by Katie Gillum
As we brace ourselves to be further disappointed by the Health Services Executive (HSE) as they selected their expert group to report on the shocking mistreatment of the most recent coerced member of our society, please take a moment with me to ruminate on what the HSE bosses from the Department of Health were saying to the UN Human Rights Committee about what they do for women who aren’t able to just hop on a flight for abortion:
“We have no solution to that at present. We haven’t had the challenge to make a change to that.” – Mary Jackson, Department of Health
Well, each of us is that challenge. Everyone who protested across Ireland and the world is that challenge. The victims of this broken system are the challenge. This woman, unable to travel and thus subject to the secretive processes of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, but resolute in the face of state pressure, who knew she Did. Not. Want. To. Be. Pregnant: she was the very real challenge the DoH were facing when they spoke those words to a horrified Human Rights Committee when Ireland’s human rights record was reviewed in mid-July. She was enduring while they were dissembling.
Hearing the Irish State’s bland admission to failing us all certainly didn’t horrify many of us any more than their dissembling and double-speak had before. But this baffling ‘business as usual’ approach along with the reality that this woman was facing, pretty much strips away any “oops” and hollow invocation of the “will of the people” from this whole charade.
With every misstep, every disingenuous statement, every toothless bad-faith piece of legislation, more and more of us are fed up.
We’re tired of having to down tools every few months to remind the State that they’re trampling on us and our bodies. They are wasting all of our time making us tell them over and over that they’ve failed to respond, failed to apologise, failed to compensate, failed to be sufficiently self-aware to see what they are doing.
Well, ENOUGH. No more false “balance.” Enough licks of paint to this broken house, enough equivocation. There is nothing for it but to see these protests, which will not stop, as a call for real change. Nothing for it but to listen to the cries of “Autonomy, Autonomy, Autonomy” from protests in London where the women cast off by Ireland travel. Nothing for it but to finally hear the silenced stories of the over 160,000 who have travelled since the 90s and the thousands more who could not. Nothing for it but a healthcare system that works for the people getting pregnant. Nothing for it but a legal system that gets out of the way of our privacy and our ability to know what is right and safe for ourselves. Nothing for it but a Repeal of the 8th Amendment. Nothing but Bodily Autonomy.