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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 21 November, 2018
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'It's insulting to suggest that people get an abortion on a whim'

To say that people will use it as a contraceptive is to imply that you don’t trust people in general and that they should be punished for mistakes.

BEING OUT ON the canvassing trail for the upcoming referendum is an interesting experience to say the least. It has been overwhelmingly positive for the most part but sometimes you come up against arguments that boggle the mind.

The one that irks me the most is the argument that if abortion is legalised in Ireland ‘it’ll be used as a contraceptive’. If men say this to me I can rest assured that they’ve never actually spoken to a human woman before. However if a woman says it to me, it feels a lot worse.

Let’s get something out of the way, a contraceptive is something that prevents CONCEPTION happening such as condoms or the pill. If you’re already pregnant, a contraceptive isn’t exactly going to help you out here so on a definition level, abortion can’t be used as a contraceptive.

Secondly it’s quite insulting to suggest that someone who is pregnant is just going to make the decision to end the pregnancy on a whim. It’s not like you’re going to flip a coin and decide to get an abortion. People get abortions for a multitude of reasons, all of them complicated and trust me when I say that nobody ever makes that decision lightly.

So let’s talk about getting contraception in Ireland in general. If you’re someone who just wants to use condoms then you’re ok. Condoms are freely available and while they can be expensive, it’s not impossible to find affordable ones.

Now say you’d like to go on the contraceptive pill. Well that’s a slightly trickier thing to get as you’ve to go to your GP which costs a base rate of €50 without the medical card.

You get your blood pressure checked and they make sure you’ve no history of clotting problems and they give you a prescription for 6 months usually. You pick up your pills and depending on which pill you’re on you’ve spent between €80-€100 for 6 months of contraceptive.

You make that trip twice a year or four times a year if your GP only prescribes you 3 months worth of pills. If you want to get a coil or the bar, you’re looking at upwards of €250. If you’re lucky, your partner might pay for half the cost but if you’re not, you’re talking a decent chunk of change to keep control over your body.

And yet, that cost is still cheaper than travelling abroad for an abortion. Between flights, consultation and accommodation, the average cost for an Irish person to travel to the UK for an abortion is €1,400. 

€1,400 is a massive amount of money and not everyone has that sort of money just sloshing around. People frequently have to take out loans or borrow money from friends or family so they can get the termination. It can take weeks to gather the money which increases stress over the whole thing. It also gives you a lot of time to think about the decision further dismissing the argument that it’s done on a whim.

Abortion isn’t an easy topic because it asks us questions of our morality. It makes us ask difficult questions of ourselves like where we believe life begins, what rights we believe people have to their own body and whether the Constitution is the right place for moral issues like this.

The thing that I always come back to is that people should not have to justify why they need an abortion. To say that people will use it as a contraceptive is to imply that you don’t trust people in general and that they should be punished for mistakes.

To say that you’re fine with abortion in the cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality but not other circumstances is to say that you’re ok with abortion but you’re not ok with how the person became pregnant in the first place.

If you’re truly afraid of abortion being used as a contraceptive then you should be campaigning to repeal the 13th and 14th amendments to our Constitution which allow people to receive information about and travel for abortions.

But you won’t because the truth is that most of us are actually ok with abortion. It’s the culture we’ve grown up in that tells us only silly and slutty people get themselves pregnant and need an abortion shouldn’t have one. If they don’t fit Irish societies ‘victim’ narrative then they should be punished.

What we should all be campaigning for aside from repealing the 8th is free access to contraception and better sex education in our schools. We should be campaigning for compassion, empathy and education.

The 8th Amendment has been in place for 35 years and all it has done is punish pregnant people even more. It’s time we as country grew up and stopped judging people for needing an abortion and realised that it’s really none of our business at all.

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About the author:

Rachel O'Neill

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