Of the many things that are difficult while living abroad, politics can be the thorniest to negotiate. My convoluted status as a non-resident, non-immigrant alien means that I can’t vote here in the US – no matter how many times Facebook exhorts me to register – and that’s an uncomfortable place to be in an election straight out of the Twilight Zone. There have been important political happenings in my home country and adopted nation too – Brexit and the Irish marriage equality referendum, most notably – which have emphasised my feelings of disconectedness.
Furthermore, when we first moved here, we were advised by our relocation advisor not to get “too political” in our activities. I’m pretty sure she was trying to make sure that we didn’t end up getting arrested and invalidating the terms of our visa – but nevertheless the conversation certainly put me off getting over-involved with anything political while I’ve been here.
But today is the day that abortion rights campaigners in Ireland protest the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, which protects the “right to life of the unborn” and holds it equal to the life of the mother.
I could write so much about this.
The Eight Amendment is why in 1992, a 14 yr old girl had to go to the Supreme Court to be allowed to travel to abort her rapist’s foetus. It’s why today 12 women a day still travel to the UK for abortion services. It’s why Savita Halappanavar died of septicemia following a miscarriage. It’s why an asylum seeker went on hunger strike while the doctors delayed until her rapist’s foetus was viable and delivered via caesarean. It’s why a grieving family had to petition the High Court in order to turn off life support for a brain dead pregnant woman.
It’s a daily injustice against the bodily autonomy of anyone with a uterus. As with many such injustices, it disproportionately affects those already marginalised in society – those without the money or support or knowledge to procure abortion services outside the State. And as a woman in possession of a uterus and intent to use it, it’s one of the things that terrifies me about a future return to Ireland.
That is something I will have to face and reckon with, in my own way.
But today was not a day of reckoning. Today I was connected to a politically active community and a cause I feel deeply. I stood with the Irish diaspora, looking at the incredible pictures of the March in Dublin, sharing stories and food and letting their familiar cadences wash over me. I stood in solidarity with pro-choice campaigners in Ireland and around the world.
I felt connected. And I am stronger for it.