Tomorrow, Friday 25 May, Ireland will come out to vote in a historic referendum that will determine the future of abortion laws.
Voters will decide whether to remove the 1983 Eighth Amendment from the country’s constitution, a clause which explicitly bans abortion and gives a foetus an equal right to life as the mother.
No Irish woman of child-bearing age has previously had the opportunity to vote on this issue. Someone who, as a then 18-year-old, had her first vote in the 1983 referendum would now be 52 years old.
Women and girls have resorted to travelling outside the Republic of Ireland to access legal abortion services. At least 3,265 women and girls gave Irish addresses at UK centres in 2016 – an underestimation given that not all women will provide their Irish addresses and some will have travelled to countries like the Netherlands.
Despite the ban, abortion exists in Ireland, though until now Ireland hasn’t officially had the courage to admit it. A 2016 report shows that 1,642 abortion pill packages were sent to Ireland in a three-year period, between 2010 and 2012, by a single provider.
A number of women or girls have over the years been forced to take legal action against the Irish state in order to obtain the right to an abortion, or the right to travel to the UK for an abortion. These are commonly referred to in Ireland as the ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘X’ cases. Miss X was a 14-year-old rape victim who, in 1992, was only allowed to travel to the UK for a termination after taking a case to the Irish Supreme Court.
This poem looks at all the various euphemisms used in Ireland to talk about abortion without actually saying the word.
after Peter Reading
A great and sure remedy
for unmarried ladies. A boat
somewhere so she can sort this out
and then get back to her life.
A Ryanair flight to Leeds-Bradford.
A pill the modern woman
can take with her coffee.
An ex-nurse above a fish and chip shop
who helps girls in trouble.
A day trip to a clinic
near Liverpool. Flushing it
down the lavatory. Something
the Irish government is in no rush
to legislate for. What the Bishop of Kerry
is definitely against.
Something no one wants.
The world’s second oldest profession.
A number in England her doctor
suggests she phone.
Something the Irish government
will deal with in a prompt
and appropriate manner.
The constitutional amendment of 1983.
The letters A, B, C. The letter X.
If we leave it long enough
all the letters in between.
Something you can’t have women
walking in off the street
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