I was asked to do stand up at a gig over the weekend. Being pregnant for the past six months has forced me to look more closely at the Repeal the 8th debate raging in Ireland at the moment. So I wrote about it to perform some of my thoughts in an amusing way. But then I wrote about it to give my serious opinion. Here it is:
Now that my pregnant belly cannot be hidden, I am getting so much love and positive attention. Who knew getting fat could be this fun? Being obviously pregnant is like being newly engaged all over again: everyone wants to hug and rub me. It’s so lovely. It seems kind of crazy to get all this love for the simple fact that I chose to have unprotected sex. I’m being congratulated for having unprotected sex, and having biology work. Other events that occur as a result of unprotected sex are not as likely to get you this kind of positive attention.
Crabs, for example, would not get me the same reaction from the average person on the street. Crabs are funny, yes, and the story would lend itself to good self-deprecating comedy, sure, but having crabs isn’t really something that people get overly excited about if it happens to them.
Most other things—“events”—that are the result of unprotected sex are not positive. Unless you actually want to be pregnant, basically every “event” after unprotected sex is not a positive one. Pregnancy in particular, if it wasn’t the goal of unprotected sex, is a really bad thing. So bad, in fact, that in the country I choose to live in, a country I really love, I become a criminal. If I chose to act on the fact that I didn’t want to be pregnant, I become a pariah in my adopted country.
Mine was a planned pregnancy. Or as planned as any pregnancy can be. That’s a good thing for me because there is a fine line between being a much adored and cooed at pregnant person and a criminal.
That line is very fine. I’m on the right side only because I decided to put myself in this position. I chose this. If I hadn’t, or if I decided I didn’t want to or could not remain pregnant, life gets much more complicated for me.
This is a far less funny topic than crabs, right? There is a lot of energy going into debating this topic and both sides absolutely have a right to their opinions and beliefs.
To take a slightly different view, what if here in Ireland we had to treat wanting to get pregnant as seriously as we treat not wanting to stay pregnant? What if we made women who want a pregnancy jump through all the same hoops as a woman who doesn’t want a pregnancy? What would that look like? Let’s walk through that looking glass.
This is how it might pan out for someone like me who decides she wants to get pregnant in the near future. Once I decide I want to have a baby, I have to talk to a whole bunch of people, spend days getting advice and “thinking it through”. I say “me” like I’m the only one who can make these decisions about making a baby. Obviously, my husband and I talked a lot about the idea of making a human together. But in this scenario, in a situation when someone doesn’t want to make a baby, it becomes immediately the woman’s issue and problem to deal with. So for the point of this exercise let’s just say it’s all about me. The woman. And my body.
The first step would be that I have to go and talk to my Doctor. I have to hear from her about all the biological ramifications of getting knocked up.
“Well, now, it is about time, that clock is ticking, and you do realize that for 3-9 months you will be feeling a constant car sickness with possible vomiting and if you’re really lucky, possible projectile vomiting. Then you’ll start to get chubby around your mid section (and maybe elsewhere), while experiencing other joys such as swollen ankles, cramping calves and feet, odd discharge, sore boobs, unexpected or explained body hair growth, bloody gums, and constant fatigue. You might experience roller-coaster style mood swings, but that’s the joy of hormones. You won’t really be able to sleep through the night from here on out because you will have to pee. Often. At least once a night. In fact, you probably won’t be sleeping through the night again for a very long time. I have some pamphlets here if you’d like to read more, but take a few days to consider your options. You don’t have to do this.”
Because not wanting to be pregnant in this country is a political issue, wanting to be pregnant should be as important politically. So I would definitely have to talk to my local TD. I can’t vote here, but Ireland’s laws apply to me no matter my nationality or political views, so I head over to the local TD’s office. He will say things along the lines of, “this is great for Ireland. Our census numbers were down, and we are hoping to surpass Scotland this year with babies born. We need to focus on education and healthcare for children. I’ve been working very closely with the new children’s hospital in James’s so like you, I will be working for a better Ireland for our children. I’m excited you are joining me on this journey. I look forward to hearing from you again, and I am happy to represent you.”
Then, I have to go and talk to a priest. The Catholic Church believes very strongly that their opinion on termination should rule here in Ireland, so it follows that their opinion on all individuals getting knocked up should rule too. I am not Catholic myself, but again, rules is rules. Frankly I’ve always wondered what a priest or a nun could tell me about fornication and reproduction, so this meeting might be fun and informative for me. Or at the very least provide some good material.
Then I would have to travel to Britain. I know, that sounds crazy, right? But here’s the thing: if I didn’t want to be pregnant, I have to deal with the Brits at some stage, so it’s only fair that I have to deal with them when I do want to be pregnant. I have to fly over there at my own cost. I would get to some clinic in the north of England where I find a doctor and we would look at each other with confused faces, and they’d say, “I don’t really care if you want to have a baby.” And I’d say, “well, fair enough, but I live in Ireland now, and it seems the Irish still want you guys to be charge of their population, so here I am!”
Finally, once all of those people are on board, I need to post a notice in the Irish Times so that the whole country gets to have a say about whether or not I should be allowed to have a child. A woman who decides not to move forward with her pregnancy, and has the guts to speak up about it, gets to listen to the whole country tell her what they think of her. Surely I should get the same chance to hear what the country thinks of my reproductive abilities, right? It’s only fair.
It is an Alice in Wonderland situation and of course it’s not reality. It all seems ridiculous when viewed in that way. Well so is not letting women make their own choices about pregnancy.
Everyone is so happy for me that I get to be pregnant and grow this being and feel car sick all day every day, and hate the smell of coffee and red wine, and get leg cramps and be constipated, and all sorts of other delightful bodily issues. People are thrilled for me. I’m thrilled for me.
But if I didn’t want this? If I didn’t want to put myself and my body through this? What if I mentally and/or physically couldn’t? Well, it’s none of your business. It’s my business and maybe the business of my husband.
Or, what if I did want this and for some horrific reason it couldn’t happen? Women in Ireland deal with fetal abnormalities and fetal death on a daily basis. Often they are faced with the heartbreaking choice of having to carry the fatal pregnancy to term or traveling to the UK to have it taken care of.
Those women are carrying babies who are deeply wanted, and yet they are being sent away from home to be “taken care of”. It’s like something out of horror story!
In these debates, there seems to be some confusion about what a FACT is, what an OPINION is, and what a BELIEF is.
Let’s play this game: In my opinion, smoking is bad. I believe smoking is bad. I think it’s gross. Science backs me up on the fact that is bad for humans to smoke. When you smoke, you are likely killing yourself and possibly affecting those around you. Smoking is not a good thing! Yet I cannot, should not, do not have a right to walk up to a smoker and tell them they are a bad person for willfully killing themselves. It’s none of my business what those people choose to do with their bodies.
Some people believe that terminating a pregnancy isn’t about the woman at all, that it’s about the fetus, and it’s about that new life. But not everyone believes that. There is no scientific paper that exists that tells us conclusively that conscious life exists in a cluster of cells. It is completely fine and right to believe that life begins at conception, by the way, if you do. But that belief does not give you a right to judge someone who does not believe that. This issue is not about your personal belief system; it’s about another human’s body and they get to decide what happens to it.
You can decide to smoke, or jump from a plane, or get a Winnie the Pooh tattoo on your ankle, and I cannot comment on the possible lack of respect you may or may not have for your own physical or mental wellbeing. It is none of my business.
The world is an easier place to live in if you believe whole-heartedly that all of your beliefs are facts. But beliefs, yours or anyone else’s, are not necessarily facts. It is good and right that people in Ireland believe whatever they want. This is a free country. It does not mean that those individually held beliefs are facts. It certainly does not mean that those individually held beliefs should be imposed on anyone else.
It is scary to live in a world where mystery reigns and where we don’t have the answers to everything. It’s terrifying to admit that what we believe might not actually be the truth. It’s a nightmare! That’s why we employ people to do things like tell us what the weather will be like for the next few days and weeks. We need to know everything! In Ireland, that’s kind of a sick joke, right? It’s an insane job to predict the weather accurately and perfectly on this island.
Just like it’s insane to have to explain to people why they don’t have the right to make decisions about their own body and their own lives.