Real Productive Justice Conference Abortion



good afternoon so as I understand I'm Emma burns I'm a PhD student here and my research areas around the participation of people with intellectual disabilities and political and public life but I'm speaking here today from my role as an activist and in the abortion rights campaign specifically in Tipperary so tip for choice is a rural grassroots group organized or established in 2014 and we were campaigning for access to abortion and Ireland Tipperary has traditionally been one of the most conservative counties in the country and we were very relieved that fifty nine point one percent of the voters in our constituency went out almost exactly one year ago to support repeal of the eighth amendment so Susie was going to speak about the experiences of disabled people in the campaign so I'll talk a little bit about that but I'll quickly recap as well something that went sort of things that went on during the repeal campaign and how it may be influenced how disabled people were framed in the campaign the disabled women and those with critical illnesses have always borne the brunt of restrictive abortion laws in Ireland in 1983 Shelagh Rogers became pregnant while ill and she had her cancer treatment withheld including x-rays and pain relief she and her baby died the X case and subsequent discussions often framed mental health as not real health and suicidality as convenient method of escaping the consequences of female sexuality even when the girls and women at the center of these cases were survivors of abuse or rape women had to travel to the brink of death and in the case of miss P sometimes beyond death before interventions would be offered so these high profile cases post published public consciousness forward and ignited grassroots activists pushed for reform for reform they predominantly concerned women and girls in precarious situations there's been a threat to their physical or psychological well-being they've been driven to psychological distress by the state they've been migrant women and women of color they've received a diagnosis of fatal anomaly live in confinement their children they've been subjected to violence and rape for the most part these are not wealthy middle-class Irish people they are people without power a representation people constrained by their status in society by their circumstances they're the people who fall through the cracks so grassroots organizations emerge to fill the gaps left by ineffective political leaders and legislators who fail to promote human rights there's long been resistance and protests in Ireland against restrictions on women's access to abortion but it didn't really catch fire until the death of Savita hala pan over in Galway here in Galway in 2012 so her story resounded with ordinary people video footage emerged of her dancing just a few weeks earlier it she was young she was vital she was beautiful she was happy to be pregnant and then it all went wrong she suffered an inevitable miscarriage she needed interventions but because it was a fetal heartbeat she received no age and she was told that this is because Ireland is a Catholic country and she died of sepsis um there was feeling that what happened to her could have happened to any one of us and people began to attend candlelit vigils for her they began to talk and they began to organize so it was around this time that the abortion rights campaign was formed and as I said other groups and individuals had been campaigning since 1983 when the eighth man was introduced to try and change the abortion ban but arc the abortion rights campaign appeared at a crucial moment I noticed quite a few of you here who were involved with arc or one of the other groups so excuse me if I'm a mess laning any of this to you so arc really it was tapped into that anger and that shame and that momentum for change that existed and it was a really critical moment they reached out all the small informal groups that were organizing the women who are having conversations online and they offered facilitation and support it was founded with it with an explicitly intersectional framing of version rights from the rule mission statement they said arc aspires to be inclusive and representative of the varied groups of people affected by Ireland's restrictive abortion laws we believe this requires a particular focus on those groups that are disproportionately affected by these laws including women who are marginalised by poverty racism immigration status and disability at this time most of their focus around disability was on accessibility in the campaign so it was about having meetings in accessible spaces it was about making document successful making the March accessible no there's a lot of the members themselves were women with disabilities or people with disabilities but you know it was quite limited in how far it went around discussing disabled access to abortion outreach was happening but it was slow then Suzy burns spoke out in the national media that she felt both sides in the debate were abusing people with disabilities they know I have a yeah so this is how it was framed of course there always has to be conflict there always has to be there's both sides of the debate but suzy lit a fire under us it had to change our decided that they would try to move beyond tokenism they wanted to start with co-authoring some myth-busting blog posts with disabled women to counter the ablest propaganda that was being used by the No campaign a private google group was set up women with disabilities were invited to come on board still a spark for the initial stages we produced the blog's which programs but they really didn't do enough to address the harmful discourse that was emerging around disability in the referendum campaign every mention of disability related to prenatal screening and children pro-choice spokesperson often displayed ignorance of the concerns of disabled women or worse revealed embedded ableism in their framing of disability rights in the abortion rights campaign disabled women were still invisible as sexual citizens with intimate and personal relationships disabled human sorry yep sorry with families with the same potential to experience crisis pregnancies as non-disabled women disabled women as rights holders were largely missing from the debate so the group that had come together to contribute to the arc blocks and again some of these people are in the room basically anyone who was active on social media and seemed to have a pro-choice outlook was targeted and invited to join the group and harassed until they either took part or hid they decided to establish themselves as a distinct group people with disabilities for repeal this is parallel eating that happens establishment of disabled people together for yes so my own involvement with that ended with their decision not to join Eric and they've since gone on to form disabled women Ireland and have plans to take over the world at the same time there are collaborations between Eric and groups like merge the migrant and ethnic minorities for reproductive justice with any the organization for trans rights with the sex workers alliance all over the aim of bringing those on the margins into the campaign then the referendum was announced and the three main groups ark the National Women's Council and the coalition to repeal the eighth amendment combined forces to form together for yes the national campaign to repeal the eight amendment so it's been suggested that this was a unified movement a way for all the diverse groups to come together in combined efforts to secure abortion rights and such a success I'm sure that the history books will record and we've seen it being recorded it's that it was a seamless campaign this joined everyone together brought communities together seamlessly to repeal the Eighth Amendment it wasn't quite like that as most of you know so it switched from being a purely grassroots homegrown diverse feminist organization with flat hierarchies and transparent decision-making processes to slick century directed professional and campaign with strict messaging and zero tolerance for deviation from the messaging book I don't think we would have won the referendum analysis but I also recognize the damage that was done to marginalized groups by the disengagement from the collaborative efforts that had gone before that so the first to go was trans inclusive language and I think touch on that so I won't go into that one and then it seemed that women with disabilities migrants and ethnic minority women and trans men were largely excluded from spokesperson roles and high-profile events especially in rural areas like where I lived the faces of the campaign or a white and Irish and able-bodied they were concerned polite professional each discussion panel that we held had to have a doctor a lawyer Ruth is here she was on one of ours and someone whose pregnancy was affected by a fatal fetal abnormality the professionals were incredibly good at advocates and activists but they weren't representative of the women who were named and that alpha bishop repression that went before so for the most part we didn't hear about the marriages of the campaign from the places where multiple oppressions occur to squeeze people out of their rights there was no place in this campaign for the sex worker the woman with a psychosocial disability women of color disabled women Traveler women trans men they were sacrificed for the greater good some rebelled and we held breakaway events that we didn't tell headquarters about but there was a silent agreement that we would hold our tongues until the campaign was over Maria has spoken in a piece called our aims are shared in which she pinpointed to the commonalities between the position of pregnant women and people with disabilities under Irish law pregnancy and disability of the two criteria which can remove a person's right to be the final decision-maker in their own care pregnancy and disability can cause you to be treated without your consent we didn't hear from people with psychosocial disabilities despite their common experiences of forced treatment removal of capacity disregard to informed consent people with intellectual disability do not have their bodily autonomy respected politics are not as conservatives or uninformed as we assume so some of the things again that we would like to bring forward from the campaign is that we have to take what we learned we have to pull apart to the fears and concerns that we have in safe spaces where we can discuss ideas where we can share the concerns that we see we have to flesh out what are our biases why do we hold them and we have to be able to bring those forward in non-judgmental spaces and see where can we go discussions with bioethicists tend to be set in the context of free access to abortion we can never lose sight to the rights of women in the debates around disability and abortion disabled women's voices need to be heard we need to prepare for the battles ahead grassroots organizing building alliances with other groups ensuring which other advocacy groups and practitioners are educated about the specific concerns of disabled people these are at the heart of [Applause] okay um so I'm so excited and happy to be here and I'm especially excited that I brought some of the issues with the last days of the campaign so an abortion support network is not a campaigning organization and we're not based in Ireland or actually in any of the countries where we provide support so we tend not to get involved in the politics and we actually look at the campaigning organizations as the Cure and ourselves as the plaster or the band-aid to the issue of abortion access we were set up with the idea that I can't afford an abortion should never be the reason why somebody becomes a parent and we have done our best to be creative and flexible problem soldiers to all sorts of issues that are in place when somebody wants or needs an abortion and cannot access one due to draconian laws or inadequate provision so I didn't really plan too much about what I was going to say today because I just wanted to come here and learn from all of you but it's really really great to hear that all the I mean we've always sort of lived in what we call the shadows as an abortion fund we've never we were never here for the people for whom abortion access was easy and we still continue to hear from people in Ireland who are not able to access care under the provision that is there and I want to make clear that the provision has been exceptional we in no way shape or form thought that there would be provision from the 2nd of January and we in no way shape or form thought that there would be as much provision once they announced that date and we always said and we still say that anyone who can get an abortion in the country without having to get on a plane or a boat or needing to break the law is is doing is doing quite well but but there are so many holes and gaps in the care that exists and it's been very frustrating as we have tried as an external organization to say I was I was just saying earlier that I'm literally standing in the corner pretty good even just once we want to talk to you we don't even want to criticise your horrible awful provision of abortion we just want to make pathways for those people who are who are having difficulty in accessing care so basically all of our clients all the versions were network clients based obstacles and the clients who face disability who all sort my terminology is really horrible and I apologize and I say anything offensive please just put your hand up and educate me but our clients who have disabilities face additional obstacles to our normal client obstacles which can include anything raised ranging from poverty domestic abuse medical profession not not listening getting worked in by crisis crisis I'm going to see centers already though it's really really a big one and and the other thing is is caring responsibilities which can be it can be you can't leave because you have kids and it can also be it's harder for you to leave because you have care and responsibilities for somebody with a disability who you know in addition to the regular difficulty of finding somebody to take care of you know getting help with carry responsibilities is hard enough getting help with carry responsibilities for somebody who has disabilities kind of more difficult and a lot of people have they'd have intersections of all those different obstacles and they just sort of pile up and they make what should be a 5 minute super safe medical procedure into what seems like an insurmountable ordeal so a lot of people not I don't think any of the people in this room but a lot of people out there the referendum we're like oh you get to the close now it's gonna be gonna be all sorted everybody wants the portion in Ireland able to have one but that is that it's not the case first of all there are gaps in care second of all we've got this ridiculously medically unnecessary three-day wait area that means that you need think we've calculated between two and five trips to the doctor to get an abortion there's the fact that almost all the provision is an early medical abortion which some people prefer but in some cases it could be argued that other forms of abortion and vacuum aspiration or surgical would be much less invasive and then also the fact that the the time limit of 12 weeks is a disaster given the numbers of birth control or fertility issues or just hormones one nature that mean that not all of us have regular menstrual periods and so we are still hearing from a number of people who need to travel for old kinds of reasons and so we're just basically still here and I have learned so much about what more we can do to to help and particular people with disabilities and I would really really really like to hear anything that you all think that we should be doing we you know we're tiny we don't have an office we don't have a budget like like most people here we're very dependent on volunteers however we also really like to be flexible and we really like to sort of literally bend over backwards for for people who have extenuating circumstances whether that be funding for addition for additional people to travel with you finding somebody who can travel with you finding carrying responsibility solutions extra funding for any you know we all know that if you need to travel getting from point A to point D it's not always so easy if you don't live in Dublin or quark although the coach is is lovely I guess but I actually didn't I didn't notice it but we'll ask on the way back if the go bus that I took here is accessible right yes so right there um you know so we have money so we can fix the things that money can fix but it's more about ensuring that organization is known that we're still here we're going nowhere and we really want to fill I mean of course the end goal would be for free safe legal accessible in country but while we wait for that day we want to do the best that we we can to help those who have to travel trouble yeah and nothing we do is going to be perfect but we really try never to let excellence be the enemy of good and good enough it's something that we there's a typo in the annual report it's good enough you know it's really are just doing the best that we can and I'm just so so pleased to be here and look forward to learning [Applause] hey good afternoon it's fantastic to be here my name is dr. Duffy and I'm a member of the steering committee also leads to choice just before I start speaking you just want to acknowledge the work of these two incredible women that are on the panel with me and ruining her local group to Ferrara joy seeing a huge and conservative County and Maura and her team are invaluable so it's it's a bourbon to be speaking alongside you so just if you don't know Lawrence the choice is a pro-choice feminist organization made up of both academic and practitioner lawyers and office law students and we are an intersectional service group we try to make everything we do as inclusive as possible again perfect not being the enemy of the good but just putting that front and center so I want to talk about just a few problems that have come up in the legislation that are particularly difficult I suppose we come to disabled people and abortion access I also want to note that the peer review of this law in three years time so we need to keep that perspective in mind also so the legislation which government abortion access to Ireland is called the health regulation of termination of pregnancy bill 28 terminology it refers to access it defines a woman as a female person of any age which again is quite problematic so I might speak I'll be using the term pregnant person I don't mean that two arrays women I just want to take into account the fact that women are not the only ones accessing these services so there are three major problems with the legislation understands that I want to highlight today and they are at the criminalization which still exists in the app the problems of access is that the legislation and also just some of the problems around medical specialists so first of all the criminalization element provides that it's an offence for anyone to intentionally end like teachers other learning conditions in accordance with the Act so what that means is that only a medical spa to find it there is a language to perform an abortion for someone and if they do so outside the terms that are given to them that it's a criminal offense it's also a criminal offence to prescribe administer supply to procure a lead rope or instrument or apparatus which could be used for abortion its offense to aid abet counsel or procure a pregnant person to access an abortion outside the terms of the Act this doesn't apply to the pregnant person themselves but it does replicate does apply to anyone who might be a friend or rather than a caregiver another medical practitioner anybody who a pregnant person could turn to if they require assistance access to abortion services 14 years before that so it's still very restrictive it's still quite a chilling effect and we're talking about whether that be someone who is suffering from mental ill-health I was finding it difficult to be able to act to access the sources actually go through going to the doctor whether that be someone who's underage is experience sexual abuse but there is still that barrier there that from colonization in the act so that's in itself is a problem so but even if you can access that then again at the three-act also does limit that too so it's been referenced already that there is a three-day waiting period for someone who wants to to access abortion services so under a section 8 sorry under section 12 of the Act if a pregnant person goes to their GP and requests an abortion during the twelve weeks of pregnancy they was wait three days from the first consultation to actually access the abortion itself what this means is that you have to medically unnecessary trips to the doctor which again for people who were finding accessing issue were finally getting to the doctor and issue again impairs their access to care and it also dates from as Mara mentioned today twelve weeks from the start of the last monthly period which again it's a problem because the gauging could be actors and it's unfortunately the case that that could push somebody over the 12-week limit not and therefore not allow them access care and the last thing that I wanted to highlight just in the act itself is the language around the specialist so the language given is that when a medical practitioner needs to certify the risk to a pregnant person to their health or to their life which might qualify them to access an abortion the medical practitioner has to be someone appropriate to the care or treatment of the woman in respect of the risk so again when you're talking about it's someone with a disability or with a chronic condition you're talking about possibly a very limited pool of doctors here in Ireland certainly if you're living outside the cities it could be problematic to have an extra specialist for me too to help certify the second problem that complicates that then comes when you have to assess the review system so if your doctor turns you down in for abortion access you can apply to a review time the review panel also has to include a specialist appropriate to the care or treatment of you with respect to the risk that you are claiming but they are disqualified from every model that they previously be consulted by the patient about this issue so if you attend the specialist if you've already talked to your specialist about the fact that you need to terminate perfectly it ends up that that person is actually disqualified from being on your review panel if necessary – so again that's quite a problem in a country like Ireland where the medical system is quite small and specialists in such niche areas are quite limited so those are kind of the problems are they stand for I could finish up by talking about was the need to keep a disability perspective in mind as we work forward through the implementation of it all and as we come to the review of the law also the problems that I've cited aside if you mean the problems that I've cited are very evident and I think they're going to come up a lot more as we as we work towards implementation you know we get more reports of cases coming out but in order to be inclusive in order to create an a law or a legal system and total generating from the also a policy system that is inclusive of everybody we need to keep in mind these things while we review we need to keep in mind physical access to doctors and specialists we need to keep in mind proper consent policies and proper taking into account to err differences in capacity differences in votes legal a strict legal definition of capacity to consent but also capacity to access capacity to to advocate for oneself when it comes to abortion access we need to keep in mind that there are different forms of disability and these things these things affect people and ways we need to keep in mind that there are as Mara said go to be people who fall to the cracks and that's our job I thought that lawyers and policymakers folks in reproductive justice and in disability law as many of you are is to advocate for ourselves and for our communities in order to make any reviewed law or any review policy implemented as inclusive as we possibly can habit and so I will leave it there and I'm very very quick little doctor of those but delighted to answer any questions about thanks to all of our speakers forget a very stimulating discussion and I'll open it up to the floor now for questions of your question just a great event and get

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