Family Life

Termination nation – Yes or No?

Tears can’t amend a broken heart.

Why did those words pop into my head as our son O and I walked up towards the doctor’s surgery in our town the other morning?

Well, here in Ireland we’re coming up to a vote, on May 25th, on whether we should keep or remove the Eighth Amendment to our governing Constitution.

It’s about abortion.

The very word immediately stirs up powerful  images and thoughts. It divides opinion. It opens wounds. Wounds that don’t easily heal. If indeed they do.

Abortion is like that.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1983 amended the Irish Constitution by inserting a subsection recognising the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child.

And brought as much confusion as clarity. Abortion continues to be a hugely divisive issue in Ireland.

It is illegal here, except it certain medical circumstances but, bizarrely, we actually voted a few years ago to allow those wanting to have an abortion the right to travel to other countries – in practice, Britain – to do so.

So we do allow it, sort of, just not here.

Even more bizarrely, you do not get No campaigners here — and there are many “pro-life” people prominent on TV and in our newspapers —   voicing their opposition to Irish women travelling abroad to have a termination.  Or pushing for an amendment to the constitution to make that illegal.  By doing and saying nothing they actually support that right.

As O and I walked, there were posters directing us to Vote Yes to repealing the Eighth Amendment, and therefore to allow a much less restricted access to abortion, and others just as definitely telling us to Vote No.

amendment vote

The Vote No posters specialise in lurid shots of foetuses to stress that abortion is nothing short of legalised, premeditated murder. It is also much more than implied that those who would see abortion as complicated and nuanced, and who would prioritise the right of the mother to choose, are somehow “anti-life”.

The posters made me think of the words of that heartbreaking song made famous by Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit,  about the bodies hanging from the poplar trees in the American southern states after a rash of racist lynchings.

“Southern trees bear strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees”

I’m not going to say much more here about the whole business, or this strange fruit hanging from lampposts now in a north Dublin town, just to observe how fascinating it has been to discuss it all with our 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

Looking at the No posters now, I did let O know that I do not agree with what they were doing, and strongly rejected the accusation that those who would vote Yes were voting just for the murder of helpless babies.

It’s complicated, and we have discussed before why it’s complicated.

The major thing I have stressed to our children is that complexity. That there are very good reasons for choosing or voting either Yes or No.

And that choosing to have an abortion is a huge decision which is never easy to make. That life is precious and it is a huge thing to terminate it. Or to maintain it.

But equally, the right to choose is a freedom is to be cherished, not one to be attacked with emotive posters and slogans.

I think that’s what “Tears can’t amend a broken heart” signified to me: terminating the life of an unborn child can be a heart-breaking decision to make. And no legal amendment, or amendment of an amendment, is going to change that.

This might be a strange thing to say but I think what’s missing for me from the whole debate is compassion. Compassion on either side for the position of the other. A place where they might meet and agree to disagree.

I saw the kind of compassion I’m talking about in my son’s reaction to queuing for the doctor’s surgery, and then having to wait his turn to get in to see the doctor.

We were going there because O had had a really sore throat and we thought he might need an antibiotic. He even cried off an important football match which means it must have been bad!

We ended up queuing on the pavement outside the surgery for 30 minutes to ensure we would not have to wait too long when the door opened at 10am. And then we waited inside 90 minutes more to be seen.

For all his discomfort O was remarkably sanguine about the whole thing. After an hour, he turned to me and said

“We’re here for an hour, but imagine being on the waiting list … that’s why I’m not so grumpy about it, to be honest.”

You see this is another hot issue in the Ireland of today, the huge number of outpatients awaiting hospital consultations here, which the Irish Times recently told us had gone over the 500,000 mark.

The TV news has been full of stories of people, even the elderly, waiting for days on hospital trollies in crowded wards to be seen.

We think of our kids stuck on their iPhones, not minding the news and supposedly not caring about those less fortunate. But they’re noticing all right. And there is compassion still.

O had said nothing, but he had noticed that elderly woman standing in the queue outside the surgery, and her friend stopping to chat, and hearing all about the agony the elderly woman was going through with her back. And realised he wasn’t so badly off.

As we were sitting, I noticed a sign on the wall: “Antibiotics are wasted on colds and flu. When you have a cold or flu antibiotics just won’t so”

So our waiting might have proved pointless but we didn’t want to take any chances.

The doctor seeming to take ages to treat each person that went in before us, and I was both irked and relieved. Irked because of the wait, but pleased that the doctor was giving each patient that most precious of commodities: time.

Our turn came.

The doctor examined O’s throat thoroughly and confirned the infection was viral, and not bacterial, so no antibiotics. Neuorofen or Paracetamol would help but the infection would run its course.

Home now, and a quick shower, teeth brushed and some frantic sandwich making and I was off to work.

On the work-life treadmill, but really, glad to be alive and well enough to be on that treadmill.

It’s life, and I’m for it.

PS: I met an elderly man out walking his dog the morning after I posted this. He was wearing a bright red baseball cap, but instead of Trump’s Make America Great slogan, his read “Loving the 8th”. A lovely chatty man, asking about my dog, twinkly-eyed  ruminations on the rain.  I didn’t engage with him on his version of making Ireland great again, but I enjoyed our interaction. There’s life after may 25th.

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35 comments on “Termination nation – Yes or No?

  1. I agree that there’s little compassion at times in the debate, I have been wanting to write on this topic too but last time I said anything on twitter something I said was taken out of context and kicked about. I ran and hid! Hope O is on the mend now. #lgrtstumble

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I sat down to write my blog I really didn’t know it was going to go down that road Liberty. But I carried on, with misgivings. I felt that at best, it would be ignored or passed over. At worst … it will always be a hot potato!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t want to say too much and by even expressing that you can probably guess why. What I do like it your wish to see more compassion – everyone has to see the sense in that #TriumpantTales

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  3. Popping back again for another read via #DreamTeam

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  4. I’m certainly pro-choice and in this day and age find it hard to believe not all countries are the same. It’s a huge topic, I’m sure you’ll get a wide range of comments here. Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales, hope to see you again next week. PS. Hope O is better now. Pesky viruses!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jaki, this is still a huge topic so I didn’t expect to be writing about it. I expected negative comments, if anything. Or silence! But it’s what came out. O is good now, thank you

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  6. Shew, this is a difficult topic for me. After struggling for 6 years to fall pregnant. I feel that respectfully I cannot comment on the topic of abortion. My heart is too emotional for it. (For a lack of a better explanation) I really feel for those ladies that make that decision. It’s a difficult one to make. However, this is a well-written post. Thought provoking. I’m glad to hear that your son is feeling better, and yes, those waiting lines are horrific. Something needs to be done. #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your most thoughtful comment Jacqui. O okay now. A difficult topic indeed and I suppose my main point is the lack of empathy for each side for the other’s point of view. And those posters!!

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  7. I love the sensitive way you’ve approached this topic. It’s something very close to my heart having had to say goodbye to a very much wanted baby at 16 weeks a couple of years ago. Having made an impossible choice I can’t imagine how hard it would be to live somewhere that choice wasn’t afforded to me. Beautifully written x #triumphanttales

    Liked by 1 person

    • It surer is the most sensitive of topics Kate. But not often debated sensitively here. I agree about choice. But I suppose it should also be recognised the choice can be a hugely difficult one to make. And so it should be. Thanks for your very interesting observations

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  8. I used to be against abortion because I’ve know women who have used it simply for a means of birth control. There was no caring or compassion from them. But later in my 20’s while having my own children I met women who really struggled with their decisions. Some were life threatening decisions and some were women who found themselves in a very difficult situation.
    I think the thing that’s really missing from the conversation is if these organizations or our government don’t want abortion to happen then please, please, please supply the right healthcare and education to our young people who find themselves in some harsh predicaments. But rather than deal with the healthcare issue (which we have a HUGE problem with here in the U.S.) they want to toss this debate back and forth and divide people so much.
    I agree with you on the compassion part of it too. There seems to be lacking a huge amount of compassion on most issues these days and that, along with a lack of understanding the other side, is why at least here in the States, our leaders can’t communicate properly and solve problems. This is such a wonderful and thoughtful post! I love how you addressed this issue with such respect and care:) #LGRTStumble

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you fo such a thoughtful response. The Abortion issue has been tossed around for years and years in this country with successive governments ducking and diving around it and terrified of taking a lead. But it won’t go away and conservative forces use it again and again. But times are changing and it will be interesting to see how the vote goes.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a sensitive subject, I know that I could never go through with a termination, not that I would judge anyone who has/does, I guess that there will always be a reason why some individuals chose to take this drastic action and who am I to judge this? #thatfridaylinky@_karendennis

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  10. I have no problem with people having abortions. It’s a very personal decision. I think it’s easy for others to judge when they’re not in that situation, but if they ever were would they change their opinion? Thanks for joining in with #ThatFridayLinky

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  11. What a great post; so caring and insightful. As you say, whatever your views on this tricky subject, let’s give the views of others thought and compassion too. We all have the right to our views and that’s why I believe in the right to choose. Well done you. #thatfridaylinky

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  12. We definitely need compassion on both sides of this issue. I used to think I was pro life, but then I realized that meant the women can’t choose what happens to their body. I am now pro choice, and only want people to be able to make the decision that is right for themselves. I once knew a girl in an abusive relationship. Her partner purposely saboted her birth control in order to get her pregnant and keep her hostage. She chose to abort and I could never fault her for that. Imagine how traumatizing for a child in that situation. And I know people say she could have given it up, but there are almost half a million kids in the US foster care system right now. It is overburdened and kids are being left in abusive homes because we have no where else to put them. For every person who says that abortion should be illegal because adoption exists, I always wonder how many foster kids they have cared for. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the end of the day, Heather, I wanted to focus in some small way on the complexity of the situation and just what one is being asked to say Yes or No to. Such a dilemma should one ever find oneself having to decide one way or the other. I have never had to do it. It is ending a life after all and all that entails. But then there are many situations where this seems the best thing to do. Like the scenario you described. And I do not have the right, I feel to make the choice for someone else. But if I vote No I would be claiming the right to do so.

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  13. I have strong liberal views so I don’t have to explain any further what outcome I’d like to see. However as a mother of two, I can certainly say that my views on abortion got really mixed up with my feelings and I choose not to talk about it, because I don’t know how to express this bag of mind views and feelings. #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think you have posed this in such a beautiful way to your son. Compassion and empathy are largely lacking in this world of today. How we wrangle it and get in going is on us, for the kids… xoxo #LGRTstumble

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I am so delighted that he has such compassion in him. I also love that he looks out into the world as I think being too wrapped up in our own world can be so unhealthy. And selfish. Thanks for your lovely observation Lisa

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Compassion is so important here, as you have rightly stated. It is a difficult topic, very subjective, yet under the hands of so many laws. But you have explained it so beautifully to your son. Thank you for sharing this with us at #itsok

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  16. Pingback: #GlobalBlogging linky week 60… | Shank You Very Much

  17. Enda I admire your bravery covering this. It is a divisive topic worldwide and whether it is permitted or not I am sure there are those who have made that difficult decision regarding abortion yet still would be shy of sharing their choice with others for fear of their response. I am for freedom of choice. It is a deeply personal decision and not one that I am sure anyone makes lightly. We are not here to judge people’s decisions on this issue and it is sad that there are many women who don’t have that option. I did listen to a fascinating piece on R4 only last week on the vote and the interviewer was talking to people in a very small Irish town (whose name of course I can’t remember!) and some were scared to express their view for fear of reprisal. The eyes of the world will be on the result for sure. Thanks for sharing. See you again tomorrow I hope! #TweensTeensBeyond

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jo. You’re right itbus an explosive issue still here after so many tears. Like you say never an easy decision. Thanks so much for your response and observations. I knew it is not an easy one to address and I have tried to be even-handed but ultimately I am for free choice. Thanks Jo

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  18. It’s not an easy topic, is it? I don’t feel I have the right to tell another woman what she can and can’t do with her body, and I do feel that the pro life voters don’t really think about beyond what happens to a baby if it’s not aborted but I also know that choosing a termination is never an easy or simple option and I cared for someone who had to do that herself and it wasn’t a process that I would want to face myself. I think compassion on both sides is much needed! #tweensteensbeyond

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    • Absolutely. There was a debate on one of our national TV stations last night and it was only annoying: all point scoring, grandstanding and loud clapping from the audience for said point-scoring. Illuminating. Not. Thanks for reading

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  19. Lucy At Home

    I think what you have written here is just what I struggle with on this issue – it is NOT black and white. I have sympathies with both sides. And I hate that some people are so fixated on THEIR beliefs and so convinced that THEY are right, that they can’t see the other rational, logical arguments from the other side, whichever side that may be…. A thought-provoking post and a thought-provoking vote! #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lucy. Yes that’s what I be too – right on both sides and a very difficult decision. I hate the mud-slinging adversarial tackling of the issue, year after year. On both sides, but more on the No side. There was a time when to even voice pro-choice here brought out what can only be described as near-vigilantistic forces, especially in rural places

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  20. #thesatsesh I think it is easy – its a yes. Why? because it gives people options, choices and opportunities. Legalising it means support can be put in place. You’ve written about the complexities well and why i couldn’t vote no is simply because it would stop other people having options…for those who would vote no, they can still chose not to.

    Liked by 1 person

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