The backward and rotten political establishment in this country was exposed with the rejection of an opposition bill on Fatal Foetal Abnormalities (FFA) on 10 February of this year. The legislation, which would allow women to seek terminations of pregnancy in cases in which the foetus has no chance of survival, was defeated by 104 votes to 20.
This vote stands in stark contrast to public opinion – a Sunday Times poll saw 80% of people supporting abortion in the circumstances outlined in the bill.
Sinn Féin – a self-proclaimed ‘left force’ – abstained from voting, The reason, Sinn Fein claimed, was because it has not yet discussed this at its Ard Fheis. The 8th Amendment is disastrous to women’s health and their right to bodily autonomy. Given the high profile cases we have seen in the last two years since Savita Halappanavar’s death, Sinn Féin’s silence on this issue is significant. It is shambolic that a political party has not established a position on what can be a life and death matter for women.
Hiding behind the Attorney General’s recommendations, Tánaiste Joan Burton said it is “cruel” to give hope that unconstitutional legislation might be passed. Cruelly, the Labour Party offered their “enormous sympathy” to the women affected by FFA instead of holding a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment. Labour’s confounding hypocrisy deepened after it voted at its Ard Fheis to advocate a referendum to repeal the 8th in its General Election manifesto. Furthermore, the legislation that Labour voted to replace the 8th would mean, according to the Labour Women Chair, Sinead Ahern who proposed it, that “our abortion laws would remain the most restrictive in Europe”.
As well as causing huge homelessness and poverty through its implementation of austerity, the Labour Party has made no serious attempt to push for the separation of church and state. Labour holds the office of Education and yet has completely bowed to Catholic influence in schools. It is through mass mobilisations by the working class, young people, women and all the oppressed that a secular, progressive society can be realised. Attempts to row back on abortion rights last year were stopped in Spain by an active struggle. Abortion rights were won in the US in 1973 during the administration of avowed ‘pro-lifer’, President Nixon. We too must wage that same war and demand a Repeal of the 8th Amendment now.