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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 13 November, 2019

Why it's time to stop tone policing pro-choice campaigners

It’s not a coincidence that a largely female movement is being criticized as ‘strident’.

New Taoiseach Source: PA Wire/PA Images

THIS WEEK LEO Varadkar announced that there will be a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in 2018.

So, now is as good a time as any to discuss the absurdity of trying to tone-police anyone campaigning for the Eighth Amendment to be removed from the constitution.

People who consider themselves to be very reasonable moderates have certainly not been shy in doing so over the last couple of months.

Yet somehow anti-choice groups have continuously been allowed to run riot with hateful speech and plenty of gruesome imagery to accompany it, while everyone quietly pretends it’s not happening.

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

One critic of the pro-choice movement, Rory O’Neill (or Panti Bliss), let down a lot of people earlier this year when he shared his advice for the campaign.

O’Neill’s main advice was for pro-choice campaigners to “cool down”. He explained that it’s too easy for passion to turn to anger, which puts people off.

It must be very easy to forget how it feels to be in that position once you get what you want, because a year prior to the marriage referendum, here’s what he had to say:

Any time any of us queers show a spark of anger about it, we’re admonished. What are you getting so angry about? We’re trying to have a reasonable debate. Well, I say, ‘f*ck you’. ‘F*ck you, f*ck you, f*ck you, f*ck you and f*ck you again’, and please quote me on that. It is not a legitimate subject for debate. There should be no debate about how I should be treated as a citizen.

As an LGBT person, it’s not like I’ve had the right to get married for my entire life and taken it for granted.

I had to vote, I had to encourage people around me to vote and I witnessed my friends’ relationships with their families be destroyed by this referendum.

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

There are plenty of people still recovering from the fallout of the referendum. Ireland is not just all smiling gay Taoiseachs who studied medicine and celebrity drag queens partying on stage at pride events that cost €20 for admission.

I say this because I know what a nightmare and what a struggle it was to legalize same-sex marriage in Ireland.

Of course it was important, but the urgency to repeal the Eighth Amendment is even greater. Every single day people are hurt by this law, but it has remained on the back-burner.

This part of the constitution has killed people. We can’t ignore the fact that ten women are still forced to leave this country every day to seek abortions in the UK. What is there to gain by pretending that we’re not furious about that?

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

It’s impossible to even imagine 10 men having to leave this country per day because a simple medical procedure is illegal.

The Eighth Amendment denies women healthcare simply because they are women. Ireland has a completely shameful history of institutionalizing women who find themselves pregnant by any means that isn’t deemed morally acceptable.

We had a century of Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes and we try to act as if our society has moved on from that, when in reality we’ve just diluted these institutions and repackaged them as the Eighth Amendment.

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

We force young women to give birth. We section teenage girls. We make people endure traumatic births when doctors are certain that the foetus cannot survive outside of the womb.

The country’s attitude towards women is entirely elucidated when people debate that abortions should only be allowed in certain circumstances.

This means that there are no qualms with the procedure itself, but rather with the means by which a person found themselves pregnant. Morality is the issue.

The language used to tone-police campaigners always comes back to their shrillness and them being overly-strident. It’s not a coincidence that this language is being used when the vast majority of campaigners are young women.

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

This is absolutely something that we should be outraged over.

Which part of a human rights violation are we supposed to be moderate about? Campaigners are being held to unrealistic standards. Impossible standards.

We can’t be angry. We can’t be passionate – even though we are watching our friends and families continue to be affected by this law.

We are the ones who are strident and unreasonable, when in reality we have been incredibly patient, suffered greatly and been disappointed by our government again and again.

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

The anti-choice side have put anti-abortion signs outside of rape crisis centres. You can’t get much lower or more extreme without breaking the law. Yet nobody’s writing think-pieces about how they need to cool it down.

Nobody’s calling them out in national newspapers for setting up shop outside the GPO and screaming that innocent people passing by are murderers.

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

How exactly could pro-choice people be more moderate?

There are people who put a great deal of work into running groups like the Abortion Rights Campaign. They work tirelessly to help women in precarious circumstances access basic healthcare that they are denied at home.

They only have one major rally a year. The Citizen’s Assembly was a tactic that the government attempted to use against them, but it highlighted the fact that the majority of regular citizens agree that the Eighth Amendment has got to go.

Ireland: Ireland: Thousands Strike 4 Repeal in Dublin Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

It almost seems as tone-policing is an effort to cease the conversation because you’re sick of hearing about it. Well, that’s nice but we’re pretty sick of living like this. Set a date Leo.

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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