'I'm a Yes campaigner, but my father is voting No': how the Irish referendum divides families

'I'm a Yes campaigner, but my father is voting No': how the Irish referendum divides families

Aimee in her Repeal the 8th t-shirt

Friday, May 25, 2018

As the polls opened to vote on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment in Ireland today, many Yes voters - who want abortion legalised - found themselves at odds with members of their family.

Under current Irish law, abortion is only permitted in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or for fatal foetal abnormalities.

Aimee Monroe, a Yes campaigner from Dublin, told talkRADIO about how the conversations around abortion exposed differing views within her family.

“My mam has only recently changed her mind to vote Yes, because she remembers the treatment that she would have had as a very young, unmarried mother,” she says.

But her father is still voting No.

"It's deep-rooted Catholic guilt"

“About two years ago, when I started having the conversation with my parents, they were so against [abortion],” says Monroe.

“They’d go straight to, ‘you just have to get on with it [having a baby], that’s what we did’.

“But that was their choice, and they had a good enough situation.”

She says the deeply entrenched Catholic values in Ireland are leading many people to struggle to change their views.

“It’s that deep-rooted Catholic guilt that the older generation need to break away from,” she tells us.

Read more: Why one woman is travelling home to vote in the abortion referendum

“My father is voting No, despite having a daughter and a son with a girlfriend. His only argument is ‘what about men?’”

“I’ve tried talking to him about it. My argument is, do you want to criminalise your own daughter?

“If something was to happen to me and I was in a dreadful situation, is he going to let me travel to England by myself and not help?

“I wouldn’t have any support from him, he’d just straight-up say ‘you’re not having an abortion’.

"He wouldn't support me if I went to England for an abortion"

“What if I was raped? What if I had a miscarriage? Are you going to leave me lying there for ten weeks while I naturally deliver the baby?

“He says he agrees with it in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities, and I have had other people say that to me, but I have to say that is a very violent and upsetting way to think.”

It hasn't, though, affected her relationship with him, as she says her priority has been to "keep calm and educate" people on the No side.

She says a view she has heard frequently from those on the No side is that they’re uncomfortable with women having multiple abortions.

Read more: Polls open in Ireland for referendum

“It’s not a nice procedure, and then people have the audacity to think women will use it as contraception,” she says.

“This is the next thing he brings up, but no one in their right mind will put themselves through that over and over again for a laugh! Even if women do have multiple abortions, it’s still her body and her choice.”

No voters fear 'abortion culture'

Anne Scanlan of the anti-abortion Life Charity told Julia Hartley-Brewer that repealing the Eighth would introduce an “abortion culture” into Ireland.



Listen to Anne Scalan on the Julia Hartley-Brewer show above

Department of Health statistics show that of all the abortions given to non-resident women in the UK, 67.9% are Irish.

In 2016, data showed abortion rates were rising and more women in their 30s and 40s were having terminations.

Four in 10 procedures given to women who’d already had a termination.

Anne Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service told the Guardian that this could be because women in that age group could not access contraception as easily as younger women, for whom it is often provided free of charge.

Support from the LGBT community

Monroe also said that the Irish LGBT community had been joining forces with Yes campaigners.

The campaign group Radical Queers Resist has been sharing warnings on Twitter of where graphic imagery has been displayed, and hanging rainbow flags over it instead.

“We have people from the LGBTQ community coming over and covering the No campaign’s signs. It’s quite funny to see,” she tells talkRADIO.

“They’ve got great big giant sheets and gay pride flags.

“The referendum we had from gay marriage, we joke among my friends we voted for that so they have to have our backs and vote Yes.”