Student Pens Must-Read Letter to The New Government About Abortion

As ridiculous as it is, I have money put aside in case I need an abortion. by Cassie Delaney

Last week a new poll by Amnesty International revealed that 63% of the Irish population support abortion reform.

The poll, part of which was run in the final days of the general election campaign, found that the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland want access to abortion expanded (87%) and abortion decriminalised (72%).

Despite the overwhelming support from the Irish public, Fine Gael have remained pretty much silent on the issue. Enda Kenny believes the issue is too sensitive for a referendum but are willing to set up a forum similar to the Constitutional Convention to consider the matter.

Here, student Rachel O'Neill pens an honest and heartfelt letter to the new government about the need for social reform.

Dear new Government,

The voice behind the Repeal the 8th campaign has been rising steadily over the last few years and it has been brought to the fore recently with women such as Roisin Ingle, Tara Flynn and even more recently Susan Cahill sharing their stories about their abortions. It seemed to me that the tide was turning and with parties like Labour promising to hold a referendum on repealing the 8th amendment, I thought maybe I’ll get to vote on my reproductive rights. I was wrong.

The real losers of this general election are women. The decimation of the Labour party has put abortion on the back burner yet again. How many times are we going to let this key issue be pushed back? Fine Gael promised to hold a citizens convention if they were elected but that was based on the premise that they would go back into government as the majority party. The fact that this is won’t happen now makes me worry about what happens next for the 8th amendment.

Abortion has always been an invisible issue for us. We pretend it isn’t there. We pretend not to notice the 12 women a day leaving our shores to go to England and the Netherlands to have an abortion. We pretend not to notice the clear abandonment of these women by our government and health system. We pretend not to notice that abortion is a tangible, real thing in this country. We have some the strictest laws regarding abortion in the world and yet we’re still talking about it because it’s still there. As much as politicians want us to think it’s an “invisible issue”, it isn’t.

I’ve had many conversations with my female friends about what we would do if we got pregnant. Very few of us would choose to keep the child. Motherhood is a noble vocation but we’re just too young to undertake it. As ridiculous as it is, I have money put aside in case I need an abortion. I’m a 21-year-old student who should be able to use that money to go travelling, but I don’t for fear of needing an abortion.

No woman of a reproductive age has had the right to vote on her reproductive rights in this country and that has to change. Whatever government comes into power next cannot continue to ignore this issue as previous governments have done. We have had too many victims of our archaic laws. Women like Savita Halappanavar, women from the X and Y cases, women who we don’t personally know but are there in our communities, our workplaces, our families. These women are all victims of our laws, of our constitution. A constitution is supposed to enshrine and protect the rights of all its citizens and yet 50% of our population aren’t accounted for. 50% of our population are expected to carry life even if it's against our wishes. We don’t have a choice, our bodies are being governed from the outside.

What concerns me now is the next government coalition. Issues like water charges, tax and health policies are going to dominate the negotiations and that is understandable but it’s not enough.

I’m pleading with the government now to stop ignoring half your population. We need to repeal the 8th amendment and legislate for abortion. The longer we ignore the issue, the worse this issue becomes. Women aren’t going to stop getting abortions, it just means they’re going to use more desperate measures if they can’t afford the trip to England. Do you really want that on your conscience?

The women of Ireland who need abortions are not and should not be the responsibility of England or the Netherlands. The women of Ireland are citizens of Ireland and, therefore, are under your care and sincerely hope you choose to take care of them this time around.

Kind regards,

Rachel O’Neill


Women march in Warsaw for greater accessibility to abortion

Women dressed as pregnant nuns holding a card reading: 'Our priest ordered us to give birth', march in the rain to demand greater accessibility of abortion but also for better work conditions and more state support in raising children, in Warsaw, Poland, Sunday, March 6, 2016. The annual march by women’s organizations was held for the 17th time, ahead of March 8 International Women’s Day. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Hundreds of women have marched in Warsaw to demand greater accessibility to abortion, better working conditions and more state support in raising children.

The annual march by women's organizations on Sunday was held for the 17th time, ahead of Tuesday's International Women's Day.

The marchers carried banners in the rain that called for the state to open more nurseries and pre-schools, better job security and higher pay for women. They also said that professionally-performed legal abortions help protect the lives of women.

Abortion in Poland is allowed when pregnancy endangers the woman's life, is the result of rape or incest, or when the fetus has an incurable defect.

Women's rights activists are concerned that these regulations may be toughened by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party.


Ireland: Majority want politicians to be ‘proactive’ on abortion – poll

Amnesty Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman. Nearly four out of 10 people are in favour of allowing women the choice to access abortion in Ireland, a poll for the organisation suggests. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

The Irish Times by Elaine Edwards
Survey carried out for human rights group Amnesty suggests 69% see abortion as priority for next government

Almost two thirds of people in Ireland believe politicians should deal “proactively” with the issue of widening access to abortion here, a new poll suggests.

The Amnesty International/Red C poll suggests some 87 per cent of people are in favour of expanding access to abortion, with 72 per cent wanting it decriminalised.

Some 55 per cent agreed that expanding access to abortion should be a priority for the next government. A total of 80 per cent agreed that women’s health should be the priority in any reform of Ireland’s abortion law.

Some 72 per cent believed that the fact that women must travel for abortions unfairly discriminated against those who cannot afford to or were unable to travel.

More than half (55 per cent) of people described Ireland’s abortion laws as “cruel and inhumane”. This rose to 68 per cent when the ‘don’t knows’ and those who are neutral are excluded.

A majority (66 per cent) of those polled said it was “hypocritical” that the Constitution banned abortion here but allowed women to travel abroad for one.

Some 73 per cent agreed the government should hold a referendum to allow people vote on whether or not to remove the 8th amendment, which gives effect to the abortion ban.

But some 52 per cent also said they did not know enough about the 8th amendment to know how they would vote on it and said the media should give better information.

A total of 48 per cent polled agreed strongly with the statement that they would vote yes to remove the 8th amendment. A further 11 per cent agreed slightly with the statement.

Some 54 per cent in total said they would vote yes to removing the 8th amendment only if there was legislation putting in place reasonable restrictions on access to abortion.

The most trusted sources of information on abortion were medical professionals (69 per cent) and women who have had abortions (62 per cent). The least trusted were politicians (7 per cent), media outlets (14 per cent), anti-abortion groups (16 per cent) and church leaders (16 per cent).

Just 14 per cent of respondents were aware that having an abortion when the woman’s life was not in danger is a criminal offence carrying a potential 14-year prison sentence.

Amnesty said on Friday that people in Ireland had made clear that the incoming government must make expanding access to abortion a priority.

Executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, Colm O’Gorman, said the poll demonstrated “yet again, that on the issue of abortion, Ireland’s people are way ahead of their political leaders”.

“Despite the dishonest efforts of many opposed to reform, the poll found that 80 per cent of people are aware that women have a right to access abortion in certain circumstances under international human rights law,” Mr O’Gorman said.

He said the poll revealed that “far from this being a divisive issue as some suggest”, people in Ireland were “clear and solid in their support of increased access to abortion”.

Mr O’Gorman asked that those who form the next government “do not, please, spin the narrative again that this is a divisive issue and that Irish people don’t know what they think”.

Presenting the results, Red C Research and Marketing managing director Richard Colwell said that contrary to what might have been assumed, people’s religion did not significantly impact on their views on abortion.
“In fact, 82 per cent of those who consider themselves religious agreed that their religious views should not be imposed on others. Only one in five people (20 per cent) who consider themselves to be religious say that they have “very conflicted” views on abortion because of their religion.”

The Pro Life Campaign said the findings were “much more ambivalent and uncertain” than the way they had been presented.
Deputy chair Cora Sherlock noted the poll suggested the public trusted the voices of women who have had abortions more than other participants in the debate.

“The experiences of women who regret their abortions must be given a proper hearing going forward.,” she said.

The poll, conducted by Red C on February 1st to 3rd and February 18th to 22nd, aimed to establish “a deeper understanding of public attitudes to Ireland’s laws on abortion”.

A nationally representative sample of over 1,000 people was polled on each occasion. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results weighted to the profile of all adults.


Sierra Leone religious groups believe abortion law a lost battle

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma (L) pictured on January 28, 2008 with his wife Sia who is supporting a law allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in cases of rape and incest beyond that (AFP Photo/Shaun Curry)

By Rod Mac Johnson and Jennifer O'Mahony

Freetown (AFP) - As the president of Sierra Leone equivocates over signing a bill to extend abortion provision in a country with sky-high maternal mortality rates, its powerful religious authorities believe the battle against it is already lost.

Sierra Leone's parliament passed a law in December allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in cases of rape and incest beyond that, replacing legislation from the early 19th century enabling terminations only if the mother's life is in danger.

The bill, given public backing by the wife of President Ernest Bai Koroma, was expected to receive his signature rapidly to enable it to become law.

For reasons that are the subject of rampant speculation and few concrete facts, he has yet to give his assent, but the coalition of Catholics, Christian evangelicals and Muslim groups that united in stringent opposition to the bill believe the game may be up.

"We are already hearing disturbing reports that even if the president holds back his signature, it is going to be passed and this will be very sad indeed," said Sheikh Alie Kallay, head of public relations for the Sierra Leone Muslim Congress.

"We are concerned about the silence even though we understand the bill has been sent back to President Koroma by the parliament of Sierra Leone," Kallay told AFP.
The Catholic Archbishop of Freetown Tamba Charles also expressed his fears that "nothing had been made known" since the bill landed on the president's desk.

Sierra Leone is a predominantly Muslim country (60-70 percent of the population) but with significant Christian minorities (20-30 percent), according to UN figures, and is often hailed for its inter-religious harmony.

Religious symbols and ceremonies are omnipresent, with a very strong commitment among the population to their various faiths.

The vast majority of religious leaders are opposed to relaxing abortion laws on scriptural grounds, and lawmakers took extensive evidence from Muslim and Christian representatives while drafting the bill, underlining their respected position in society.

The facts are stark: follow-up treatment for women who undergo unsafe abortions costs Sierra Leone's public health system $230,000 annually, according to a recent health ministry report. Deaths from backstreet abortions represent 10 percent of all maternal mortality.
The report described the current law as "restrictive and outdated".

The 2014-15 Ebola crisis, which ravaged the country's already fragile healthcare system, too may have forced the government's hand by underlining the wider economic implications of unsafe abortion and lack of access to family planning.

- 'Misconceptions' -

"There was no access to services or contraception," during the outbreak, which saw teenage pregnancies in particular shoot up, said Ufuoma Omo-Obi, country director for the Marie Stopes reproductive health charity.

"They were at home and schools were closed down," he told AFP. "Ebola decimated both healthcare providers and caregivers," adding that recorded incidents of sexual violence also increased during the period.

According to Omo-Obi, abortions are currently conducted "in the worst places… corner shops… street corners… in the drugstore," using primitive methods including bicycle spokes.

He was also at pains to emphasise that the bill contains provisions for general maternal health, including far easier access to contraception and family planning.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about the provisions of the bill, but it's a game changer for women to be able to access quality services, including abortion," he told AFP.

"Unwanted pregnancies have been identified as a significant problem in all regions nationwide," the health ministry has said, with unsafe abortion in rural areas at particularly worrying levels.

Many believe Koroma must make a decision soon so the divisive Safe Abortion Act can be put to rest and all sides can move on.

If it passes, experts say the law could be viewed as a model for the region. Bodies such as the African Commission on Human and People's Rights have called for greater decriminalisation across a continent that has some of the strictest abortion laws in the world.

Whatever the outcome, those spiritually opposed to abortion have vowed never to stop fighting.

"We are committed to the culture of life and we condemn anything that comes in the guise of development," said the Catholic archbishop.