Rights, Change, and Reflection

A few weeks ago, four courageous women came forward and shared their stories with the Irish Times. They did so again the next day in meetings with TDs and senators, whom the four women had e-mailed repeatedly in an effort to ensure their attendance. Each of these women had been pregnant but was told by her doctor that her fetus suffered from “an abnormality incompatible with life” and, due to their inability to secure appropriate medical services in Ireland, each woman had traveled to England to terminate her pregnancy. Heartbroken when they discovered that their fetuses were not viable outside of the womb, they were shocked to find that they had to leave Ireland in order to terminate their much-wanted pregnancies.

I was fortunate enough to meet these women and watch them recount their experiences to government officials who, later that day, would begin debating the private members’ bill proposed to give effect to the “X” case, introduced by Deputy Clare Daly. It was a momentous occasion in Ireland when four women who had had abortions stood up, not guarded by anonymity, to demand that women in their circumstances deserve treatment in their own country – that the abortion debate is complex and that the experiences of women deserve center stage in it. For me, it was a rather remarkable moment to see policymakers sit face-to-face with the people for whom their policies had true impact—and they were being challenged. During the debate on the bill, there were obvious voices of dissent, but there were also calls for a bill that goes further than one that simply legislates for the “X” case, which allows for abortion in the case that a woman’s life—as distinct from her health—is at risk, including the risk of suicide. Given that the government is currently awaiting the report of the Expert Group on the ABC case, it was not surprising that the bill was voted down, but the momentum behind it and the sentiment in the gallery where I sat gave me hope. Government officials were speaking about the issue not only in the abstract terms that often dictate the debate but also with regard to the human realities. Deputy Mick Wallace, one of the writers of the legislation, read aloud an e-mail that he had received from a woman who had endured a similar experience to those of the four women who had spoken to the TDs and senators earlier in the day. I suppose I will have to wait and see what happens when the Expert Group releases its report, but the fact that there were government officials—men and women—who articulated reproductive rights as human rights and who spoke boldly on behalf of change makes me think that things cannot remain as they for much longer.

Amidst moments like the one above, I have concluded classes at Trinity and am now on my own to write my thesis over the summer (luckily with Sam by my side). In the time that has passed since my last blog post, I’ve explored Donegal with my brother and sister-in-law, stumbled upon some secret treasures right around Dublin with the help of a former Mitchell Scholar, and tried to absorb the overwhelming history and culture of Berlin. It seems incredible to think that a whole year has gone by since I was finishing up at Yale. I have friends spread throughout the world and the United States, and everyone seems to be evolving, changing, and heading in directions that I (and they) never imagined. Two of them visited me for a week over St. Patrick’s Day. After spending a few days in Dublin to revel in the festivities (we also went to Howth to remove ourselves from the festivities), we made a trip to Connemara. It was absolutely breathtaking and peaceful. Although some of my Irish classmates have remarked to me how mythologized the West has been in Irish history, I could not help falling in love with it. As my friends and I commented to each other, there is something about Ireland–and particularly Connemara–that enables a person to reflect deeply on his or her life. Perhaps this was due to the calming scenery or the fact that I had just ridden a horse (for the sake of my friend) and was fearful for my life (no, I didn’t gallop and yes, it was still scary). Either way, I have so appreciated my time here—even the difficult moments that come with adjusting to living in a foreign place—because I have been able not only to get to know a place and (some of) its people but also spend (significant) time thinking with no particular purpose. I hope this explains my stream of consciousness blog posts. And the vagueness. In a good way.

As hard as I tried to think of a way to seamlessly include sheep in this blog post, my last few weeks in Ireland have been centered in Dublin around the people who have become a large part of my life here and around the issues that originally brought me here. The sheep motif seemed a little out of place—I apologize for the serious turn. My journey is not yet over but some of the Mitchells have left already or will be leaving soon. This is depressing for many reasons, not the least of which is that my musical enlightenment depends on sustained efforts by Anise and Chelsea to get me away from Top 40s (I feel a relapse coming with your impending departure Chelsea). So, let me say thank you now to the Mitchells with whom I have learned, debated, and, most of all, laughed. This year would not have been the same without you and I look forward to celebrating with you in the coming weeks and filling your inboxes when you have left. I am excited to spend a large part of my summer in Ireland, to get in a few more trips, and to watch as events unfold here for women’s reproductive rights.

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