Thursday, 17 May 2018


“Hi Dave. I want to write about the 8th, so I'm checking with you about balance.”

The Chief Editor rested his bearded chin in his hand.

“Balance isn’t an issue this time around, Charlie, but, oh, can you try not to be too emotive?”

“No, don’t think I can do that. Erm, how about I avoid being dogmatic?”

Dave laughed, sighed the sigh of a good man conflicted, and nodded in agreement.

I was free to write what I wanted.
First, however, I had to solve a mystery.

When I arrived in Ireland in 1992, there was an abortion referendum campaign in progress. Back then a hardcore liberal, I felt no doubt. Of course the Irish should vote Yes.

To my disbelief, I discovered that the referendum wasn't offering that option, but three questions: should a woman be allowed to leave the country; should a phone number remain illegal and should the life of the mother be considered equal with that of her unborn child?

I’d been around the planet a couple of times, seen societies ancient and modern, but never anywhere that aspired to be the latter so mired in the former.

Confused, I found myself falling in love with the West of Ireland at exactly the same time I discovered there was in this country neither divorce nor contraception; that less than 20 years previously, married women had not been allowed to work.

Shocked to my core, armed with a massive ignorance of all things Irish and a spanky new newspaper column, I dedicated the second and third Double Visions to the abortion issue.

Then came the backlash. The dog turd in the box. The envelope loaded with used condoms. Then some nutter threatened to bomb the Connacht Tribune building, and finally, City Tribune Editor Mike Glynn had a word in my shell-like, advising me not to write about the same thing again.

So I didn’t, but still the angry letters came, telling me to go back to where I came from; photos of monkey foetuses in dustbins; scrawled notes of hatred suggesting I was anti-Church and damned to Hell.

If fear is your weapon of choice, you’ve already lost the argument.

Later, during seemingly endless years of sexual abuse revelations, the only notable thing about this colyoom’s contribution to that debate was its absence.

At first I thought I was just too upset and inexpert to write about such personal heinous scandals. Then I felt riled enough to write about the constant use of the euphemistic term ‘Clerical Abuse’ and complain that it sounded like a punctuation error, more than child rape.

But I didn’t.
Wasn’t worth the hassle I’d get.

At last I realised I’d been successfully intimidated. I’d always imagined intimidation being an in-your-face life-threatening experience, but no. It crept up on me, insidiously devouring my courage and desire for social justice.

I’d be unworthy of this space if I relented to intimidation, so why haven’t I been sharing Facebook posts or retweeting links that sing the truth to me about this referendum?

Partly because I’m still wary of getting all that hate stuff, and partly because I now have a far deeper understanding of why some feel so very strongly against abortion.

Yet more powerful than either of those reasons, there lies my frankly ridiculous, almost infantile reaction to the issue. Of course I understand that in this world, matters as personal as this are dealt with by legislation, and here in Ireland an amendment to the constitution, but in my ideal world, none of this would be necessary.

My soul is offended that we must vote at all, because I cannot fathom what it’s got to do with us.

I’m not being disingenuous, absolutely not washing my hands of my responsibilities, but I will always feel deeply emotionally offended that we as a society have to make this decision.

What you do with your body should not be on my agenda. I don’t want a public vote on whether I have a tooth pulled. You wouldn’t appreciate it if I poured your glass of wine down the sink, citing the condition of your liver. 

Your sister doesn’t want to wait for my permission to have that tumour removed from her stomach, and no, I’m not comparing a cancerous growth to a bouncing baby: I’m likening a host body to a host body.

I promised to avoid dogma, so I’ll keep this personal.

I could not walk up to a stranger and tell them what is best for them.

I could not order a stranger to have a child.

If I could, I’d be neither willing nor able to pay for that child’s housing, health and education.

Nobody likes abortion.
Nobody plans to need one.
Nobody seeks one out on a whim.

Every time a woman decides she needs one, she is in crisis.
Who am I to tell her what’s best?

I’m mighty glad I didn’t.grow up as the product of a rape.

I don’t want any woman to endure the daily horror of questions about when her baby is due, silently knowing she will never produce life.

I don’t want any doctor or nurse to feel terrified of saving the life of a woman, for fear of going to jail.

I don’t believe any women ought to die because of somebody else’s religious beliefs.

My religious beliefs are just that: my own. I do not seek to impose them on anybody else.

I wish we didn’t have to vote on such a personal issue. As a UK citizen I have no referendum vote anyway.

If I did I’d be out there on the 25th, making Ireland a safer place for women and a more compassionate nation for us all.

©Charlie Adley17.05.2018.

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