Repeal the 8th: Irish Libertarians and the Abortion Debate
On the 8th of March, the International Women’s Day, Dublin experienced a commotion when people took the city’s main street to march for the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment to the Constitution, which, since 1983, gives explicit recognition to the right to life of an unborn child. A group of activists called for a national voluntary strike in order to demonise capitalism and to show how women are a crucial part of the work force. Yet, their attempt only served to heat up the debate behind abortion laws even more. Between pro-choice leftists and religious conservatives there are Irish libertarians agreeing only on one thing: abortion shouldn’t be a welfare benefit.
One of the key factors of individualism is disagreement, a value through which we all grow. As human beings, we are able to enrich ourselves intellectually once we remain open-minded towards differing viewpoints. When it comes to abortion, though, it’s difficult not to take any conversation personal. Abortion, followed up by abortion “rights”, is a subject which both liberals and conservatives shout, advocate and act usually in unison within themselves while holding opposite flags regarding each other. Libertarians, as usual, are in the middle of the battle when it comes to the economic aspect, but are seen placing their moral flags on one side, and this is problematic.
The proportion of pro-choicers to pro-lifers in the libertarian movement is unclear, while the reasons driving their convictions are even less transparent. Especially in Ireland, a country where state and church are merged and interdependent, libertarians find themselves thoroughly disagreeing, since when you grow up within a religious environment, your beliefs will echo your upbringing. But despite its polemic character, we all should agree on the most fundamental point: the funding of an abortion should be the responsibility of the person desiring it. None other than the actors themselves should pay for this.
The abortion issue is dividing Ireland right now because the country works under a democratic system, in order to make any amendments to the Constitution a public referendum is necessary. Since the one in question is the 8th amendment, there is a campaign named Repeal the 8th, through which pro-choicers advocate for not just the decriminalization of abortions, but also to make them “free” (at the taxpayers’ expense). Because of a referendum, two years ago Ireland did something remarkable when it became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, despite its population being predominantly Catholic, and it’s unavoidable to draw similarities in a popular sense with abortion (both are religiously controversial and morally progressive issues).
But while getting recognition of partnership means more money going to the state, placing abortion under a welfare flag means stealing even more from citizens, even if they do not agree with the matter. Such action of asking for public funding is understandable if we take a look on who is behind most abortion campaigns. In Ireland, there are left-wing groups which are some of liberty’s true nightmares, like People Before Profit (a socialist, Trotskyist and Eurosceptic political party) and The Democratic Socialist Party (the name is self-explanatory).
By advocating for “free, safe and legal”, pro-choice leftists forget they could increase the number of adepts among Irish people if they did not ask for general funding. Meanwhile, we libertarians should concern ourselves with defining who is going to pay for whatever is at stake, instead of discussing highly moral and ethical aspects related to it since we will probably never settle on one side of the discussion. We lose time and effort by ending up nowhere.
The situation today cannot be ignored by anyone and what many pro-life citizens need to keep in mind is that regardless of what a piece of paper says, women will have abortions whether someone likes it or not. By imposing restrictions, pro-life advocates will just make it less safe for the ones in question. If a woman wants to terminate her pregnancy, she cannot do it in Ireland otherwise she risks prosecution. Such a contentious issue raises concerns about our moral duty to maintain your own or someone else’s life. Even for religious people, what should manifestly be clear is that it is the “sinner” who needs to deal with the consciousness of hers “sins”, not them or anyone else. Is is even worse for us libertarians because we argue people should be free to do what they want with their bodies (labour, drugs, sex), yet pro-life libertarians chose to impose restrictions not based on science, but on heart. This attitude disguises itself behind a “caring” aspect, and while it is understandable, everyone would benefit from a mental walk on someone else’s shoes. A bit of empathy never hurt nobody.
The collusion between church and the state provides us with psychological trauma, eternal divine wrath, moral judgment and jail sentences when we chose to act against their will and against what they say is right. Abortion pierces throughout life, liberty and private property and invokes both mind and body issues, so chances of reaching consensus are dim. But at the same time, Irish libertarians are losing ground among other groups by forgetting how many constant moral violations are inflicted upon Irish people by the church, and it is time to scrap its presence off our children, sexual conducts, livers and lungs. We should diminish the power of authorities upon us, not argue on their favour. We need less religious and state interventions, not more of them.
As libertarian, we are not excluded from having particular standards, but what we perceive as right is derived from our own formation and is intrinsically related to our moral compass. Although one’s personal feelings matter, freedom should always be the bastion from where our actions resonate, and we should fight for its prevalence. We can argue on moral costs as much as we want, but no one should be obliged to fund anything, even less what one perceives as wrong. It is a fight everybody can win at some point: by making abortion legal and funded by a person’s own money, Irish people can start to punch back and regain their erstwhile stolen freedom.
Beatriz Gietner is a physicist and ESFL local coordinator currently undergoing a masters in Science Education at Trinity College Dublin.
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