The abortion debate has raged in this country for an eternity, truthfully its been monotonous; same ol’, same ol’ recycled claptrap justifying nefarious cruelty! When one side monopolises the supremacy of knowledge brandishing their particular value-set as the only truth in town, the shutters come down and many of us in opposition curtail our conversation to the private sphere of the alienated minority. Yelling from the comfort of our sofas for the torch-bearing Amazons that throughout our dark days as downtrodden Irish women fought just to access basic contraception. Let us not forget that rape in marriage was legal in Ireland for most of the twentieth century, only making it to the Statute Books in 1990! So there is now a very welcome, and long over-due new wave of hope and enthusiasm brought to the abortion debate in Ireland by the Repeal movement!
As one of the silenced minority, our opinions and feelings have been trashed in favour of the state owned female body! Objectors were bible bashed, feminists and witches martyred on the pyre of Christian ideology. Through the years there has been an array of heartbreaking stories in the press; personally I remember that dull day back in January 1984 when the death of Ann Lovett hit the press. In public people talked, they said ‘oh wasn’t it shocking, shur the poor thing, God love her, but wasn’t it of her own doing’? Privately, people whispered ‘only in Holy Catholic Ireland, its the tip of the iceberg’, we had no idea of the revelations to come; and that the iceberg was bigger than the one that sank the Titanic. By 2012 only in Holy Catholic Ireland had become an integral part of everyday parlance, no longer are we even vaguely embarrassed to say it. Sadly, the heartache and devastation continued with the unnecessary loss of Savita Halappanavar. The world was shocked by our archaic reproductive health care. Ooops we did it again in 2014 when a young suicidal rape victim came running to us for help, we helped her by forcing her into a Caesarean section sanctioned by the HSE; they then took the child into care. The sad, sad tragedy of the grotesque experiment carried out on the poor pregnant woman kept on life support in the hope of delivering a live baby against the wishes of the family. The list of horror stories is never ending and then we learn of the harrowing experiences of the survivors of Symphysiotomy.
All of these personal accounts share one key concept at their core, consent. This weeks headline centred on heartbroken Siobhan Whelan. In 2014 she gave birth to her son in Cavan General, although Siobhan specifically asked not to have her water’s broken the doctor carried on against her wishes. The medical professionals continued to ignore Mrs Whelan’s requests when she asked to be given a c-section that had to be carried out later. The Whelan family tragically lost their baby son after only seventeen hours of life.
As a way of understanding why consent is violated in Ireland on so many fronts, there is another perspective to the abortion debate that seems for the most part to have been ignored and that is fertility rates and population growth. In order to sustain our population the nation needs to run at sub-replacement fertility rates of 2.05 and that requires each woman to reproduce two children and .05 adjustment to account for the mortality rate! In 1994 the TFR (Total Fertility Rates) in Ireland fell to its lowest rate of 1.85 and last year (2015) reached the dizzying heights of 1.91, its all a far cry from 1964 when Irish fertility rates were running at 4.07 obviously there are many contributing factors.
Access to contraception impacts directly on total fertility rates since the contraceptive pill hit the US market in 1960, UK in 1961, and abortion became legal in the UK in 1967 there is a decline in fertility rates. The UK peaked in 1964 too, when fertility rates were running at 2.95 last year their fertility rates dropped to 1.82 less than Ireland in 2015. According to Lesthaeghe & van de Kaa (1986) they identify a theory in line with trend referred to as second demographic transition (SDT) saying that late marriage and parenthood, material aspirations, education, contraception, and a new ‘higher-order’ of ideals such as freedom, autonomy and ‘self-actuation’ contribute to a new fertility regime. In Ireland, we’re on a slower trajectory with an outright ban on all contraception enforced in 1935 leaving Irish women barefoot, pregnant and tied to the kitchen sink shouting for our ground-breaking sisters boarding the contraceptive train while Senator Mary Robinson was denied a hearing on the issue of contraception in 1971!
Governments take their population very seriously and ergo their fertility rates, ergo the uterus’s of the land, and actively seek to avoid things such as the low fertility trap! According to Lesthaegher & Permanyer (2014) ‘continued low fertility can be viewed as one of the consequences of Europe’s weakening position in international markets’ based on Blossfeld et al hypothesis of ‘Globalization’! Its easy to comprehend that in a global world, where power is directly related to fertility rates and population replacement a necessity, we can easily see how women struggle to keep the state apparatus out of our uterus’s, why governments feel at liberty to introduce abortion bans, and support the Prolife argument. Welcome to Uterusopia, the servitude of the uterus.
In fairness, there is never a solitary, perfect, noble and honourable truth, there is only reality, and that’s messy! As such, we should allow one another to live according to the conscience of the individual. It can hardly be considered ethical to control body and soul of another human being, on any grounds.
A note to commentators, opinions are welcome; in my experience many people that disagree with my viewpoint do not bother to read properly and post silly comments. With respect; insults, disinformation and spam will not be entertained!