Awaiting the unveiling of a monument for the victims of the 8th Amendment
A ban on abortion was added to the Irish constitution in September 1983 which extended the existing ban to mean that the Irish Parliament (Dáil) could not legislate for abortion, even if it wished to.
In 1992 the Attorney General got a High Court injunction against a 14-year-old rape victim who had been taken to England for an abortion by her parents seeking to prevent the abortion being carried out. The Supreme Court then ruled that a woman does have the right to an abortion if she can prove that she is suicidal, but this was not legislated until 2013.
In 2012 an Indian born resident of Galway City, Savita Halappanavar, died of septicemia at University Hospital Galway having been refused an abortion, despite having requested one several times when complications developed during her pregnancy. This led to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy (2013) which allowed abortion in extremely limited circumstances. However, the Act also introduced a new penalty – a prison sentence of up to 14 years – for anyone who has, or assists in, an unlawful abortion.
The Irish government will soon decide whether or not to hold a referendum to delete the anti-abortion clause (the 8th amendment) from the constitution.
There are many recently unveiled monuments around Ireland to the victims of other past abuses, such as the women detained in the Magdalene Laundries. My poem looks forward to the day when some future Irish government minister unveils a monument to the victims of the grotesque folly that has been the 8th Amendment, which by then many people will not even remember.
Irish Government Minister Unveils Monument
to Victims of Pro-Life Amendment
On a date to be confirmed,
when those who remember 1983
will sleep safely in their graves,
or be anxiously telling nurse
about the auld ones with crucifixes
they think are coming to get them
a girl, today
on holidays from primary school,
by then grown into
a Maggie Thatcher suit, will thank
the Chamber of Commerce
for use of their microphone
as a pulled chord unwraps a figure
chipped from stone
of those forced
to change trains at Crewe clutching
solitary suitcases that screamed
one night only,
those that bled out in the backs
of London taxis after journeys
made possible by post office accounts
and extra hours at the newsagent’s;
all because of a stick
which, for them, turned
the wrong colour
the wrong year
in the wrong country.
And as the Minister continues,
across the road a little girl will grab
her mother’s arm and ask:
what’s that lady saying?
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