Life is precious.
This is an important phrase. Anti-abortion campaigners use this phrase to try and force us to see a foetus not only as an example of “life” but also as something “precious”. I’m not going to rebut these implications, many others have done so and probably in much better fashion than I could. I find, however, that this phrase is one of the most compelling arguments in favour of abortion. Life is indeed precious. Precious things require a lot of dedication, a lot of resources, a lot of time and often a lot of love to protect them and nurture them. Love, time, dedication and resources are not simply things that can be plucked from the air on a whim, however. These things come from other people, and at a higher level of abstraction, they come from society. Life is precious, yes, but life is also a burden, one most often borne by other people.
So why, then, do we insist upon forcing more and more burdens upon not only other people, whose lives we should have very little say over, but society as a whole? This oh so wonderful country we live in likes to utter the phrase “Abortion on Demand” with such bile and vitriol that one would be forgiven for assuming this act they were speaking of was akin to raping a child while forcing it to watch it’s parents bleed and die. I’m not being reactionary or sensationalistic, one need only listen to the many debates that have been had over the years in the Irish media to hear the implied horror and disgust infused into the phrase.
It’s interesting to deconstruct the thinking behind these utterances. The common criticism of widespread provision of abortion as a family planning option is that if there were Abortion on Demand, Irish women would be having abortions every other week and it would promote promiscuous and unhealthy behaviour. The reality, however, is that Irish education standards where sex and sexuality is concerned are shockingly lacking and it all boils down to the pervasive attitude in Irish society that sex is dirty and wrong and anything to do with sex that is not a beautiful bouncing baby (or a half dozen) is immoral. The reality is that an estimated 10 Irish women (and their partners, in some circumstances) every day travel to England for the express purpose of having an abortion. I was on a plane to Manchester with some of these women in 2011. They were quiet, they looked anxious and they seemed deeply saddened by their situation. The reality is some of those potential babies were deeply wanted.
The reality is pregnancy and delivery and nursing and diaper changing and teething and potty training and childcare and medical bills and all the hundreds of other complications that bringing a child into the world thrusts upon a parent, these are not things that everyone can survive and more importantly these are not things that everyone wants to go through. The reality is many women end up unwillingly sacrificing their dreams, their careers, their education, their financial stability and their happiness in order to go through a pregnancy they do not want or cannot handle. Because other people give them no other choice. Because any other choice would make them cast out and ostracized. Because they can’t afford to travel outside the country. Because society tells them what they want is not the important. Because society tells women “once you get pregnant, there is no way out.”
The reality is Abortion on Demand does not end lives, it saves lives. It saves the lives of women from situations they do not want or cannot cope with. The reality is if Abortion on Demand is what the women of Ireland deserve after so many decades of religious and patriarchal domination at the hands of men who think they can tell women what to do with their own bodies. The reality is, Abortion on Demand is the future of Ireland.