Gerry Adam’s Ard Fheis statement that women ‘deserve and are entitled to be trusted’ is flatly contradicted by his party’s position on abortion rights.
Sinn Féin is now in favour of a repeal of the 8th amendment and the introduction of abortion in limited circumstances including rape, abuse and situations where there is a threat to the health or life of the woman, but critically they refuse to support ‘abortion on request’.
This refusal to support women that have decided an abortion is the best option for them, is akin to a public statement that women are NOT to be trusted.
By supporting abortion in limited circumstances, Sinn Féin are explicitly stating they the do not believe that abortion of a foetus is morally or legally equal to the murder of a human being. They accept that an early term foetus is not yet a person and therefore not yet entitled to the same right to life as a person.
So why is Sinn Féin advocating that some foetuses are worthy of legal protection and some are not?
Presumably Sinn Féin do not believe that there are ‘good’ foetuses and ‘bad’ foetuses, so it must logically have something to do with the circumstance of the formation of the foetus. In other words Sinn Féin want to divide women into the categories of those who are ‘worthy’ of abortion rights and those who are ‘unworthy’ of abortion rights.
Sinn Féin supports abortion services for women who have been raped and women where pregnancy threatens their physical or mental health and women who are carrying foetuses with fatal abnormalities. These women are deemed to be ‘worthy’ of abortion services.
But they won’t support abortion services for women that aren’t the victims of rape or for women who aren’t the victims of the cruel lottery of physical, mental and foetal health. These women are deemed to be ‘unworthy’ of abortion services.
They won’t support ‘unworthy’ women that are healthy, strong and of sane mind. They won’t support ‘unworthy’ women who have decided they want an abortion for reasons that are none of Gerry Adams, or Sinn Féin’s, or anybody else’s bloody business.
Access to abortion services isn’t something that anyone should have to justify or explain. Women shouldn’t have to provide a reason for why they want an abortion. They shouldn’t have to be too young, too old, too poor, too unwell or have too many kids already, before they can access abortion services. That’s what really trusting women means.
If a 30 year old woman who is healthy, wealthy and happily married to Prince Charming wants an abortion she should be able to get one that is free, safe and legal – no questions, no conditions, no judgment. That’s what really trusting women means.
At the core of the abortion debate there is another debate about women and their sexuality. The old Ireland that viciously judged and even more viciously punished ‘fallen’ women is not that far in our past. There were still Magdalene Launderies and Mother and Child homes in operation when the 8th amendment was inserted in 1983.
How many of us consciously or subconsciously judge women for being sexually active, for having multiple sexual partners, for not ‘being careful enough’ ?
Those who support abortion in ‘limited circumstances’ but oppose it ‘upon request’ need to take a long hard look at the logic of their position. How can you allow the abortion of one foetus but not another? Is it the foetus you are judging or the woman?
There is no logic to a halfway house of ‘limited circumstances’ – no logic to a position that supports access to abortion for ‘victims’ but denies it to those who aren’t ‘victims’. No logic other than the twisted logic of the old misogynistic Ireland.
Providing free, safe and legal abortion services to Irish women in Ireland won’t lead to the collapse of Irish society. It won’t lead to women having lots more unprotected sex or using abortion as a form of contraception.
What it will do is lead to women getting abortions earlier in their pregnancies than is currently the case. And it will end the unnecessary additional stress and expense that tens of thousands of Irish women have already endured in travelling to Britain and elsewhere for abortion services.
Making free, safe and legal abortions available to all women will also send out the strongest possible signal that we as a nation trust women.
Abortion will always be a major life decision that women will have to weigh up carefully. Some women will never regret having an abortion and some will regret it terribly. That’s what really trusting women means.
Trust women to make decisions in relation to their own bodies and trust them to live with the consequences of their decisions. Women don’t need the rest of us to protect them from their own bodies or their own decisions.
Éirígí debated the issue of abortion over a number of years, initially adopting a ‘limited circumstances’ position, before adopting the correct position of support for full abortion rights. So as a party we realise it can take time and effort to get to the right position. But get it right we did and other parties, including Sinn Féin, now need to rapidly do likewise.
Republicanism, as a political theory and as an organic movement, should be at the heart of the movement for abortion rights and women’s rights generally. And that’s where we will be. Join us in the fight for abortion rights for all women.
Brian Leeson, Éirígí Chairperson