Monday, March 4, 2013

Under the (American) Influence

It's always a pleasure to be offered a guest post. Often in the past I've taken the opportunity to give voice to someone who holds a different viewpoint to mine, and I've had fine articles from Christian and Muslim bloggers. In this instance, however, Kath O'Meara and I have little on which to disagree.

She writes from the perspective of an American expatriate living in Ireland and has dug up some fascinating information on our friends across the water. It's great to have such a succinct overview of the situation on file and it makes me realise that much of my output assumes prior knowledge of the Irish situation. My thanks to Kath for this. Do tweet her your appreciation on @KathOMeara. If you enjoy her writing you should check out her blog.

Do enjoy.

As an American and long-term resident in Ireland (gratefully and by choice), I would like to state for the record:  

I am sorry.   


I am sorry that these religious fundamentalists are sticking their noses (and wallets) into the Irish question on abortion and sending money to be used on questionable publicity including billboards ,leaflets and posters.

I am sorry about the illegal robocalls, which originated in the US

When I first heard that far-right anti-choice groups in Ireland were being shored up with American dollars the first thought in my mind was "Oh man, I thought I got away from you people!" You see for me, one of the perks about living in Ireland is that I am thousands of miles away from the bible thumping I-know-better-than-you hell and brimstone fundies who can’t seem to stop themselves from trying to control a woman’s right to bodily integrity. A strategy which has not stopped although safe and legal abortions are now available in the US via the landmark Supreme Court case ofRoe v. Wade.


A most disturbing recent development in the US abortion controversy is the Republican backed legislation (at State level) that requires women seeking abortions to first undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. At the very least, this is a completely unnecessary but extremely invasive procedure designed to humiliate and shame a woman pre-termination in the hope she may change her mind. As of late February, 2013, there is a bill in Indiana that, if passed, would force women seeking the abortion pill to undergo an ultrasound both before and after taking the pill.  I cannot find any data supporting even one termination cancelled due to this procedure.

I am sorry that misogynist pro-lifers responsible for implementing the above humiliation are now sharing tips of the trade with far-right groups in Ireland and the UK. Having immigrated to Dublin in 1995, I have witnessed more than a few anti-abortionists over the years.  My first experience was the (older) woman who would walk up and down Grafton St with a double sided placard showing (I presume) what was supposed to be an aborted foetus.  I became so used to passing by the anti-abortion brigade set up in front of Bank of Ireland (College Green) and/or the GPO on the weekends that I hardly noticed them. 

On one occasion, I heard a guy handing out leaflets speak with a strong North American accent.  “How odd,” I thought.  I mean, if you’re part of the anti-abortion movement in the States surely they send their best and brightest to campaign in the established dens of iniquity that are Germany, The UK, The Netherlands, etc. right? I mean, how bad do you have to be at your job that you’re sent to prosthelytise against abortion in a country where abortion is already illegal? 

Boy, was I naïve.  You see, keeping Ireland ‘abortion-free’ is actually quite important to the US pro-life movement.  American pro-lifers can point to Ireland as an example of how a country can successfully be ‘abortion-free’.  Except this is a fallacy.  Irish women do have abortions. 

To believe Ireland is abortion-free, you would have to willingly ignore the 5,000+ women and girls who travel abroad from Ireland to procure legal abortions every year and the 150,000 Irish women who have had abortions (from January 1980 to December 2011).  Every one of these women has a name, a family and her own story.  

To believe Ireland is abortion-free, you would have to willingly ignore the pregnant women who travel to receive medical treatment after receiving tragic diagnoses that their babies will not survive beyond the womb

To believe Ireland is abortion-free, you would have to willingly ignore the number of women who obtain and take abortion pills purchased online.

To believe Ireland is abortion-free, you would have to ignore the terminally ill cancer patients forced to travel abroad to terminate their pregnancies. 

To understand why it is so important to the American anti-choice movement to proclaim Ireland as ‘abortion free’ you need to understand the introduction of legal abortion in the US.  Legal abortion did not become accessible in 1973 because people decided termination on demand was a lighthearted choice or something which should be promoted.  On the contrary, legal abortion was introduced to keep women from dying unnecessarily due to illegal abortions.

One absolute fact about abortion is that women will seek them out whether they are legal or not. In 1972 (the last year before Roe v. Wade took effect) there are 39 documented cases of death due to illegal abortions.  In 1965 the deaths noted from illegal abortions had fallen to just under 200 (from 2,700 in 1930) but still accounted for 17% of deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth.In 1962, almost 1,600 women were admitted to Harlem Hospital for incomplete illegal abortions.  Currently, the global death rate due to illegal abortion is placed at 47,000 (preventable) deaths per year.

If the pro-life movement can point to a country with no abortion and no deaths from illegal abortions and/or the restriction of legal abortion, it could have a compelling case indeed. But it can’t.  Ireland fails this criteria.

No, Ireland is not abortion free.  But we do have the right to self-determination.  I would like to see more people who live here, raise their families here and contribute to society here use their voices and votes to determine the direction we take on this very contentious issue.  But until the American religious imperialists stop trying to influence other nations…

I am sorry.

1 comment:

Sarah Swinburne said...

As an Irishwoman I find this post extremely heartening. I'm glad we're not being ignored internationally as we are at home.