This week, the states of Georgia and Alabama passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws the country has ever seen. The laws ban abortion under almost all circumstances, including cases of incest and rape, and even if the girl was under the legal age of consent. It is understandably a terrifying time to be a woman in America, and the news has shocked people across the globe; with thousands taking to social media to express their outrage over the new laws, the well-needed conversation of the attack on women’s rights is on the lips of many. The fact that an all-male vote enacted this law leaves an even more horrifying taste in people’s mouths – mine included.
The news has broken my heart and leaves me wondering what the future will look like for women across these American states. However, in the light of the news coming out of the States, I have felt another feeling of anger and sadness, but this time directed towards my home country of Northern Ireland. Many don’t know of that fact that, even though we are a part of the United Kingdom, we do not enact the same laws on abortion as our British counterparts. Women in Northern Ireland have never had access to the choice of abortion due to a law from 1861 – yes, that’s right – that is still in force today. Women and their medical professionals can face up to life imprisonment for procuring an abortion, leaving women with the arduous and expensive mission of organising one overseas in England, or taking matters into their own hands illegally, leading to injury and even death. It’s also worth mentioning that the alliance of fundamentalist Protestant and DUP (a party that regularly quotes Biblical verses in parliament) government in the country has blocked many proposals requesting for this Draconian law to be changed. It’s ironic that a party that so desperately wants to be aligned with the UK can be so picky when it comes to deciding which UK laws they want to abide by.
I have lived both in Northern Ireland and also the Republic of Ireland, who recently passed the repeal of harsh anti-abortion laws within the State – a momentous achievement, considering that fact that the Catholic Church held such a grip for hundreds of years. Having struggled with my identity as to where I am really ‘from’, and having had to explain this for years, I find it ridiculous that both of these places I’ve lived in have had to undergo such a divisive and vicious conversation over something that is so fundamentally integral to women’s rights. It’s scary to see how easily the laws can be reversed, to see how effortless it is to turn our backs on women, girls and trans women in need. It’s also extremely disheartening to see how many young people in Northern Ireland are determined to keep these laws in place, and the government’s reluctance to even loosen the laws to cases such as rape or incest.
I am not asking for people to divert the attention from the US – women need to stick up for one another more than ever, but please also pay attention to those closer to home. What is going on in the States should serve as a reminder as to what is going on in our tiny country, which so massively overlooked and deserves the same outrage and activism as the tragedies ongoing in the rest of the world.