There are few things as galling as enduring hypocrisy. And those struggling for abortion rights are having to endure more than their fair share of it. It often feels as if the only thing standing in the way of abortion rights is hypocrisy. It assails campaigners from all sides.
There are the tone policers. A section of the commitariat that has managed to misinterpret the marriage equality referendum as a template for all future socially divisive campaigns. They want clean cut, middle class women, to tearfully come out to their grandmothers about the abortion they had because the foetus could not survive. They want campaigners to hold the hand of Middle Ireland as it reluctantly agrees that some women deserve autonomy, in some cases, for some reasons. They want gentle. They want clean. No burst condoms, one night stands, poverty or careers. No bad timing, wrong circumstances or indeed anything that smacks of women refusing to take responsibility for the sex they chose to have. Of course, rape victims should have some physical autonomy, but please don’t mention the near impossibility of turning this into law.
Keep it clean and polite and all things nice. Our betters are certain they know how to win. They may not campaign, but they just know. They expect standards, but only from one side. The vicious and serial dishonesty of the anti-choicers is never even alluded to. The made-up statistics, the made-up links, the misleading agencies, the money and the overwhelming hatred of women who have sex. Not one comment. Whatever act of fanatical misogyny, they escape censure from the tone police?
It is Middle Ireland however that is most guilty of hypocrisy. A hypocrisy that continues to confound those of us who work for abortion rights. The polling evidence is clear, a majority of Irish people agree with some women, being allowed abortions, in certain circumstances. It’s as if the status of the foetus is unimportant. What matters is the woman. How did she arrive at the point where she has demanded (always demanded) an abortion? Are they nice and tragic or just buyer’s remorse?
The foetus doesn’t matter. What did the woman do? Don’t talk to me about the ten women who leave Ireland every day for an abortion. What has the woman done to deserve an abortion in this country? My country. My dear old Ireland. The foetus doesn’t matter. Middle Ireland pretends it does but even the anti-choicers won’t dare suggest a travel ban on pregnant women, by repealing the 13th Amendment. No anti-choicer would dare suggest that women returning from the UK be charged with procuring an abortion.
Middle Ireland knows that abortion is a daily reality for Irish women. They know it is commonplace. Many of them have taken the plane themselves for each and every reason that women choose to have abortions. From the nice and acceptably tragic to the ones they don’t like to hear about, women choosing to have sex. But they want their hands held. Spoken to gently. Told that their prejudices and hypocrisy are values and morals that deserve respect.
This can never be a rerun of the marriage equality campaign. Grannies could have their hands held. Their clean cut, middle class, gay grandsons could appear on posters. Marriage equality was zero-sum. Winners takes all. No reruns. It wasn’t some gay people, in certain circumstances, if they met the standard of Middle Ireland respectability, that could get married.
It’s taken decades to get to a point where pro-choice campaign groups can see the possibility of some sort of a referendum on some aspect of the Eighth Amendment. We’ve gone from being a country where Middle Ireland locked up pregnant women and sold their babies, to a country where abortion rights are debated daily. This is progress. Slow, painful and frustrating, but progress.
If the Eighth Amendment was repealed tomorrow and the right to free, safe and legal abortions was inserted into the constitution, the campaign for abortion rights would still not be finished. Those who hate women, particularly women who have sex, will never stop. So, we can never stop. And you can fuck off if you think we are going to start being polite to those misogynistic shits.