The Irish Times has yet again made an entirely cynical intervention in its bid to force its agenda on the campaign to get rid of the hated 8th Amendment. This time in the form of an opinion poll constructed to reinforce the idea that abortion is a constitutional issue rather than a medical one.
Opinion polls using complex questions have become a common method of political manipulation in our time. The method is simple, the questions are used to frame the way the subject considers the issue and so direct the answer they give. That directed answer is then presented as some ‘objective truth’ discovered by the person or group who framed the question. A poll that simply asks ‘Should women control their own bodies’ is liable to get one response, today’s poll that instead gives a long set of options around the degree women should be judged under law was designed to give another.
The timing is significant, next Wednesday (March 8th) sees the ‘Strike for Repeal’ action, a sequence of protest, marches and other events across the country taking place during a working day. The purpose of the day is to demonstrate the demand to end the delays and introduce a bill to repeal the 8th amendment now. What serves better to undermine confidence around that action than a poll designed to create uncertainty about such a referendum and what should be in it. The poll is the latest in a long line of material from the Irish Times that sets out to undermine the confidence of those fighting for Repeal of the 8th referendum.
The poll questions were designed to encourage respondents to judge in which women should be permitted to be allowed to control their own bodies. And this was put in the context of writing these judgements into the constitution, a completely bizarre proposal except for the fact that is the reality we already find ourselves in. No doubt the Irish Times would spin this as them asking realistic and pragmatic questions but even this is a lie as the judgements invited are neither.
Take the most obvious example, the largest number of respondents judged that those made pregnant as a result of rape or incest should then be permitted bodily autonomy. Writing this into the constitution would be the opposite of pragmatism. What would this look like in practice? To put it bluntly, what proof of rape would have to be offered before a women could access abortion?
The threat of suicide that allows abortion under the recent moderation of the law requires that the person proves this to as many as 6 doctors. Given that precedent, and what we know of Irish politicians and the judicial system, what process might they try and force someone who had been raped to go through before allowing them access to abortion? How long might that process take?
The reality is simple. Any law that restricts access to abortion opens the door for these sort of judgement panels on the one hand and for the prosecution and jailing of women and doctors on the other. That is what the ban is, it’s not an abstract expression of an opinion on whether abortion is right or wrong, it’s a legal code that says women and doctors will be jailed for 14 years for accessing abortion.
The 8th amendment has to go. Take part in the actions of next Wednesday’s ‘Strike for Repeal’ to demand that happens sooner rather than later.