As the abortion referendum looms on the horizon, the debate around this controversial issue is at its highest level of tension, and rightly so. In the past number of years, Ireland has become a benchmark of what it means to be a liberal state; becoming the first country on Earth to legalize gay marriage. If you recall, the ‘Say Yes’ campaign was indeed a controversial campaign, and the referendum itself had consequences that will reverberate throughout Ireland and the world for years to come. However, the controversy around abortion is different. It’s different because it involves human life, and this is a very sensitive topic. It’s appropriate to suggest that in terms of seriousness and impact, legal abortion will be hugely more significant than gay-marriage, in that it affects all people in society. Considering the impact the gay marriage campaign had, and continues to have, on people’s mental health, what will be the fallout of the Repeal the 8th campaign?
Although, the gay-marriage referendum completely changed the lives of the LGBT community in a positive manner, there is no doubt that the campaign itself took a toll on the mental health of both those who were pro same-sex marriage, and those who weren’t. Considering that a large portion of those who were against the movement were conservative Catholics, the idea of gay marriage is fundamentally opposed to their religious beliefs. It is important to understand that in the era of modern-liberalism, just because a belief system is contra to our own, it doesn’t make that belief system inherently wrong. Therefore, it is easy to understand that a person of faith who believes gay-marriage to be wrong, would be affected mentally by such a referendum being passed.
In contrast, had to marriage referendum went in favour of the ‘No’ vote, the consequences of this would undoubtedly have taken a toll on the LGBT community. In general LGBT teenagers are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide. This is not a symptom of being LGBT, but rather being treated differently because you are LGBT. Since the referendum passed, studies have found that many young LGBT teenagers came out due to the confidence given to them by the ‘Yes’ vote. Had, the referendum gone the other way, it’s not hard to imagine the negative impact this would have had on the LGBT community’s mental health.
Now, take that up a notch. Today we are talking about abortion, which by definition, is the ending of pregnancy by purposeful human interference. For a practicing person of faith, this means the ending of a complete life, which is therefore considered murder. It is harrowing to consider if you did believe abortion was murder, living in a country that openly supported that message. There is no telling what affect that would have on a person’s mind frame. Although, nobody would be forced to have an abortion, could that person really continue to live in a country where those around them are freely allowed to commit, what they believe to be, murder?
However, as mentioned, Ireland is becoming a very liberal state. In light of this, it is unfair to assume rights over any person, or their bodies. This is the fundamental argument that sits at the core of the pro-abortion movement, and it’s a strong one. The Repeal the 8th campaign has its foundations in the idea that women should have autonomy over their own bodies. This is coupled with the fact that no person should have to carry and deliver a child out of rape, abuse or otherwise. The trauma of being raped should be enough justification alone to allow abortion is these circumstances. As it stands, the situation regarding abortion already affects the mental health of women, who becomes pregnant due to rape. It also causes issues in a human rights context, as women believe they don’t have the same rights as men do. How then, will mental health be affected for women, if in May, they are told that abortion will remain illegal?
As it stands, the average prison sentence for illegal- abortion is 14 years, while the average prison sentence for rape is only 10. Imagine living in a country where you are punished more severely for aborting a child conceived out of rape, than the person who raped you in the first place? Would you be able to continue to live there? Furthermore, how do you think your mental health would be?
On both sides, there is no question that there will be repercussions for mental health following the abortion referendum. Although 26 legal-abortion took place in Ireland in 2016, it appears that for many, the current situation is simply unacceptable. The question that remains is, can we find a solution that will accommodate both sides of the moral debate, or will we continue to exist with the ‘us-and them’ atmosphere that is emerging in modern-Ireland?