Republic of Ireland news

PLATFORM: Voting Yes will 'regulate' and make abortions 'safe' in Ireland, according to 'Save the Eighth' campaigners

Ireland goes to the polls on Friday for a referendum on overturning the Eighth Amendment of the constitution which effectively outlaws terminations unless a mother's life is in danger

By Sarah Monaghan, Member of Together for Yes

We are just days away from the referendum on repealing the Eighth amendment. My name is Sarah Monaghan and I'm a member of the Together for Yes Executive. I will vote Yes in this historic referendum on 25 May. I'd like to explain why.

This referendum is not a vote on abortion because abortion is already here. Everyone acknowledges that. Just look at the numbers. Between 2012 and 2016, 18,112 women from the Republic of Ireland travelled to England to have abortions.

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That does not take into account those who did not list their home address, or who travelled to other countries to access care. Nor does it account for the many women who, unable to travel, choose instead to order unregulated abortion pills online from unknown sellers.

These pills are safe when taken under the supervision of a doctor, but that's not what is happening. The shame and isolation of this act means that girls and women taking abortion pills may delay getting emergency care when bleeding becomes severe. The threat of 14 years prison sentence if they are discovered means that many suffer and put their lives at risk because they cannot access supported abortion care legally here at home. Many never even tell their doctors, or seek their support. And so, this is really a vote to decide if we will choose to regulate and make safe the abortion that is already here, and prove care to women.

In the 35 years since its addition to our constitution, there have been far too many public cases of girls and women who have been harmed by the Eighth Amendment.

This goes back to the devastating story of Miss X in 1992 when a young girl, just 14 years old, became pregnant as a result of rape. This experience was so traumatic and desperate that she became suicidal. In a time of unimaginable trauma for Miss X, the Eighth Amendment prevented her from being able to terminate her pregnancy in Ireland and start to heal the wounds of her horrific experience.

It is cases like these and many others that led both the Citizens' Assembly and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment to recommend legislation that allows access to abortion up to 12 weeks.

After hearing hours upon hours of expert and personal testimony, panels of regular Irish citizens and our elected officials both realised that it is nearly impossible to legislate for cases concerning rape and incest. The most compassionate and logical laws we can create offer access until the 12-week mark.

The reality is that life is complicated – we all know this. There will be a time in all of our lives when we are forced to manage medical emergencies and uncertainty. When this time comes, everyone hopes for compassionate, supportive care from doctors that we know. We simply can't reduce complex medical situations to two rigid sentences in a Constitution.

But that is precisely what we've done with the Eighth Amendment. Rather than allowing our well-trained doctors to do their jobs, we have constrained their ability to provide the best care possible for their patients. That is why our nation's top experts on women's health, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the vast majority of its members are all in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment. When faced with complex cases, their hands are currently tied by the constitution. The results of this can be disastrous for women.

As polling day approaches, Together for Yes are asking the people of Ireland to think about the woman they love, and consider what they would want for their mothers, sisters, nieces, aunties, partners and friends if they experienced the horror of rape or incest and became pregnant as a result. If a woman they love received the devastating diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, what would you want for them?

We are asking voters to consider the fact that abortion is already here in the Ireland, it is just unsafe and unregulated. Women - most of them mothers - are taking abortion pills at home alone without any medical supervision whatsoever. All the medical experts say this is dangerous. Voting Yes means we will regulate abortion in Ireland, make it safer, and provide care to women in Ireland who need it.

For these reasons and so many more, I will be voting Yes.

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