Aims Ireland marched for Choice again in 2017. We campaign for choice in all aspects of the maternity services in Ireland. This means choice in whether you want to be pregnant or not, choice in where you have your baby if you want to be pregnant, choice in care provider, choice in care pathway and choices in the process of pregnancy and childbirth and in making informed refusals and giving informed consent..
Fundamentally put we march to demand the right that pregnant people are currently denied; we march for the fundamental right to exercise bodily autonomy as a pregnant person in Ireland.
This is a right that anyone without a womb will never lose.
Becoming pregnant by intention, accident or assault immediately makes you a lesser citizen in Ireland, because your right to make decisions about your own healthcare are no longer yours to make. Currently it is the State, the legislature and medical professionals interpreting the legislation that have more control over your body than you do. This can only change with the removal of the 8th amendment from the Irish Constitution.
The pregnant woman you know may pay the same taxes as you, may have the same harp on her passport as you, but her rights to healthcare and decision making are different.
A 21st Century Maternity Service must provide women with all healthcare options, this includes access to free safe legal abortion. It must also include the capacity for women to be the final arbiter on how, where and by whom they will be cared for. We campaign for all of these.
It is time for Ireland to move its maternity services into line with the WHO guidelines for the provision of safe abortion services as part of Primary Healthcare and for the government to realise that pregnant people must have the final say in what happens to their bodies.
This is our 5th outing on the March for Choice
We first marched in 2013. In 2013 the draft HSE Consent Guidelines came out and the formal inclusion of the 8th amendment in these articulated what AIMS Ireland had always known and that is that women are not free to make autonomous decisions about their bodies, their healthcare and their treatment in continued pregnancy. Informed refusal and informed consent are simply not possible under the spectre of the 8th amendment.
Whilst the HSE consent policy was being drafted the death of Savita Halappanavar at UCHG shocked the nation and its ripples were felt across the globe. For the first time Ireland was forced to own its sordid truth; that a constitutional amendment can determine whether or not a woman receives evidence based healthcare. A constitutional amendment can determine whether or not a woman’s life or the still beating heart of her non viable fetus was held in greater esteem. Several other similar cases were reported to us in 2013 surrounding the management of early pregnancy in UCHG.
AIMS Ireland made two submissions to the Oireachtas in 2013, one with respect to the A B C case Vs the HSE and another with respect to the proposed Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act (PLPA).
The Spring of 2013 saw Waterford General Hospital make an application to the High Court in Dublin for a woman to be forcibly sedated and her uterus forcibly opened via a caesarean section against her will. This became known as the Mother A case. Mother A consented to the procedure just as the judgement was about to be read out, and so it was shredded. The Mother A case was to have a huge impact on the psychological well being of many pregnant women to this day.
The summer of 2013 also saw the autonomous choice of home birth following caesarean section dragged through the courts. Aja Teehan was found to not be the final arbiter in choosing where she would birth and with whom as her carer. Women it appeared had no choice in whether they lived or died in pregnancy, and certainly no choice to evaluate their own risk in childbirth.
Follow the links to read more
Looking back over the photographs the number of people at that march were relatively small in comparison to that of 2017. Estimates put the number of marchers at a couple of thousand (although one has to be wary of such figures)!
AIMS Ireland feature in this short video of the march made by The Trade Union TV. Chair Krysia Lynch gives our reasons for marching at about 1.26 min. The reasons remain the same as long as the 8th amendment is in place and there is no access to basic women’s health care in our maternity services in the form of free safe legal abortion.
In 2014 two huge consent issues in continued pregnancy arose. The first was the case of Ciara Hamilton who had her waters forcibly broken against her will and without her consent. Ciara Hamilton took Kerry General Hospital to court seeking redress. The forced breaking of her waters resulted in a cord prolapse and this in turn had consequences for her new born baby. The judge found against her. The judge also awarded costs against her. She and her family were faced with the prospect of selling their family home to cover the legal costs.
This case send a direct salvo to women in childbirth. The covert message was you will lie down, you will not be listened to and when we violate you against your will you will take it and shut up or be severely financially penalised.
In March 2014 a refugee woman arrived in Ireland. She had been raped and discovered that she was pregnant. She was denied an abortion, she was unable to travel to obtain one due to the cost and also not having the appropriate documentation and being in direct provision. She had suicidal ideation, but her pregnancy was maintained until her fetus was viable outside the womb and at 24 weeks gestation she was given a c section. This again took the world by storm and highlighted the 8th amendment and its cruel effects in Ireland. It also highlighted the difficulties faced by refugee women in Ireland.
The international public outrage was so intense at the treatment of a raped, pregnant asylum seeker by the Irish State, that on the 23rd of August 2014 a rally for choice was held in Dublin. AIMS Ireland marched at the rally and AIMSI spokesperson Sinead Redmond condemned the oppressive abortion legislation that forced Ms Y into this horrific suicidal position.
In 2014 we launched our Third What Matters to You Survey and we received nearly 3,000 responses. The survey showed us that informed consent and informed refusal are major issues for women in our maternity services. It revealed that women are regularly coerced with threats, including the High Court or the Guards in order to submit to a variety of interventions and procedures, that are not evidenced based during childbirth
2014 also saw somatic support being given to a woman pregnant with a 15 week old fetus, despite the wishes of her family. Even under the 8th amendment this should not have happened as the fetus was completely unviable. However, the fetus was attributed personhood and the HSE gave the fetus its own legal representation. This case illustrated the lengths that the 8th amendment can stretch the medical profession’s response to a beating heart in an unviable fetus.
At the March for Choice 2015, AIMSI Secretary Sinead Redmond, heavily pregnant, spoke on the effects of the 8th amendment and continuing pregnancy.
In 2016 for the first time it rained at the March for Choice. The previous year had been a very eventful one for the maternity services in Ireland, as the National Maternity Strategy(NMS), had been launched and the National Standards for Safer Better Maternity care were on their way to being launched. Both of these important documents were a direct result of the death of Savita.
AIMS Ireland were consumer representatives on both national steering groups and expert panels. The issues of choice and consent in pregnancy however remained unaddressed in the NMS, as without a repeal of the 8th amendment pregnant people in our maternity services continue to only be able to exercise choice up to a point. Both the Standards and the NMS acknowledge this.
In 2016 the UN ruled that Ireland violates women’s human rights in the case of TMFR and following the election in February various political parties started to proffer the idea that perhaps a limited type of abortion could be made available for those with babies diagnosed with a fatal fetal abnormality, or for women who had been raped. This moralistic cherry picking of “acceptable” and “unacceptable” abortion shows no understanding of the concept of choice and autonomy and is completely unacceptable.
In 2017 we march again, During the previous year an application had been made to the High Court in Dublin for a woman Ms B to be forcibly sedated against her will and then have her uterus cut open against her will and her baby removed. This was being done in the best interests of Ms B s baby. The HSE s view was that Ms B s perception of the risk to her and her baby by not submitting to a c section in the first place was putting her unborn baby at risk and therefore the HSE felt they had a case under the auspices of the 8th amendment. You can read more about the case in the links below. Ultimately the judge ruled that to force a woman to undergo these procedures was a “step too far” and the woman went on to birth her baby in a way of her own choosing.
In March 2017 the Citizen’s Assembly, (a body we were never in favour of being set up), heard testaments from women who had travelled for an abortion and also factual information from groups advocating for choice. The 99 citizens on the Citizen’s Assembly having reviewed the evidence and having heard the testimonies voted on a series of recommendations that were surprisingly liberal in nature. Probably much more liberal than the government ever expected. We urge the government to accept the recommendations of the Citizen;s Assembly and Repeal the 8th Amendment. Replacing the 8th amendment will do NOTHING to address issues of bodily autonomy in continued pregnancy. Read more about our responses below.
In March, AIMS Ireland took part in Strike for Repeal and AIMSI Chair Krysia Lynch addressed the 10,000 strong crowd along with Aibbhe Smyth of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th
In May it transpired that the government planned to hand over the National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity(SoC), at the St Vincents campus. AIMS Ireland campaigned heavily for this not to be the case. Given the history of religious involvement in healthcare in Ireland and in particular in the care of women in pregnancy and childbirth, we felt that the policy of involving any religious order in healthcare provision was not acceptable to the people of Ireland, and the government had no mandate to do this from the people. We also felt that the location of the National Maternity Hospital on the St Vincent’s Campus with the SoC having overall control on the Board would provide ethical difficulties for the SoC in terms of the 8th amendment and the provision of any abortion services in the future. Some of the issues associated with religious control of maternity services through the instrument of the 8th amendment and other coercive instruments are detailed below.
AIMS Ireland ran a campaign in 2017 called #everypregnancy. This campaign has been highlighting the issues associated with continued pregnancy and the 8th amendment. AIMS Ireland were invited to speak at the Abortion Rights Network press conference and the question and answer session on these issues.
If you want to read more about the 8th amendment and how it affects #everypregnancy then click on the blog below.
We hope that 2017 will be the last time we will march for choice and bodily autonomy in Ireland #repealthe8th
AIMS Ireland wishes to thank the tireless efforts of the Abortion Rights Campaign for organising the Marches for Choice from 2013 – 2017
All photographs copyrighted to Krysia Lynch
Category: 8th amendment, Articles, Information, News & Events Tags: 8th amendment, choices, consent, informed choice, informed consent, informed decision making, informed refusal, Irish maternity services, Patient Safety