Abortion has always been seen as a women’s issue, but restriction of access to safe abortion services is a human rights issue. Men are also discriminated by and hurt by the 8th amendment.
This year Ireland passed the Gender Recognition Bill, which was a great victory for bodily autonomy in the Republic. It’s important to remember that not everyone who gets pregnant is a woman. There is a fourteen year prison sentence for procuring as well as using abortion pills in Ireland: this means that if a man gets an abortion pill for his mother, sister, wife, girlfriend or friend who needs it, he can also be arrested and face a lengthy prison sentence.
The 8th amendment forces people to travel to the UK for health services. The procedure itself costs at least €800, a cost prohibitive to many families, forcing them to risk unsafe abortions or take pills illegally in Ireland. Of the families who can scrape together the funds to cover not just the procedure but also travel and accommodation, often men will be unable to travel with and support their partner due to difficulties paying for a second set of flights, getting the necessary time of work, or child care. The Irish constitution denies them the ability to be with the person they love, and playing an active role in being present to support their partner during a medical procedure.
There is an increasing awareness that crisis pregnancy also affects men. The HSE, via the Crisis Pregnancy Agency offers free crisis pregnancy counselling to men, not just women and couples. Free post-abortion counselling is also available to men, not just women or couples.
We know that the 8th amendment also casts its shadow over maternity care for women who choose to carry pregnancies to term. AIMS (Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services) Ireland is an organisation which campaigns for improved maternity services and care in Ireland, and which have highlighted the ways in which the 8th Amendment “affects all pregnant women – your birth choices, your right to accept or refuse a test or treatment, your right to individual assessment, your right to be pregnant or not.”
Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. How many men have begged and pleaded with medical staff for them to do more, do anything to relieve the suffering of the person they love, to be told that there is nothing which can be done as Ireland is a ‘catholic country’? How many men have lost their wives, girlfriends, sisters? How many men, as well as women, have been plunged into debt by the need to travel overseas for a medical procedure that should be available here?
The 8th amendment affects us all. Primarily it affects pregnant people, but it hurts their partners and families too, many of whom are men.
We are thankful for the hordes of pro-choice men who see the need to repeal the 8th amendment. ARC is an inclusive organisation: as well as the many men who come to march with us year after year, we are proud to have some wonderful men volunteering their time, skills and expertise working and learning alongside us in the Abortion Rights Campaign and in pro-choice groups across the country as we work towards bringing about Free Safe and Legal abortion Services in Ireland for the benefit of every person in Ireland.
*The Abortion Rights Campaign also acknowledges that some of those who are affected by the 8th amendment are non binary people, not just men and women.