On May 25th 2018, Ireland made history.
Less than two weeks ago, a majority voted to repeal the 8th Amendment from the Irish constitution, legalisng abortion in Ireland up to 12 weeks and beyond in exceptional circumstances.
Fig. 1: Irish Times exit poll prediction
I won’t lie, I rejoiced, I celebrated privately and via my social media accounts. I applauded Ireland’s decision to respect women’s autonomy and agency and wept with joy.
The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan would have been disgusted with me. Fr Cullinan apparently didn’t pick up on the public distaste with the clergy’s involvement in the campaign; certainly, I spoke to countless Yes voters who specifically flinched at Church involvement and campaigning for the No Vote, many of whom cited Tuam and the Magdalene Laundries as enough cause for silence in these matters. I even spoke with several undecided and No voters who blanched at Church involvement.
But that isn’t the issue here; the issue, once again, is the habitual act of construing the act of celebration in the wake of the Yes vote:
“I was horrified to see the jumping and roaring and cheering in Dublin Castle last Saturday. How can you cheer about abortion?”
Cullinan, as so many before him, purposefully redefined the events in Dublin Castle as a celebration of abortion.
Let’s be real here though, no-one celebrates abortion. No-one toasts a cheers to that difficult decision or memorializes the occasion with photographs. Abortion is not an easy made resolution; I am sure (though I thankful have never been in the position) that is is anxiously agonized over. I know this because no-one I have spoken to would ever wish to be in that situation.
Rather, the women and men who stood in Dublin Castle celebrated women’s rights; like me, they rejoiced in the safety and care which Repeal demanded for all women in Ireland. They reveled with the proof that women’s agency and autonomy mattered to a two-thirds majority; that the 8th Amendment which rendered women’s bodies as vessels, as containers, as nothing more than baby makers, was no longer a representation of Ireland or its people.
What Cullinan deemed a celebration of abortion demeaned every woman who has ever had to make that decision, and take those difficult steps – often outside of Ireland, perhaps to back street, clandestine clinics, or in the privacy of their own homes with a pill and no supervision or even witness to their act. What Cullinan did, once again, was to attempt to shame the brave and the fearful women who have made that difficult choice.