I really like St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, a lot of the celebrations in the United States are kind of kitschy, and most people just use it as an excuse for Jameson shots and public intoxication, but I really like it. Part of it is the (admittedly botched) celebration of some of my family heritage, and a lot of it is a reminder of the incredible several months I spent living in Dublin. I always look forward to March 17th, and I always do something to mark the occasion.
Then this year, I saw this plastered all over social media:
Yes, some anti-choice activists chose to use St. Patrick’s Day as a platform to promote Ireland’s horrendous reproductive laws as something the United States should aspire to.
Let’s discuss why this is a terrible goal.
Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland as a result of the heavy Catholic influence throughout the country. It’s also criminalized; someone receiving or performing an abortion in the Republic of Ireland can receive up to 15 years in prison. Northern Ireland has one abortion clinic that can perform legal abortions through the ninth week of the pregnancy; all other abortions are illegal, and someone receiving or performing an illegal abortion in Northern Ireland can receive life in prison.
Anti-choice activists like to tout that Ireland has a much lower maternal mortality rate than the United States as some sort of irrefutable fact that abolishing abortion is the forefront of reproductive health. Ireland’s maternal mortality rate is lower, about 10 in 100,000 to our 27 in 100,000, though the anti-choice activists fail to factor in population size and density, poverty rates, available healthcare (Ireland has had universal healthcare since 2004), and really any other possible contributing factors as to why this may be true, other than outlawed abortions.
I’m sure this is bothering at least a couple people by now, why do I keep referring to these activists as anti-choice? The movement is called pro-life, after all, so that’s what they should be called, right? Simply put, I refer to them as anti-choice instead of pro-life because the laws they’re fighting for will abolish the right to choose, not promote the welfare of every living, breathing human being.
I think one of the most common misconceptions that anti-choice activists spread about the pro-choice movement is that all we want to do is force abortions on people. Just abortions. For everyone. All the time. Abortions.
That’s not what we’re going for, I swear.
Pro-choice is about the right to choose for yourself what you do with your own body. That might include choosing to get an abortion, but it could also include choosing to not get an abortion. It could be choosing to keep and raise your child, or choosing to give the baby up for adoption. It’s choosing what kind of birth control to use, be it pills or shots or abstinence, or choosing a birthing plan you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, it’s also understanding that whatever choices you make for yourself — for whatever reasons you make them — may not be viable choices for someone else. Pro-choice is exactly what the name suggests: supporting the ability for everyone to make their own decisions. Free will, essentially.
According to anti-choice activists, this is not the dream we should have for our country. We should instead hope to be like Ireland.
So let’s look at Ireland for a minute. What’s really so bad about completely outlawing abortions? According to the anti-choice activists, “Ireland is doing a great job protecting women & children” which is right on par with their insistence that abortion is a painful, traumatic, and downright dangerous procedure.
Which — in case anyone was wondering — is just not true. Legal abortions are safe, regulated medical procedures. More men die from using Viagra than women do from botched legal abortions, and no one is trying to ban the use of erectile dysfunction pharmaceuticals. The danger of abortions comes from outlawing them: an estimated 47,000 women die each year around the world because they don’t have access to safe, legal abortion care.
In theory, Ireland should be full of happy families and healthy children. The thing about theories, is they exist in a vacuum. If a woman in Ireland needs to get an abortion she must choose to spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of euros to travel abroad for a legal abortion, or risk legal prosecution and worse by visiting an unlicensed practitioner domestically — and as much as anti-choice activists try to avoid it, sometimes abortions are a necessity.
Here’s the reality of outlawing abortions:
A child is raped and becomes pregnant. The child is too young to be carrying a pregnancy, because her body isn’t developed enough to properly cope with the impending changes. Abortions are illegal, so she is forced to carry the pregnancy. She suffers from multiple health problems, and delivers the baby prematurely and dangerously underweight. It will suffer from severe developmental disabilities, which will be the financial responsibility of a girl still in grade school.
A woman 17-weeks pregnant is suffering from a miscarriage. The fetus will not survive, but still has a heartbeat. The woman and her husband are not Catholic, but are forced to abide by Catholic beliefs as they plead with doctors to terminate the pregnancy throughout the three days she is kept in the hospital. Abortions are illegal, so doctors will not remove the dying fetus, and the woman dies from blood poisoning.
A woman trying to escape an abusive relationship becomes pregnant through rape. Abortion is illegal, but she requests an abortion on the grounds of being suicidal from her assault — something that is supposed to be taken into consideration for potential exceptions to the ban. Her request is delayed, drawn out, and finally denied, and she threatens a hunger strike to protest the decision. Local health authorities obtain a court order to deliver the baby prematurely, and in her 25th week of pregnancy, they force the woman to have a non-consensual cesarean section.
A woman who already has children is pregnant again. She suffers from head trauma and a blood clot early in her 2nd trimester, and is clinically brain dead. Doctors agree she has no chance for recovery, and the pregnancy has no chance of survival. Abortion is illegal, so her body is kept going with machines to use as a human incubator for a soon to be stillborn baby, rather than following the wishes of her living children, husband, and parents to say good-bye and get closure.
According to anti-choice activists, Ireland is a first world country that is doing a wonderful job protecting women and children and supporting the welfare of the living. They’re doing such a great job that Saudi Arabia has better reproductive health laws, to the point that the European Union has called Ireland out multiple times for failing to meet the standard for basic human rights.
I really like St. Patrick’s Day, and I love so many things about Ireland, but this nightmare is not the hope I have for my country. I hope that the United States continues to recognize me as more than a vessel. I hope that the government realizes that I should have more legal rights than a clump of cells. I hope that everyone, regardless of their personal beliefs, supports every living, breathing human being as deserving bodily autonomy.
Sláinte to choice, my friends.
Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.