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