Just three days in to the New Year, three days since abortion services were made legal and accessible in most cases, a small group of anti-choice protesters stood outside a Galway clinic with placards depicting judgemental slogans. Seven days in, another small group stood outside a Drogheda hospital holding signs that read ‘Killing In Progress,’ ‘Abortion Is Murder’ and ‘Let him be Born.’
They were apparently spurned on by a tweet which claimed that the first abortion scheduled in the Drogheda hospital, was due to take place that morning.
There so many disturbing factors here, I barely know where to start, but the first point I will make is that abortion is NOT murder. Murder is illegal, abortion is not. There is no ‘killing in progress’ and if the information in that tweet happened to be true, then somebody’s right to medical privacy has been seriously breached and someone needs to be held accountable.
I feel like everyone needs to take a minute to realise the magnitude of what may have happened here. How dare someone release that kind of sensitive information, for the purpose of causing ‘outrage’ and to further their personal anti-choice agenda. And if it is true, I would like to convey just how sorry I am to the pregnant person involved, that they have been victimised in such a cruel way.
I am all for the right to peaceful, organised assembly and the right to protest, but this is NOT what is happening here. This is deliberate harassment and intimidation aimed at vulnerable pregnant people and the medical staff providing their care.
It’s also an unprecedented move for a ‘protest’ regarding healthcare. Usually, when a group assembles for this purpose, it happens outside government buildings, not hospitals, clinics or GP offices.
But this time, it’s different. This is a direct attack on women and their reproductive choices.
These particular anti-choice groups are not attacking the law makers of this country. They tried that last year, and on the 25th of May, they lost.
I’ve read many comments online about this and the phrase ‘freedom of speech’ keeps cropping up. Freedom of speech does not give you right to target, shame, harass, intimidate and mentally abuse pregnant people who have legally chosen to end their pregnancies. It does not give you the right upset and exasperate other patients seeking care inside the premises you are targeting.
If you are not willing to accept the democratic process of this country, if you do not believe that a pregnant person owns their own body, if you feel like you should get a say in another person healthcare, that is your choice. Take it up with the government. Take your inaccurate, shame-inflicting placards and stand outside the Dail.
Ireland has spoken, the debate has been had, the campaign is over and there is no space outside healthcare facilities for misogyny and hate.
During the campaign, ARC, Parents For Choice and many other pro-choice groups expressed the serious need for exclusion zones to combat attacks like these. They should have been put in place on January 1st, the day abortion became legal. We knew the organisation’s behind the ‘pro life’ movement were not above harassing people who are quite possibly in the midst of the worst time of their lives. They were never above shaming women. Did the government seriously believe that these people would magically have respect for women come the New Year?!
I have a message for these tormentors and anyone else who is planning to follow suit: if you genuinely believe abortion is wrong, take all that placard-holding energy and free time and use it for something productive. Demand free contraception. Seek better sexual education in schools that includes sexual health and consent. Advocate for an end to toxic masculinity and rape culture. Shout for better supports for single parents and an end to the homelessness crisis. These actions will contribute to lower termination rates. What they won’t do, is satisfy your misogynistic compulsion to shame women though, so I will not die of shock if you don’t listen to this message, because this is your goal, thinly veiled in false concern for the ‘unborn.’
But don’t worry, the pro-choice groups have got your back. WE are campaigning for these issues to be challenged. We genuinely want as few pregnant people as possible to endure a painful and stressful termination. And as May 25th proved, we very good at what we do.
I would like to call on Simon Harris and the rest of the government to put exclusion zone laws in place immediately. I would like to call on local county council’s to do what they can in this regard until this happens. I would like to call on the people of Ireland to support and respect a persons legal right to choice. Protect our vulnerable citizens. Protect the medical staff taking care of them.
Abortion, in most cases, is free, safe and legal. Now let’s remove the space for stigma, shame and guilt.