Irish Eighth Amendment

I kind-of get the feeling that there can’t be many people with this view, but I’ll write it and you can shoot me down in flames….

The background is that the Irish constitution was amended so as to recognise that a pregnant woman is effectively two lives, and to give them equal status under the law. This amendment effectively banned abortion in the state of Ireland. There are exceptions here, but I’m talking generally. The referendum, tomorrow, is on whether to repeal this amendment to the constitution.

The reason I am interested in this question is largely just because I take a keen interest in Irish affairs, although I live in the UK myself. So I might well have an interest, but I won’t be voting tomorrow.

So my view on this matter is that Irish women are, today, able to hop onto a plane and fly somewhere (nominally, to the UK) to get an abortion. So the current law is simply a matter of geography – an Irish woman in Ireland is bound by the law, but an Irish woman outside of Ireland isn’t. So I think the current law effectively says “if you wish to stay here, then you must keep your baby, but if you’re able to travel….”. So I’d argue that the law currently discriminates against people who aren’t able to travel. This could be for many reasons, including the obvious one of somebody’s ability to afford the cost of a flight and a private abortion. In that sense, we could see it as economic discrimination.

And even though someone might be able to travel, that’s far more onerous than going to a clinic in the next street, plus, of course, it doesn’t remove any soul-searching from the process. I’ve only ever experienced one pregnancy myself, and the baby was healthy and very much wanted, but I can imagine that other parts of the process must be far harder than getting on a plane. But I don’t see this issue as particularly critical to the debate. I’m more concerned that, under the current law, the Irish medical profession needs to be careful about “promoting” certain avenues over others – I know from my own situation that I’d expect full disclosure, so as to be able to come to the best decision. But today, resources such as the internet undermine this argument too.

Having decided that the current law is discriminatory, I would get rid of it – the issue becomes a no-brainer for me. It doesn’t really really matter what the content of that law might be, I think that we as a society need to use laws to make a level playing field, and not say to some women that they can have an abortion, and to other women that they can’t. I’d maybe be happy for there to be a further discussion, and maybe we’d discuss not just whether we’d prevent abortions, but how we’d prevent them without prejudice – if you say abortions are banned, then how do you stop somebody jumping on a plane and having one anyway? Is it reasonable, these days, for the state to even have a view? But this referendum is about repealing the Eighth.

Etiquette

I think when you post a view on social media, there are always two things that go on:

  1. what you say, and
  2. how you present it.
The former just represents your point of view and might be perfectly rational or not.
The latter is the key to your point of view being accessible. It might be inaccessible for several reasons, even something as innocuous as the language you’re using. I think there’s a pre-requisite that you can convey your meaning in the chosen language. It raises an interesting point with regard to stroke survivors, some of whom have difficulty with the nuts and bolts, although their thought process is intact.

But I think you can cross a line by choice also by your choice of words. Insulting, patronising, swearing, in some cases. I find even just bringing emotion into things can be a turn-off. I followed a post in a political forum this morning (which describes itself as for political anoraks, so judge for yourselves what that makes me!) in which a chap called somebody a **** (they used real letters, but I’m afraid you’ll have to guess as it’s not something I’m comfortable repeating). The effect of this was that whatever view this guy was propagating, it didn’t go any further with me. So it was ineffective in trying to convert an open-minded reader to their cause.

I do think that the goal of social media posts is not to win an argument – people, especially as they get older, have pretty fixed views and aren’t going to change them because of something you say – but to convince a third-party reader that your view is a reasonable one. Often, if you happen to be disagreeing with someone, they’ll provide that “reason” for you, often by the way they present their argument – being rude or unreasonable or something. I think if you’re going to have a view on politics, then a part of that view is understanding other people’s position, understanding where there is agreement and where there might be disagreement. And, I think there’s generally more agreement than we might first think.
Plus, of course, the other important thing in debating is knowing when you’ve made your point, then stopping. People can always re-read it if they wish.

Addendum:

Do you see what I mean? I turn off when I see the word “Ayatollah”, and any remaining point is lost. I have seen one already about Rees-Mogg, which claimed (incorrectly) that his own constituency (North East Somerset) had voted to remain in the EU. I duspect anybody who follows current affairs would know that, so a fairly obvious lie.