‘If she survives the drowning and floats, she’s a witch. If she dies, she’s a woman.’
On September 15th, ‘We Face This Land’ appeared on the Project Repeal youtube channel. Written by Sarah Maria Griffin, a Dublin-based author, and directed by Dave Tynan, We Face This Land features a host of well-known feminists, writers, artists, personalities, and women.
First and foremost, the people in this video are women. Real women with real lives. Real bodies. Real experiences. Women of all ages. Women still suffering under the iron fist of the Catholic Church. Religious or not, intentional or not, our abortion laws are archaic. Our abortion laws are based solely on the moral doctrine of the Catholic Church. One based on shame. Shame of bodies. Of sex. Of being human. Of living. A doctrine based on suffering and pain. Nobody lives in a culture shaped by the rules of a religion and escapes unscathed. Nobody lives under a patriarchal reign and comes out the other side without prejudices. Nobody lives without suffering.
‘Centuries ago, women accused of witchcraft faced, among other ordeals, trial by water.’ In 120 seconds, this short film, produced entirely by a team of volunteers, captured simply the oppressive power the laws of the land have over a person’s reproductive rights. In denying women the power to choose, they are condemned to drowning. The 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act does nothing to allay this inevitable drowning.[pullquote]Nobody lives in a culture shaped by the rules of a religion and escapes unscathed. Nobody lives without suffering.[/pullquote]
Those facing pregnancies they cannot, or do not want to, carry through 40 weeks of potential emotional, physical and psychological torture must face the land, and the barriers of doctors and mental health professionals. They must prove beyond all doubt that their lives are at risk. If they cannot – and who are we to expect them to? – they must face the sea. Face the water. Travel to a distant city. Often alone. Isolated and carrying the shame of a religion that no longer owns us, but that has taught us that women are not responsible enough, or mature enough, or reasonable enough, to choose the right thing to do. And if it is the case that the baby is facing death – the babies that pro-life extremists wax lyrical about protecting – the law does nothing to save the mother from the pain of carrying a dead, or dying, foetus to term. The law does not stand on our side.
‘A body is a body is a body is a body’ they chant, and it’s true – a body is simply a body. Those that have no female reproductive organs are granted full autonomy while never having to worry that they may become a vessel. Never having to worry that they may have to quietly, discreetly – full of shame imposed upon them by their state – travel to a clinic in another country, or order pills and risk imprisonment. Never having to face the firing squad of professionals allegedly promising to protect their lives and prove their desire to die unless the cluster of cells they do not want or can not have is acknowledged as something detrimental to the simple act of living.
Despite the vitriolic outpouring from a handful of pro-life extremists, the original upload of the video on Project Repeal reached 80,000 views at the time of this article’s publication. The women of Ireland are being told by those determined to protect what they do not understand and cannot force upon another human to bow down to the law. To accept that they will not be allowed to choose. [pullquote]Those that have no female reproductive organs are granted full autonomy while never having to worry that they may become a vessel.[/pullquote]
Our heads are being forced under. We are being drowned against our will. We are being shackled against our will. What the anti-choice campaign do not understand is that no woman, anywhere, wants to force themselves through the pain of abortion. Nobody wants to travel. Nobody wants to be at risk of medical complications. Septicemia. Life threatening complications that shouldn’t arise, but do, simply because we are forced to travel in our droves. Every. Single. Day.
A woman carrying a dying child does not want to face the reality of losing that child. She does not want to have to carry it to term. Face the world. Face the questions. ‘When are you due?’ ‘You must be so excited!’ Facing that, chin up, eyes downcast. Submissive to the demands of the State. Carry until the bitter, suffering end.
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Equally, nobody wants to put what would later become a child through the stress of developing inside a body that does not want it. Of a mind that rejects it, because that mind cannot feasibly imagine giving what would later become a child a decent life – financially, emotionally, physically. Of a mind and body that could not bear to pass that later-child into the adoption and foster care system, because every single day we hear of what happens to children in that system. A system of abuse. A system that does nothing to nurture those children. If the woman carrying the later-child cannot nurture the child, and the system designed to do it for them cannot do that either, what does a woman do? What choice does a woman have?
Sink, or swim. Witch, or woman. We refuse to drown.
Repeal the 8th.