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Polly Vernon: The Irish Referendum On Abortion Gets Closer, In Every Sense

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Closer, in that there are only two and a half weeks until 25 May, when Irish citizens will decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment, the constitutional modification that recognises the right
to life of the unborn, effectively making abortion illegal for the women of Ireland. Closer, because recent polls suggest either side could win, by a hair.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written a lot about the campaign to give the women of Ireland abortion rights. I’ve written about the 12 women and girls who leave Ireland, every day, to end unwanted pregnancies in the UK. About the ones who can’t afford to travel, so procure mifepristone and misoprostol – medical abortions – illegally, online, taking them in secret, thereby opening themselves up to physical risk – and risk of prosecution.

I can’t remember caring about anything as much as I care that the Eighth Amendment is repealed. Not having a vote – not being Irish – makes me feel impotent. All I can do, I guess, is try and talk to the unsure, the undecideds. Here goes:

I completely, totally understand, if the concept of abortion makes you a little uncomfortable, or a lot uncomfortable, or if you think it’s straight-out wrong. Just because I don’t share your conviction, doesn’t mean I don’t respect it. I do. I do not think, for one moment, that your beliefs make you ignorant, or uncool, or unenlightened. I certainly don’t hate you for them. Moral stances are as individual as fingerprints; I can’t tell you that you have to think and feel the same things I do, just because I think and feel them. Why would I? And: how could you?

But I do want you to know that you can be personally unsure about abortion – while also being politically pro-choice. You can have real doubts about the morality of abortion, while accepting and understanding that women do, sometimes, just need to end pregnancies. You can opt never to terminate a pregnancy of your own, while supporting others who need to; ensuring, furthermore, that they can do it in their own country, safely and legally, with the support of medical professionals, friends and family.

The abortion-unsure yet pro-choice stance is an immensely brave one. It requires so much more strength, compassion and balls than mine. I have no ethical, intellectual or religious objections to abortion: of course I’m pro-choice! Easy-peasy for me! I bow down before those of you who do not have the luxury of my moral certainty, yet still opt to give other women the rights you yourself could never cash in. You are my heroes.

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