The 8th.

We are a small country.  Generally we get along well together, and we’re funny and loving but ten days before the referendum on the eighth amendment (regarding the right to life of unborn babies) it’s getting hot in here.  If there are people outside the jurisdiction willing to say a prayer for us, now would be a good time.

The yeses are convinced of their rightness.  They had a hashtag on Twitter #myyesisfor where people dedicated their ‘yes’ to a particular person or group. These tweets were passionate and poetic in their love for women, wronged by the state, who have had to undergo suffering and degradation and even death at the hands of the eighth amendment.

They did not mention the loss of life of the unborn child, or the fact that very sad things often happen during pregnancy and prospective parents have to take the hit. They see carrying an unintended child to full term as a life and dignity-threatening prospect. Their emphasis on the mother means there is no place for the child in the argument.  The father is also excluded. They are cheery campaigners, in the spirit of the marriage referendum, urging Ireland to arrive into the civilised twenty first century.

The no’s are equally convinced. They seem to be older, male-er and less cool. They are not cheery and will tend to remind people of the ghoulish reality of the dismemberment of the foetus.  They say a ‘yes’ vote will give a blank cheque to legislators for abortion on demand. Using the hashtag #loveboth they advocate state support for families rather than liberal abortion services.  They say that no woman ever lost her life because of the eighth amendment.

Although they claim to feel compassion for mothers in difficult circumstances it can be hard to feel it. They seem to like the high moral ground. A bishop confidently announced that abortion was worse than rape for women.  Other bishops released statements to be read at Masses – by men to silent congregations.  Some of the more seasoned ‘no’ side are up to their old tricks sending plastic foetuses to TD’s and others campaigning for a ‘yes.’

Ireland is weary of this fight. It is dividing us. Good people on both sides are suffering from the strain.  Respect has been an early casualty and people are forgetting what kind of mending will be necessary afterwards. Female ‘no’ voters feel the contempt of other feminists.  They feel shouted down and misjudged.  ‘Yes’ voters feel that they are fighting the patriarchy, often represented by the Catholic Church and that their families or communities will judge them for their position.  My son says it’s a dirty fight.

If you pray, please pray for us.  And pray without intent.  We don’t need your advice, however well meant.  Don’t even advise God.  Just pray for our people – our mothers, fathers, babies, politicians, doctors, midwives, nurses, grannies and granddads. Pray for the mums and dads of the future who will have to live with this constitution, this law, this bitterness and come to terms with it all in their own families and futures.

Author: realmofsparks

Anne Francis is a Pastoral/Practical theologian and spiritual care practitioner. She has a Pastoral Supervision practice and is author of 'Called: Women in Ministry in Ireland.'

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