As many of you did the other night, I sat down to watch Claire Byrne live. I know what way I am voting but tuned in to see what I hoped would be an informative and respectful debate on a matter that has deeply divided this nation and one that is an emotive topic for many.
Watching the show, there are many things I took issue with and as a result the lack of adequate moderation, the misinformation presented by many on the No side, that was never once questioned. An interesting figure that stood out to me was that 84% of abortions in the UK are surgical, however according to statistics released by the Department of Health in the UK, these figures are 38%.
Another commonly used argument was that removing the life of the unborn from the constitution would mean the unborn has no right to life. In my opinion, this clearly shows the mistrust some No campaigners have for women. They seem to believe that if the referendum passes all pregnant women will access terminations. This simply isn’t factual and as Mary Lou MacDonald acknowledged, the greatest guarantor for the right to life for the unborn is indeed the mother, women will continue to have babies.
I believe in the right to express ones views and believe in being allowed express them, however scaremongering and lying to the general public shouldn’t have been allowed, particularly on a publicly funded network.
The debate descended into what can only be described as utter chaos and there seemed to be no return. It became very uncomfortable viewing and didn’t set the tone for debate many had hoped for.
The one point of the debate that particularly made me feel uneasy was the heckling and laughter Mary Lou MacDonald was greeted with upon announcing to the audience she was pro-life. Let me tell you why, because I too am pro-life, however I strongly believe in the fundamental principle of choice.
I am pro-life. I don’t agree with abortion unless in certain circumstances such as rape, fatal foetal abnormalities and where the life of the mother is at risk. I believe that every single alternative option should be exhausted, abortion being the last, but an option that should exist within Ireland. It is unfair to label anyone who favours choice “pro-abortion”. We recognise the failings of the eighth, we recognise that woman should not be forced to travel and we believe in supporting a woman’s right to make, what I am sure for many is a difficult but necessary decision for herself and whilst not agreeing with the outcome of that decision, a woman must have that choice. The fact many on the pro-life side see no issue with the thirteenth and fourteenth amendment suggests to me that they have no issue with abortion, they just don’t want it in Ireland. We shipped women into laundries in the past, now we ship them abroad to access healthcare. These are key arguments the Yes side must question and must put to the No side, but were denied the chance during the debate.
Many of you might be on the fence, many of may be No votes. However if you believe in choice, if you trust women to make the best decisions for themselves, if you don’t want to continue forced travel, if you want women to be afforded respect, dignity, care and compassion at home and feel the status quo cannot be retained, you’re simply pro-choice and the rest is simply noise.