SIR – As a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment gets closer, the role of men in this troubled debate needs to be examined. Should men be heard during the referendum campaign? And do men have any rights when it comes to actual abortions?
The first question is easy to answer. As there are no mechanisms to exclude men from the debate, or to stop them from having and voicing their opinions nor indeed to prevent them from casting their votes, there’s little point in wishing they’d stay quiet on a biological process they’ll never experience. Men will play prominent roles on both sides of the argument. And they will shout their opinions for all to hear. This letter being evidence of same.
The second question is a bit more difficult to answer. Many men, genuine men, good men, regard fatherhood to begin for them, once they’re told of the pregnancy they are responsible for. This attachment is, in most cases, a wonderfully positive emotion, with obvious benefits for all concerned.
In some cases however, the pregnant woman may decide an abortion is the best option for her, despite the potential father’s desire for her to continue with the pregnancy. At present the pregnant woman is free to travel outside of this jurisdiction to access abortion services. This may grieve some men, but this is the constitutional reality.
If the 8th Amendment is struck from our Constitution, nothing is altered in this regard. Men now and men in a post-8th Amendment Ireland, simply do not have the legal capacity to insist a woman continue with her pregnancy.
While the retention or the deletion of the 8th has no legal impact on men, the 8th Amendment does grant some men power, outside of the law, to coerce women to continue with a pregnancy. Poorer women, financially-dependent women, women in abusive relationships and women living in isolated parts of the country are more vulnerable to having their right to travel for an abortion severely curtailed.
Removing the 8th Amendment may not help all women in such straitened circumstances but it will certainly aid a portion of them to end an unwanted and possibly dangerous pregnancy.
This is the question men have to answer when considering their vote on the 8th Amendment. Retain the status quo where good men have no say, but bad men do. Or remove the 8th and good men will continue to have no say but many bad men will also lose the power to coerce.
Paul WS Bowler,