Review: BBC3 documentary 'Abortion:Ireland's Guilty Secret'

rosapicOn Wednesday, tens of thousands  of people tuned in to the appropriately titled BBC3 documentary ‘Abortion: Ireland’s Guilty Secret’. The documentary followed the consequences of the draconian abortion laws in both the North and South of Ireland where abortion is illegal, even under extreme situations such as fatal foetal abnormalities and in the South where the foetus has the same rights as the mother under the 8th Amendment in the Constitution.

The documentary followed women courageously defying the law through providing women in need with abortion pills from womenonweb.org, women who despite being UK tax payers had to go through the costly journey to England to have a private abortion and doctors crying on TV because they are too frightened to do their jobs properly.

One of the most extreme cases in the documentary followed Sarah, who had to go through unnecessary difficulties to access an abortion when she found out that her foetus had a fatal abnormality, anencephaly, and wouldn’t survive outside of the womb. Sarah was forced to decide between going through the trauma of continuing with the pregnancy when she knew she’d have to organise a funeral at the end of it, or making the trip to London at her own expense to terminate the pregnancy.

The documentary also exposed how the lack of clarity in our law and new draft guidelines that threatened ten years in prison for doctors turning a blind eye to unlawful abortions instils fear in to our doctors to the point where they feel they cannot do their jobs properly. Dr Sameena explained how she felt she was “letting her patients down” and as though she wasn’t allowed to care for them properly.

One point the documentary failed to mention was how drastically public opinion on abortion contrasts with the current law. A recent poll by Amnesty NI showed that 69% are in favour of reform, yet politicians on both sides refuse to listen to those they are supposed to represent.

Despite what the anti-choice groups featured on the documentary such as Youth Defence and Precious Life claim, Ireland is far from abortion free. It is very much a reality. Every year around 4,000 women travel to Britain at their own expense to access an abortion. Women make the choice for various reasons but a choice is a choice, women should be trusted to make their own according to their own situation. Abortion is an extremely personal issue that requires a personal decision. It won’t be the out of touch politicians who have to live with the consequences of whatever decision is made.

Politicians don’t only deny women choice by refusing to extend the 1967 act but they further restrict the choices of women who want to have children – through implementation of massive austerity measures that have a disproportionate effect on women, poverty wages and job losses.

The Socialist Party fights for abortion rights as a fundamental part of the struggle for women’s equality. As well as fighting for abortion rights, we stand for real sex education, free access to contraception and end to austerity.

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Where now for abortion rights in Northern Ireland?

Pro-choice activists and trade unionists must organise for the biggest possible mobilisation of people on the streets ahead of any vote on decriminalisation. We must seek solidarity from the labour movement in Britain. Politicians should be left in no doubt that, if our rights continue to be denied, they will face a campaign of civil disobedience that will make the law unworkable. The Socialist Party supports full decriminalisation of abortion but we must go further to ensure abortions are free, safe, legal and accessible here in Northern Ireland on the NHS.