As the Department of Health announced over the summer that women will be offered the option to take misoprostol in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, the debate around abortion must once again return to Northern Ireland. We saw last week with the amendment tabled by Stella Creasy and Connor McGinn that there is overarching support in the House of Commons for finally giving women the right to be able to access abortion services in Northern Ireland.
The stumbling block is how we can achieve this, while respecting the principle of devolution as this is a devolved matter, when there is no Executive or Assembly sitting in Stormont. I don’t have an answer for that beyond direct rule or a referendum; I’m not sure which is more likely than the other. What I want to do is talk to you about the reality of the situation – and why I’m pro-choice.
It is not a question about whether you would have an abortion.
It is not a question about whether you morally accept the concept.
It is a question about whether you trust women.
I am pro-choice not in spite of being a conservative; I’m pro-choice because I am a conservative.
Because I believe people can make better decisions than the government.
Because I believe in the concept of individual liberty.
Because I believe a woman can make the best choice over what happens to her own body.
Because I believe a woman should be given the choice that Savita Halappanavar was robbed of ever having by the Irish Constitution.
Thousands of women travel to England for abortions every year. Having an abortion is an experience no woman ever plans on going through, it’s an experience no woman hopes to have to endure. This journey only adds to the trauma these women are forced to experience. Abortion is not looked on by any woman as a form of contraception – it is never a choice that any woman wants to have to make in their life. Those who want to ‘end abortions’ would find their time better spent promoting an increase in sex education, as well as increasing the availability and awareness of different types of contraceptives.
Far too often the humanity and reality of the situation is removed from the debate – far too often by the men who oppose any form of liberation of women’s rights.
So often the pro-life movement is one sided. They do not care about the women involved. They do not care about her circumstances. They do not ask “why?”. They do not think of the women who has a much-wanted pregnancy before being delivered with the most devastating news possible. They do not think of women like Savita, whose life was lost because a constitutional amendment prevented her doctors from carrying out what would have been a life saving medical procedure. They do not think of the teenager, whose entire life is ahead of her.
The pro-life movement is not pro-life at all, for it cares nothing about the life of the woman. She is viewed simply as a vessel.
The reality of the situation is that women from Northern Ireland do have abortions. The reality is that these women are robbed of the right to be able to access such health care at home. Abortions will always happen; they have always happened. What we can do is give women the ability to access this health care in their own country. To make what would undoubtedly be one of the most stressful days of their life, a little easier. It is a human right.
Following the referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland, it is time to take Northern Ireland into the 21st century. It should follow in the lead of the Republic of Ireland, and legalise a woman’s right to freedom over her own body and her right to chose. The political stalemate in Stormont has once again put a barricade in the progress of women’s rights in Northern Ireland.
The refusal to allow women to have control of their own bodies, and refusal to allow of same-sex marriage, are two of the greatest remaining stronghold of the Christian religion on society Northern Ireland.
Do you trust women?
Then give them access to healthcare at home.