I find it unsettling when I remember I’m considered to be a bit of an extremist. It’s not usual for a woolly liberal centrist to be described as an extremist. Yet here I am, a firm believer in the notion that a woman is the best judge of what should or shouldn’t happen to her body. And that apparently is enough to mark me out as an extremist. Only in this age of homeopathy can such a thing be said to make any sense.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those who believe abortions should only happen out foreign and those of us who believe abortions should be provided here. Supporting a woman to have an abortion in her own country is extreme. Insisting a woman leave the country to have an abortion is considered to be the best way to avoid spooking those poor denizens of Middle Ireland. Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those of us who consider this to be the rankest of rank hypocrisy and those who consider this to be winning.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those of us who think women should enjoy the ride, as men have always enjoyed the ride. Sexual incontinence for all, as it has always been, but now women are allowed to have a say in the process and also to enjoy the experience. Yes, use precautions, but please enjoy yourselves. Sex is brilliant. And if those precautions fail, then feel free to choose whatever option best serves you. And then there are those who shake their heads. Consequence free riding is and always has been the preserve of men. We didn’t spend generations incarcerating pregnant women just to enrich the religious. We locked them up because riding is for men. Abortions for women who enjoy the ride is akin to saying that locking up women who enjoyed the ride was somehow wrong. And that can’t be right. Can it? That’s just too extreme for Middle Ireland to ponder over its morning cornflakes.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those of us think it indefensible to pick and choose the abortions we are comfortable with and to decide which women have done enough suffering to merit an abortion. This is thought of as extreme. Then there are those who need women to suffer to the point that any misgivings they have about abortions are overcome. Misgivings that will return the moment the next woman has the temerity to demand an abortion and the whole process begins again.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those of us who are quite certain that a foetus is never the equal of the women carrying it. Well no, it is the equal and even more important than the woman who carries in one circumstance, when the woman carrying it decrees it to be so. A woman owning her body and knowing her own mind is dismissed as extreme. On the other side, the foetus is considered the equal of the woman carrying it unless the woman has suffered or is suffering to a yet to be legally defined degree. This legal bar of suffering may end up in our Constitution or the Constitution may oblige our parliament to make suffering and tragedy a prerequisite for women with the temerity to demand an abortion. This is not thought of as extreme.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those who think campaigning for women to have access to abortion in their own country is extreme. The very act of saying we want abortion services to be available in Ireland, without demur, without apology, without euphemism, without shame, is dismissed as gauche and divisive. Then there are those who think abortions are gross and women’s voices are scary so just please leave me in peace to eat my cornflakes.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those of us who go to great pain to ensure we present a professional and reasonable front when campaigning. We keep our accounts public, write letters of persuasion, advocate, canvass and lobby within civilised norms. Then there are those who see this effort and dismiss it as just the same as those who abuse, those who threaten, those who picket politician’s houses. It is considered extreme to expect people to look at what people do and note the difference.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into three camps. There are those of us who reacted with surprised satisfaction to the outcome of the Citizen’s Assembly. We’d forgotten that when presented with the facts, people will see the inescapable logic of greatly extending abortion services in Ireland. Then there are those who dismiss facts as being less important than their sincerely held beliefs. And then there are those who simply don’t expect ordinary people to be able to deal with facts. In this era of homeopathy, Brexit and Trump, they are convinced people will not raise their heads from their cornflakes to consider facts. They will keep to their prejudices and assumptions and vote accordingly. It is considered extreme to trust voters as it is extreme to trust women.
Ireland, it seems, is divided into two camps. There are those who are called extremists and there are the self-serving and lazy commentators who call them extremists. And I find I am getting quite comfortable with being the extremist they keep speaking of.