Helen Stonehouse is a queer neurodivergent mama and ARC member.
What do I want from the #RepealReview? That’s a simple (and complicated) question. Simply put, I want what I’ve always wanted – abortion on request, as early as possible and as late as necessary. I want all the barriers gone – financial, geographical, and legislative. I want us to be able to access abortion without stigma or shame – whether our circumstances are because of complex health problems or devastating fetal issues, or just because we don’t want to be pregnant anymore. I want people to be able to walk into their GP and get the appropriate advice for their situation – to get additional support if they need it, to be able to access information in their own language and an accessible format. I want legislation that states “abortion will be freely available upon the request of the pregnant person throughout pregnancy”, and that’s it.
If I’m honest, I want more. I want us to be able to move past constantly fighting for legislative access. I want the comprehensive sex education, free contraception and improvements in obstetric care that we were promised back in 2018. I want everyone to have the right to choose when and with whom they become pregnant, the right to raise children in healthy and safe environments, and the right to choose not to have children. I want to see issues like obstetric violence, reproductive coercion, and institutional discrimination tackled head-on. I want *all* our hospitals – and schools – to be fully secular and state-owned.
However, after a fair few years of fighting for all this, I’m aware it’s not that simple. Laws don’t get changed without legislators, and legislators are first and foremost politicians. Politicians will – with a few exceptions – protect the interests of their party over the needs of the people. And sometimes, they aren’t even informed enough to not spout complete horseshit, as we’ve seen with the NMH debacle over recent weeks. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly claimed that in the event an abortion on request was refused in the new NMH, the Minister would simply use the “golden share” to compel access – demonstrating a complete ignorance of the current legislation and the practicalities of abortion access (more details here and here). I’ve heard politicians say that abortion services have been bedded in seamlessly – wildly at odds with the experience of those who’ve had to travel from Donegal to Dublin to access care. We’ve been told we don’t need safe access zones or that the gardai can use preexisting powers – again, that doesn’t match the experiences of those being harassed outside hospitals and is not what the *actual* Gardai on the ground say. We were given lovely speeches about how Ireland was now holding out her hands to pregnant people in crisis, but we are still sending them to England (and further afield) on boats and planes, in a pandemic, because doctors are unable or unwilling to provide care here. I am tired of the back-patting and sophistry and absolute lack of meaningful action. We fought so fucking hard to Repeal the 8th Amendment, and four years on, there is still so much to be done.
Some of you may know that May 25th is not only the anniversary of the Repeal of the 8th Amendment but also the anniversary of the People’s Revolution of the Glorious 25th of May. For those who’ve never seen the Turtle move, the Glorious 25th of May is a popular but short-lived uprising in Terry Pratchett’s novel ‘Night Watch’ (whatever you’re doing, stop reading my waffle and go read some Pratchett, your life will be better for it). Sam Vimes finds himself thrown back in time and (because of history monks and narrative causality) has to relive the events as an older and wiser man. Vimes knows that the People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road cannot last – that politics get in the way; that change happens slowly, not all at once; that not everyone will get through this. Even so, he still tries to make things better, just a bit, just for a few people, just for a while. He wouldn’t be Vimes if he didn’t try. Because sometimes, even though you know it isn’t going to all work out the way you want it to, you have to try. You have to keep pushing forward, one step at a time. You have to hold the line and hope.
So this Glorious 25th of May, I’ll wear the lilac and my Tá badge and remember everyone who fought to get us here – especially those we’ve lost along the way. And I’ll hope. I’ll hope for Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love and a Hard Boiled Egg. I’ll hope for free, safe, legal and local abortion, as early as possible and as late as necessary. Because all I can do is keep pushing forward and hope.