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To Repeal or Not to Repeal? There can only be ONE answer!

It took me a LONG time to write this article. Not because I don’t know what to think, but because I found it difficult to create a readable piece of written work because it is such a complex subject and my thoughts and opinions are similarly complex.

Let me start with the simple (or not!) part and the part that already might stop you from reading anything else after it unless you are the type of person who has the ability to disagree with another opinion and still can continue to listen/read for another bit to understand why.

The simple part is this: There is only ONE answer that a democratically-minded person should give to the question “To Repeal or not to repeal” and that is a clear and loud YES. But the next bit will surprise you maybe: The reason for the YES should have NOTHING to do with abortion or no abortion in the first place.

It is “YES” for me without hesitation, but I dislike the idea of abortions! So my opinion is not straight forward and I (partially) disagree with both camps that fight over the 8th Amendment Referendum.

Let me explain:
The Referendum is a decision about a clause in the Irish constitution and without a shadow of a doubt the clause about the protection of unborn life has NO place in a constitution. The New Oxford American Dictionary says “A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed.” In such a document, clauses like the 8th Amendment have no place! The laws of a country are there to cover what happens if you steal, or murder or do other possibly illegal things and that is where any regulation about abortion should be. The constitution is there to explain what the role of the parliament is and what the president does and how the state is organised, nothing else.

For that reason the 8th Amendment should have never been added to the constitution and it is high time that it will be removed.

BUT IT OBVIOUSLY DOESN’T END THERE

Unfortunately (but somewhat understandably) the issue for most voters will not be decided by the suitability of a certain clause in a constitution but by the further effect this clause will have and by their personal opinion. That’s where it gets messy.

After the YES vote at the referendum, we should have a discussion about abortion and that should lead to the relevant laws about it. It should be an open discussion, but that won’t happen. And for that reason the referendum will regrettably not be about the constitutional amendment but about the law that might take its place.

If you like that piece of law, you will vote YES and if you don’t like it then you will vote NO to block the ability to have a open and democratic discussion. I think that approach is wrong but I can understand why it is taken by the NO side.

WILL A NO STOP ABORTIONS

One question we need to ask is if a NO vote will stop abortions and I think it is 100% clear that it will not stop them! So voting NO can only be driven by trying to keep the lid on it. But if someone votes NO he/she will not stop women to go to the UK to get an abortion and oddly this seems to be something the NO side can live with. It shocks me, to be honest. A consequent NO voter should insist on making abortions illegal and put women in jail of they terminate the pregnancy. Anything else is a cowardly escape from a hugely problematic issue.

I would never be in support of criminalising the termination of a pregnancy and – in all honesty – I can imagine situations in my past where I didn’t have to, but where I would have been prepared to seriously consider suggesting an abortion if I had been the other 50% contributor to a pregnancy.

I would go even one step further and would claim that a YES will not cause a significant increase of abortions. Women that decide to have an abortion (and don’t think ANY woman is thrilled about having an abortion. Maybe thrilled about not being pregnant anymore, about not about going through the procedure.)

So if abortions won’t get stopped and if there might not even be an increase in abortions then a NO vote is even less effective.

TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY OR NOT?

But that leads me to the big question of what my opinion is about the early termination of a pregnancy? Be warned, though, it is not simple!

I am between both camps and feel unrepresented by either of them. I am in favour of the option of an abortion in certain circumstances and at the same time I feel very sad when I hear that in one year up to 190,000 wonderful children could have been born in the UK but they never got a chance to see this wonderful world. So I would love it if abortions were not necessary.

The overriding opinion I have is that nobody should be forced to be pregnant and nobody should be forced to end a pregnancy! There should be help available – good and positive and constructive help – in all situations where a woman has concerns about her pregnancy and the possible termination of it.

ABORTION SHOULD BE ALLOWED IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS

If the pregnancy was caused by a rape, if the baby has genetical abnormalities or if there is a medical reason that puts the mother at risk or that means the baby has limited chances to survive, the mother should be helped making the decision in a neutral, compassionate and non-influencing way. It ultimately is the mother (ideally with involvement of the father, but ideal situations don’t always happen!) who has to and should be allowed to decide if she wants the continuation or end of a pregnancy. If there is a medical situation then ALWAYS the survival of the mother should have priority.

Abortion as a method of birth control is a aspect I am very uncomfortable with, BUT I can see why even in these situations a mother will decide to end the pregnancy and I am not so arrogant to think that I know better or I or we as society should tell her what she should think or feel! So I am in favour of the option of abortion, but I think there should ALWAYS neutral (!) advise be given before the final decision.

If an abortion is a frequently used method for birth control though, I think our society and educational system has failed badly because there are other methods of birth control that we have to educate better about. An abortion should be the very very last option.

BABY OR NO BABY?

I know the difficult question about what this “thing” is in a woman’s womb has to be considered but it doesn’t make things easier. I think that it doesn’t matter if it is a foetus or a baby, it is definitely a form of life. And an abortion is the ending of life! Yes, I said it! And I am still not moving to the NO camp. Why is that? It is because I am hypocritical!! :-O But it gets worse: Most of us are hypocritical and we have not much of a problem with it!!

We are also arrogant! We think that us human beings rule this world and we should be allowed to do whatever we want (or whatever our moral source allows us to do). Have you ever killed a fly? Or a spider? You killed life that was created by God or the creator or whatever you believe is the source of being. Do you eat meat? Slaughter is brutal murder for our own pleasure! But we only SOME animals! The animals we feel are at the lower end of the intelligence hierarchy we kill. Cows and pigs. But would you eat dog or horse? NOOOO! HOW horrible! Why is that horrible? Why is it ok to kill and eat fish, but dolphins must be protected? We are soooo hypocritical!!

I am not suggesting that foetus is an animal, but most of us are not consequent. We make up stories and justifications. Oh and by the way, BOTH sides make up stories and justifications!

I admit that I am hypocritical and that’s why I am saying that I wished abortions were not necessary, I ALSO am of the opinion that we can’t close our eyes to medical, criminological, genetical AND societal reasons that could make it impossible for a woman to bring this baby she is carrying into this world. And if I am a hypocrite, what right do I have to judge her? We should help women to be able to see that there are options and that abortion is not the ONLY way in a stress situation, but we have to stop being arrogant a**holes who know better!

For that reason I am saying there is only ONE answer and that answer has to be YES.

By the way, if you are strongly against abortions then you can do something: Help organisations or even start an organisation that helps to reduce abortions. Work on making adoptions easier! Help people that provide financial and practical support to women in crisis so that maybe they will be able to consider bringing this baby in this world. Don’t be a person who votes NO and then does NOTHING! You are not saving lives! Vote YES and then start saving lives!!!

The Tide has turned: Eighth Amendment!

The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution from 1983 puts the right to life of the unborn on an equal standing with the mother’s right to life and is a hard fought over legal clause. The opponents are mainly the “Pro Choice” campaigners and the group that fights for the keeping of this clause are on the Anti-Abortion side. Interestingly though, that clause doesn’t mention abortion at all and its removal would not automatically mean that abortion is legalised, but as long as it is in the constitution it indirectly makes abortion illegal.

For that reason – and this is the only point the two groups agree on – the Anti-Abortion campaigners are convinced that a change of the Eighth Amendment will open the doors for abortion, something they are determined to fight as hard as possible. The Pro-Choice side also is of the opinion that the change (or removal) of the Eighth Amendment will legalise abortion.

In April 2017, the Citizen Assembly, a group of 99 Irish citizens who had the job to decide about what to do with this clause in the constitution because the political parties were too cowardly to make a decision, voted that the clause should be replaced or amended, but not removed. They further decided that abortion should be regulated in the normal body of law and NOT in the constitution. This was a very sensible approach many think. It is not at all an automatic legalisation of abortion, but removes a clause from the constitution that shouldn’t have never been put in there, because constitutions should be a lot more on a foundation level and not get into details.

The public opinion is very much divided about abortion in general and the two sides are so deeply opposed that no compromise will ever be possible.

A referendum will have to decide what happens with the Eighth Amendment and that referendum will happen in the summer as it seems. Most importantly it will NOT be a referendum about abortion, but only about the future of that clause in the constitution.

Until now it was very unclear what the outcome of the referendum might be. Opinion polls seem to indicate a majority for a form of repeal of the clause, but opinion polls can be very unreliable and since the main politicians hadn’t declared their opinion about it, there were still a LOT of question marks over the decision of their party followers.

It seems however that the tide has turned now! Michael Martin, the leader of Fianna Fail, has changed his opinion and is now in favour of removing the clause and Leo Varadkar, the leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach, has indicated that he also supports the removal of the clause. The opinion of the two party leaders doesn’t mean that the referendum is now more or less decided. The opinions in the public don’t usually swing with the political leaders and they both have made clear that they will not tell their parliamentarians how to decide, but will allow a free vote. On the other hand, though, the clear declaration by both in favour of removing the clause from the constitution is a significant event in the process.

It should be noted for people that are not fully aware of the “Irish solution” to the abortion problem, that the clause never stopped abortion! Instead, women who felt that an an abortion was their only option, travelled to the UK for it. So it was a totally ineffective clause in the constitution!

Please note that the above description focuses on the Eighth Amendment and does NOT discuss the pros and cons of abortion AT ALL, I am also intentionally not taking any sides on abortion it is a MUCH to complex issue for this publication and this section. But I realised in the last six months through questions that people who only came to Ireland in recent years asked me, that the confusion about the Eighth Referendum is HUGE and since it has always been an oddity to me that the constitution covers this one singled out topic while while other very relevant aspect are not considered there, I decided to write about it.

If you asked me, I would be happy to state that it is my opinion that the Eighth Amendment should be removed because I think the laws of a country should deal with all legal issues and abortion belongs in this category.

You disagree? I 100% respect your opinion and I hope you respect mine. The good news for you – if you disagree – is, that I won’t be allowed to vote in the referendum. So don’t worry about me or my opinion. :-)

You can send me your opinion if you feel like it, but don’t expect an answer from me. I am not interested in discussing the pros or cons of abortion!

8th Amendment – Avoidance at all cost?

The 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution guarantees the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn and makes abortion illegal, but also puts doctors in a very tricky situation if they expect that they can only safe the life of one of the two in disastrous circumstances. The clause was added to the Irish constitution after a referendum in 1983 and many people think that a lot has happened in these 33 years and that the 8th amendment should be repealed (deleted from the constitution.

The supporters of the clause are not overly interested in a referendum because there is the possibility that the opponents will win the referendum. The opponents want to have a referendum as soon as possible to stop the odd situation that women need to travel to the UK to get an abortion that is illegal in Ireland.

So how could we find out what the majority of citizens in Ireland really wants? Let me think? Hmmmm?? Maybe put the head in the sand and pretend that there is no issue? – That seems to be the government’s approach once again! Enda Kenny and his gang are not the most decisive crowd at best of times.

In a true democracy, you would give the citizens a chance to voice their opinion and you would run a referendum if there is evidence that the public opinion could have changed drastically. There is no guarantee that the 8th amendment will be repealed if a referendum happens, but at least we would know then.

Last week the alliance of Anti Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit (AAA-PBP) has asked the government to run a referendum, but that was rejected and the government explains that in the usual way and I will paraphrase VERY VERY freely here:

“We will not ask for the real opinion of the people because we have put in place an artificial structure of a Citizens Assembly that will allow us to delay any decision as long as possible. We gave them loads ot time until half way through 2017 and we hope that they will take that time. Then this Citizen Assembly will come back to us with an opinion. We secretly hope that they will say that no referendum is needed, because then we can blame them. But if they tell us we should hold a referendum, then we will first need to discuss that and at some time later vote on it. Because once the Citizen Assembly comes back with an opinion we will first give that opinion to a Special Oireachtas Committee as this will give us a chance to delay the process further. That Special Oireachtas Committee will be also given six months to decide. So it will be well over a year before we even think about a referendum and we hope that the Irish citizens will have forgotten by then! If the Special Oireachtas Committee ALSO says we should have a referendum then we will CONSIDER to have one and will schedule it for as far away from today as we can. because we are extremely afraid of the outcome and hope that we have won the next election by then so that that referendum will not screw our chances. All in all, we don’t care about the opinion of the Irish Citizens anyway. We only care about our position in power and to maintain that we will do whatever possible to block and delay anything that interfere with our power in the slightest way.”

So with that in mind – and I stress that this is MY interpretation of the situation, but it is based on the government’s official statement as you can find it through this Tweet – there won’t be a referendum for the next 2.5 – 3 years AT LEAST!

In the last 33 years, the opinion in large parts of the population certainly has changed and they have a right to ask for a new vote. Keep in mind that neither side has a guarantee that they will win or lose and that’s not what this opinion here is about. Sure I have an opinion about the 8th amendment, but my opinion is so irrelevant (I am not even allowed to vote in a referendum!) that I just want to focus on the undemocratic-ness of the government’s decision.

We don’t need a Citizens Assembly or a Special Oireachtas Committee! We have clear evidence that there is a ground swell that could indicate that the opinion has changed. That should be enough to ask for the opinion again!

Censorship or not? Maser Art and Dublin City

Dublin is never boring and Dublin City regularly gets into hot water and often enough screws up big time. Something emerged again last week that had “Big Screw-up” written all over it, but is it that?

The Background: Street Artist Maser painted a big mural on the wall of the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar about 4 weeks ago. It was a read heart that had “Repeal the 8th” written in it. To understand that fully, you need to know that it refers to the 8th amendment, which was added to the Irish constitution in 1983 and which says “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

Supporters see it as a clause protecting life, but the flip side is that it makes abortion illegal by constitution. Now, abortion was always illegal based on Irish laws and that amendment wouldn’t have been needed, but the anti-abortion campaigners were worried back then that the other laws wouldn’t be strong enough. At the time 67% of the voters in a referendum were in favour of this amendment.

Many people’s views about abortion have changed, however in the last 33 years and these changed views do support the availability of abortion in Ireland either in a restricted number of situations/scenarios or in every situation. And since the Irish laws haven’t prevented abortions, but made it extremely difficult and emotionally stressful for women in Ireland to get an abortion by travelling to other countries, these laws are useless anyway.

Since 1981, the “Repeal the 8th” campaign has grown and become stronger and the website “The HunReal Issues”, which promotes women’s issues, has commissioned street artist Maser to create this mural in Temple Bar.

Dublin City received 50 complaints and then told the Project Arts Centre that they will have to remove the mural because it is against planning legislation. But it seems that legal situation is not crystal clear.

The Journal.ie writes “A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said that class 12 of schedule two in part one of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 “exempts the painting of the external part of any building or other structure from requiring planning permission”.” So that means you do NOT have to ask for permission to paint the external part of a building, right? But then the Dublin City folks continued saying “Murals and other artistic designs require planning permission when applied to the external part of any structure.” I might be missing something here and maybe the key is in “painting” vs “mural”, but JUST with that information I can’t see how the law was broken.

What got me at first was that the Project Arts Centre said that they never experienced any planning legislation issues despite the fact that they regularly have murals on the side of the building. If a abortion related mural was treated differently by Dublin City than other murals, that would certainly not be ok.

But then I tried to “test” a few other angles:

What if Dublin City didn’t get any complaints for previous paintings? If they don’t get active UNLESS they get complaints, then the current situation is not censorship. – What if previous murals didn’t contain a political (or commercial) message but were just pieces of art? Then it would be more about an “ad” vs a pretty picture. – And how would I feel if someone put a big promotion on a building of an idea I was opposed to? Anti-abortion murals on house walls maybe? How tolerant would we then be?

And taking all this into consideration, I can see why this specific mural is different than someone painting a pretty flower pot on the side of a building.

The mural is the expression of a free opinion and the expression of opinions has to be protected by our laws, but there are MANY ways to express an opinion and not every way has to be allowed. So, I would have a serious problem if it was made illegal to express “Repeal the 8th”, but I don’t think if one path of expression was declared as not permitted.

And, to be honest, it couldn’t have come better for the Repeal the 8th campaign: Many people (including myself) hadn’t heard anything about this mural before Dublin City stepped in. Best PR ever! ;-)

 
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