would think that at/after the stage of of an unborn’s viability in Ireland, instead of aborting a baby, the labour would be induced/and or caesarean section would be offered?  I would welcome any clarification on this?

Anyway, my point is, abortion up to 9 months, is technically legal in Ireland today under strict rules. But if no rules are written into our constitution at all with regards to abortion, what is to say in 30 years time, people change their attitudes (like we have shown in the past re: marriage equality act etc.). What if abortion without limitations is allowed up to 9 months? Does the current proposal show that abortion can in fact be done up to 9 months in the case of foetal fatal anomalies?

This is a real fear for me.

Could it happen? I don’t see why not. I see many, many people on social media discuss the unborn in completely scientific terms, with all emotion removed. “It is only cells” “It is not a human being”. “Stop calling it a baby, it’s a foetus” and/or “embryo”.

And while they are completely factually correct, this bothers me. And I don’t know why.

The proposed schedule states an unborn baby is a foetus until born:

Foetus means an embryo or a foetus during the period of time commencing after implantation in the uterus of a woman and ending on the complete emergence of the foetus from the body of the woman.

At what point do we stop using these scientific terms in pregnancy in healthcare settings – none of my health professionals used this term with me? Why do people who are for abortion up to 24 weeks, go against it after this point, even if it is still a woman’s choice for her body? At what point do people morally distinguish a foetus from a baby if it is always medically a foetus? What if more people in the future are swayed to only think scientifically and completely remove emotions, agreeing that a baby can be aborted just before being born?

I think it strange that there would be no protection at all for the unborn human, yet it would still be illegal to damage, destroy, injure, mutilate or remove eggs from a nest from a wildbird.

Could unborn animals take priority over unborn humans?

In 30 years time, my now newborn will be 31 years of age. Who knows what the future holds?

But we are here in the moment, and I cannot see into the future.

Right now, I want my children to be safe. If they were pregnant in the future I would want them to be, and feel, safe. I do not want them to be criminalised, if they need to have an abortion. If today, my daughter was adamant that she wanted an abortion and she knew all the facts, I know I would go with her to England.

It goes without saying that illegal abortions can be extremely unsafe.

The State Has Rights

Currently it is illegal for women/girls to have an abortion in Ireland. But we all know women from Ireland have abortions, either in the UK, or through imported illegal pills. While there is no case that I know of that has seen a woman go to jail, this doesn’t make it any the better. No-one should go to jail for needing a medical procedure.

Whatever we write into law, is the law.

And so these are some of my legal concerns if we vote yes.

What if, for whatever reason in the future, the Courts ruled that my daughter was not going to be fit enough to deliver a baby, or fit enough to be a mother; and the State does not have the resources to look after another baby. Would they, legally within their right, be allowed to abort the baby, and not deliver it alive, because the baby has no right to life? Does the mother have a right over her unborn baby’s life? I know she can advocate, but does she have a right? I don’t think I am being over imaginative here. The Courts did not protect the woman/child in the “C Case”. This 13 year old girl did not have a say, and our Courts chose abortion, even with the 8th Amendment in place. Not only did she not have a say, she was not told what was going to happen to her. (Many women talk about not being told/shown exactly what an abortion is.) She to this day, regrets what happened to her as seen in many posts.

(Insert No 1 [21/05/18]) It has been mentioned to me that the Courts can overrule parents in relation to their children e.g in the recent Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans cases, even as living children, the courts were able to overrule the rights of the parents and allow for life machines to be turned off, leading to the deaths of both boys. Could this scenario play out for the unborn, if they have no rights to life?)

There was also a case where a woman was not given appropriate care in pregnancy, and her baby died before it was born. From what I can see, the Court held that the baby had a right to be born and the parents were awarded on grounds of medical negligence, for the baby, not her. [Insert No 2 [22/05/18]) This case was actually settled by the HSE] If the 8th is removed, does this mean that in future cases where medical professionals cause a baby to die before it’s born, that parents cannot take a case? Or what of somebody intentionally hurt a pregnant woman (assault) and she lost the baby? Would there be a case for assault of the woman, but none for the loss of the baby? I don’t know, and again, I need clarity in this.

If we vote no, are there also legal/moral implications? I have read the countless stories of where a woman is extremely sick in pregnancy, her unborn baby is not going to survive, but there is still a heartbeat. Health professionals, because of the 8th, have to wait until they can prove her life is at serious risk (or the unborn baby dies naturally in the uterus) before they can intervene. This is the one main issue which makes me go back and over in my decisions.

(Insert No 3 (21/05/18): I have since been informed that it is untrue for me to say that health professionals have to wait until they can prove a woman’s life is at serious risk (or the unborn baby dies naturally in the uterus) before they can intervene. I did my own research on this before I added this statement. In section 48.2 of the Medical Council Guidelines it states clearly:

“during pregnancy rare complications can arise where a therapeutic intervention is required which may result in there being little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to terminate the pregnancy to protect the life of the mother while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby”

This happens in cases such as ectopic pregnancies for example. Doctors can end the pregnancy to save the life of the woman even though the risk for the mother may not manifest for a week or two.] 

Healthcare

Currently the medical council have guidelines in relation to the provision of medical treatments for pregnant women. This includes cancer treatment. The Irish Times have an article here in relation to same. In many cases, cancer treatment is given to pregnant women.

So many stories have been shared by women in which they state they were not given medical treatments and they said it was because of the 8th. Others shared cases of being told to abort, to save their (women’s) lives.

But were these cases 1) because of the 8th 2) because of individual circumstances 3) because of medical negligence (ignorance) or 4) because medical treatment/procedure was not available in Ireland? This is such a grey area, and going forward, if the law passes, what new law comes in to not only give the woman the right to refuse treatment, but to also ask for treatment – here or abroad? And what happens to the baby, a woman wants to keep, if she refuses/asks for treatment?

This new law and proposal does not seem to state anything to protect women who are pregnant, and who want to keep their babies. Nor does it discuss in detail about pre/post counselling services or advice for those who wish/need to abort their babies. For me, it is not a debate as to whether there are mental health issues related to abortion or not. Everybody seems to be disputing everybody else’s research.

Psychologists say abortion does not damage mental health here. Psychiatrists say abortion will not reduce mental health risks here.

Confused? Yup, me too.

From knowing women from all walks of life I know that whether you have a baby, lose a baby naturally or choose to abort a baby – the majority of women will experience some negative mental health issues, and we need supports in place for all. Will our Government set aside additional mental health funding/resources if the law passes?

Information

If we pass this law, the official referendum website states that we will also remove the subsection which prevents certain information from being given to women about abortions. Currently, information in Ireland is regulated by the Government. In a way, this is a bad thing, but in another way this is a good thing. At least the information out there would be factual and non-biased (we would hope) but with no regulators at all, who is to know what information will be given to women/girls who choose to abort. Would it be promotional/emotive?

I think it is important that women/girls do know all the facts about abortion before they have a procedure done. When my daughter was having heart surgery we were given pages of information, and the Clinical Nurse Specialist had a plastic heart to demonstrate what the surgery would entail. This was not something myself or Fintan wanted to think about, but it really helped us understand what was going to happen. Nowadays there are videos online explaining how heart procedures are done.

I have no issue in saying that I feel that women/girls having an abortion should see documented educational non biased videos about abortion – as governed by medical professionals and government. I have watched numerous factual videos on how a surgical abortion is done. These videos were animated, and created for educational purposes only – but still, in my opinion, they are not for the weak-hearted. I am not putting any links to these here as I am aware that some women need to have these same procedures in the case of miscarriage, and I do not want to upset anyone.

Knowing all the facts helps people make informed decision, leading to informed consent.

Consent

The new article we may be voting in, does not state anything specific about consent to medical treatments. The proposed scheme only has one sentence in relation to consent:

“Nothing in this Bill shall operate to affect any enactment or rule of law relating to consent to medical treatment.”

However, AIMS Ireland have clarified with me that this does not relate to the HSE National Consent Policy – thankfully the HSE can change this if the law changes. Specifically this new law, if passed, will change the policy in relation to “refusal of treatment in pregnancy”, which I feel is a good thing in relation to autonomy and choice for women.

But there are still a number of areas in the proposed legislative abortion policy which are unclear, specifically about the term a “woman’s right to choose”.

For instance “age”.

Age

Currently the proposed legislative scheme defines a woman “as a female person of any age.”

Wait, what? My 11 year old is a woman? Something doesn’t sound right there?

When we say we should trust women, are we saying that we should trust minors too? Can they even trust themselves to make such a big decision? HSE policy needs to stay inline with the law. The HSE policy states that 16 year old’s can consent to medical treatment/procedures without parental consent and in exceptional circumstances (which are not defined) a child under 16 can consent to same without parental consent.

This greatly bother me.

It is one thing for a 16 year old to be able to access the Pill or other medications or treatments. It is a whole other playing field if a child (in particular, my child) could have an abortion without me knowing. An abortion which can cause medical risks such as hemorrhaging, infection and damage to the cervix? What if she, like me in my first pregnancy, was terrified to tell me she was pregnant? What initial advice would she be getting? Who would she be getting it from? What if she told her GP her fears and abortion was put on the table as an option, and she sees it as her only option? Would she know her full medical history? Would she make a quick decision based on fear, and not tell me? If so, this would not be an informed choice in my opinion. Would she trust herself that she is making the right choice? Would I trust that a 16 year old would be making such a huge life choice? (To clarify, I have an open relationship with my children and would hope they could come to me – and I would support them in any decision they made – but this is not the case for all children)

Children under 16 are not currently allowed to drive, drink , vote or have sex – yet they could have an abortion (a very serious medical procedure) without their parent knowing? Below is the law in the UK:

Young women under the age of 16 may seek abortion information without parental consent. A young woman under the age of 16 may also have an abortion without parental consent if her doctors determine that she meets the Fraser Guidelines:

  • She understands the medical professional’s advice.
  • She can not be persuaded to inform her parents.
  • She is competent to give consent to the treatment.
  • It is in her best interest not to inform her parents.
Exerpt www.teenissues.co.uk

Do children really have the capacity to properly consent or “choose” at that age? (I am not talking about children who have been abused/raped, in particular, in the family home) I am talking about children who had unprotected consensual sex. I really need clarity on what consent is in relation to the ages are with this law, specifically in relation to abortion.

I don’t like going blind into anything.

In general, I would love to learn more about how maneuverable the proposed scheme is, if we vote yes, to include queries on: disability rights, fathers rights, conscientious objection, public/private abortion clinics, “wait time”; limitation guidelines; capacity; dates of viability; and some of the definitions within.

Voting

Women were given the equal right to vote, and I feel, I have a duty of care to know all the facts to make an informed decision when I vote.

I may only be one person. But I am one person. And every one person that votes makes a difference. My biggest problem right now is that I do not know what to do. I need to vote.

When I think about it: I feel guilty if I vote yes; I feel guilty if I vote no. I care about both. I care about all.

I don’t want women to die or be hurt because of the 8th. I don’t want unborn babies to die unnecessarily if it is repealed.

Am I so wrong for caring about both?

Should I just be scientific in my decision making process and ignore my queries and morals?

Why should anyone have to travel to another country to get access to a procedure they need to have? But why should the right to be born be taken away from all unborn babies too, just to be able to do this?

Why couldn’t we have amended or added to our Constitution – why does it have to be all or nothing?

Am I alone in thinking this way? Is the solution just much simpler, than I am making it out to be?

Either way, I need to vote yes or no. And I need your help.


Image: www.refcom2018.refcom.ie

For facts on the Referendum please see www.refcom2018.refcom.ie

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Please remember to read again what I wrote at the top of this blog, before commenting.