Ahead of the 8th Amendment referendum, Thoroughly Modern Mammy Maria Rushe shares how important it is to her, as a local mum and Donegal woman, to have a choice.
I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to publish this.
I’ve chosen to. I’ve made a choice.
I’ve changed my mind a thousand times. See that’s the thing about choices; about decision making. You consider your options and you weigh them up and then you choose.
You can change your mind if you like. You can decide what’s best for you. You can talk to others, get professional or expert advice. Then you can change your mind again.
And so I have made a choice. Not about my vote, no, that choice wasn’t a difficult one. It’s quite simple for me really.
The choice I made was whether or not to write about it. And you can choose whether or not you want to read on. No one is forcing you… because you have a choice. You have the right to choose.
Generally, you can make a choice about EVERYTHING; well, unless you’re a pregnant woman in Ireland. Or indeed an Irish man who has been faced with the unthinkable situation of possibly losing his wife, partner or daughter.
Here’s the thing.
I am Pro-Choice. I am NOT pro-abortion. I do not condone it. I would never encourage it. I would never want to have an abortion. But you see. I have never needed an abortion. I have never been in the situation where abortion was an option, or a requirement for me.
Lucky me. Lucky, Lucky me.
And so, having never had to have one, or consider one or even think about one, why should I have a say on the issue? Why do I have the right to speak on this private taboo which is in dire need of public support? Who am I to even think about writing my views and publishing them?
I’ll tell you shall I? I am an Irish woman. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a sister. I am an aunt.
I am so sad that in this day and age, if faced with an utterly terrible ordeal or medical dilemma, that as an Irish woman and mother, I do not have a voice. I do not have a say. I do not have a right to my own body. And my surgeons or doctors do not have the right to help me if the procedure I need happens to be a termination.
None of us know what is ahead of us. I do not have a clue what is ahead of me. I don’t know what is ahead of my daughters. I don’t know what lies ahead for my siblings. I don’t have a clue what is going on in the lives of my friends. I do not know what other women face, have faced or WILL face in the future. NOR DO YOU.
If I were to find myself pregnant tomorrow, aren’t I lucky that I’d be happy about it?
But tell me this. If early in the pregnancy, a medical professional were to tell me that my worst nightmare were a possibility; that if I continue with the pregnancy, there is a certainty that not only would the fetus die, but possibly, so would I; would I happily accept my Irish constitutional requirements to give my life and body up to the 8th? Would I lie back and think of Ireland?
Would I hell.
If you think for one second that I would make the choice to leave my beautiful daughters without their Mum, or my husband without his wife, or my parents without their daughter… my friends, you couldn’t be more wrong. And yet, when we’re not in the situation, NONE of us know what we would do, do we?
But how important it would be to have a choice.
There’s that word again. CHOICE.
Unfortunately, in our progressive and wonderful little country, this Mamma Bear would not have that choice. There would be no choice. Not here anyway. Not in the land of opportunity and equality and freedom… Not if you’re a pregnant woman.
And suddenly, without warning, I too would be a statistic. I too would be one of the many, many thousands of women who have to make the horrific, demeaning and absolutely cruel journey across the Irish Sea to seek help from our neighbours. I would be in the same boat…or on the same plane…because the journey for termination is not exclusive to class or age or job or marital status.
Any woman, from any background, for a multitude of reasons can find themselves on that journey. Never mind dealing with the emotional hell of making such a decision, they are damned for it by our society.
To be PRO-CHOICE does not mean that you are Pro-Abortion.
You can be a mother and still be pro-choice.
You can be Grandmother and be pro-choice.
You can be a father and be pro-choice. Because guess what? This affects men too. It affects the men who will hold their partner’s hands when faced with the words none of us ever want to hear.
It affects the husbands who are helpless to save their unborn baby or their wife. It affects Fathers. It affects brothers. It affects sons. There are so many situations where these men can be faced with losing one of the women in their life. None of them include choice for the man OR the woman.
So if you are a man, do not think that this is a problem for the women. If you are a woman, who thinks that it doesn’t concern you, think ahead. It might. If you are on the fence, get off it. No one is asking us to legalize random abortion for all. No one is asking us to agree with it. All that we are being asked to do, is to make a choice to GIVE a choice, to our daughters, to our nieces, to our sisters…and maybe even to ourselves.
Choice. I’ve made my choice to write this. If you’ve made the choice to read it, thank you. You also have the choice to decide whether to agree with me or not. I would never insist that you agree with me. That is not how I am.
I also however, would not attack or criticise you for your choice even if it is different to mine. If you disagree, that is your choice. No one is forcing you to agree. No one will make you. It’s yours already. It feels good doesn’t it? To have a choice?
You also have a voice. Use it.
(Maria Rushe, March 2018)