N. Ireland’s strict abortion laws: Do Irish men know about them?
As many women of all gender-identities, races, classes and ages are aware, the abortion laws in Northern Ireland are one of the most dangerous and limiting in the world.
Recently, attention has been drawn to the blanket ban on abortion in place in the North as a result of the attack on reproductive rights in America by right-wing, conservative administrations.
However, under a law from 1861, Northern Ireland has criminalised abortion with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Both the medical practitioner who carries out the abortion and the recipient face prison time.
Rape and incest are not allowed as exceptions, only if the mother's life is in danger.
As we saw in the Republic, that is a very difficult line to draw, and essentially gives the foetus equal rights to the mother, despite the fact that it cannot survive outside of her body until late in the pregnancy.
These laws are extremely different from the rest of the UK, where abortion is allowed up until 24 weeks since 1967.
These controversial laws have been condemned in recent years, with the Supreme Court calling it 'untenable' and in need of 'radical reconsideration', and the UN Human Rights body CEDAW referring to it as a 'grave and systematic' violation of NI women's rights.
Medical bodies, women's rights organisations, politicians and a large part of the general public are calling on Karen Bradley, NI's Secretary of State, to unite Stormont in legalising abortion in NI and regulate it in the same way as every other medical procedure.
If the intense stipulations of the 1967 Act are not met, both people with uteruses and their doctors remain at risk of prosecution.
Alarmingly, five out of the six Conservative candidates for the Tory leadership recently said they would take no action against NI's laws, and Boris Johnson failed to answer the question.
From Phoebe Waller-Bridge And @scarcurtis To @SharonHorgan, Celebs Are Calling On The Conservative Party Leadership Candidates To Repeal Northern Ireland's Archaic Abortion Law https://t.co/Fh7D63NqKe pic.twitter.com/SInL22LSW4
— Grazia UK (@GraziaUK) June 17, 2019
Celebrities are using their platform to spread the message, yet there remains almost a total silence from politicians themselves.
We decided to take it upon ourselves to quiz Irish men on their knowledge of the highly restrictive abortion laws (God help us), to see how the other half lives.
The answers we received ranged from having absolutely zero clue about the reproductive healthcare policies, to knowing more about the current 'Heartbeat Bills' sweeping across Gilead/America's Southern states, to knowing about the laws in surprising detail.
For too long the human rights of women and girls in Northern Ireland have been used as a bargaining chip for political power.
We're calling on all candidates who are running to be the next Prime Minister to take action on abortion rights in Northern Ireland#NowForNI pic.twitter.com/b0RZ4gSGY0
— London-Irish ARC (@LdnIrishARC) June 14, 2019
The following range of people who identify as male in the Rep. of Ireland have offered their first names, and will remain otherwise anonymous.
"I know that they can go to England to get it done for free, so it's similar to our right to travel law we had before Repeal. I also remember it being slightly more liberal than our Eighth Amendment. I think it accounts for situations where the mothers life is at risk and will be permit abortions in that circumstance, but it's otherwise banned. They’re a joke. It's the only part of the United Kingdom or Ireland to ban abortion, you could say it's Draconian."
@BuzzFeedNews asked all of the Conservative leadership hopefuls whether they would extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland. Five of the six candidates said they would take no action. @BorisJohnson did not respond at all. #NowForNI https://t.co/1kV9TCsRty via @HannahAlOthman
— SisterSupporter (@SisterSupporter) June 18, 2019
"I'd say the women in the North see going to England as less of a big deal than going over from Republic of Ireland because they see themselves as closer to English. I don't know much about them to be honest."
"I have absolutely no clue about the North's abortion policy, but I'm guessing it's sh*t."
"Is it the same as England? I've been following bits about it from Aisling Bea's Instagram, she's very forward on that stuff. I do like her a lot, but I just know they don't have access to abortion. That's it. I saw that the North have made a logo for Repeal that's similar to ours."
"I think no abortions are allowed in Northern Ireland. I believe it should be the exact same as laws in England. I did have to think about it, though. I am 100 percent unfamiliar with the specifics of the law in Northern Ireland and what special situations it may be allowed."
"There is no access to abortion in the North, which is not in line with rest of UK. I believe that women in the North should be able to access these services. The Derry Girls cast, Nicola Coughlan and Siobhan McSweeney particularly, are quite active in drawing attention to protesting the lack of services. I think they led the suitcase protest at Westminster."
Stars of Derry Girls, Nicola Coughlan and Siobhan McSweeney joined a march on Westminster, calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. pic.twitter.com/odRAMlxPTT
— Caitlin Doherty (@_CaitlinDoherty) February 26, 2019
"I know that the law is different there because of a weird time overlap between the 1967 UK legislation and the existence of the Old Stormont parliament. Irish women pay taxes to fund an NHS that won't serve them such services. I do not agree with them."
"Call me Jon Snow because I know nothing. I'd have said that abortion wasn't available at all but don't know much else. And of course it should be available."
"I thought it wasn’t the same as the rest of UK but that you could get the abortion pills through Northern Ireland, but obviously not as safely."
"I just assumed it was the same as UK. I'm self-proclaimed ignorant when it comes to these topics though."
It's safe to say that a little more notice should be taken by men towards this issue. Supporting our Northern sisters can be progressed if we educate men on the issue; it's crucial not to forget their importance.
We're getting some extreme Handmaid's Tale vibes from up North, but if we can Repeal the eighth then there's hope for them too.
Men hold a huge amount of power when it comes to female reproductive healthcare, and it's time we start educating them about it.
Feature image: Amnesty International/Simon Graham