Wednesday 14 March 2018

Marching the Eighth

I have a remedial math class on Friday mornings. I can talk about that today because, if you are a Yankee-Geek, it is π Day. Purists will run around in circles just before 2 o'clock because it is then  3/14 1:59. One patissier got a contract from Google to bake an appropriate pie. Pie! Pi π  geddit?! I should also acknowledge that cosmologist Stephen Hawking died peacefully at home this morning.

The kids who turn up to Maths are those who need least help because their math-anxiety is parked and they are generally On Message. The stumbling, drifting and and generally clueless ones think an hour of Instagram is the solution to their math-deficit. As we were gearing up, I heard a young chap asserting that when the Repeal the Eighth [multiprev from last year] referendum came round in May, he would "spoil his vote". He didn't feel he knew enough about the consequences of Yes or No, to make an informed choice, and he wasn't going to make an un-informed choice. That seemed rather commendable, but one of his female colleagues was rowed into him about getting with the programme and informing himself about the issues because there was time to do this . . . and it certainly mattered to her how the vote turned out.

So much for his evidence-based scientific reasoning, he then started articulating the anecdotes and images that were uppermost in his mind. He didn't approve of young women getting pregnant and using abortion as an easy get out of jail free card. This was too much for me to let pass and I suggested that he and I didn't have a leg to stand on with that sort of argument. I certainly didn't feel I had any rights over m'daughters choices even though I had a quarter of my genes in common with an fetus she came to acquire. By implication, I was saying that he had even less rights to be judgmental about the actions, choices and consequences of any other citizen. Then I stopped my gob because I didn't think it was appropriate to have a discussion about that stuff with a student because of the gross disparity of age and authority. But I nodded to the women and said she'd better start getting her arguments in a row and articulating them with her peers over the next 3 months.

Woolly anecdotal reasoning is in the air this week because The Irish Supreme Court gave judgment on a case that was looking like a constitutional impediment to the Repeal of the Eighth amendment. This hinged on the rights of a Nigerian citizen to avoid repatriation because his Irish partner was pregnant with their child. The High Court suggested that the unborn fetus had effectively the same rights as a child born in Ireland including the right to have a father presence in their life.  The Supreme Court contrariwise held that the only right of the said fetus was a right to life partly because it was demonstrably silly to accord it the rights of free association, religious freedom etc. That out of the way, the government had a couple of days of debate on the issue. There Anne Rabitte FF brought up the fatal fetal abnormality anecdote; Billy Kelleher FF brought up the forcing a full term pregnancy on the raped anecdote; Louise O'Reilly SF identified the happy Downs child as a straw man. Floating all these ideas is deeply unhelpful because they imply that judgment is fine for those who don't fit the extreme cases. No it's not. The debate needs to grow up and level out: every woman has rights over her uterus which trump the rights of everyone else in the room. There will inevitably be officious, know-all, busy-body people who want to vindicate the rights of the one in the womb but those people need to shut up and mind their own business. There are too many people on the planet; far too many poor, unhappy, dispossessed people: we don't need any more. And that's the deal with Rights - they apply to everybody, including those we distrust and those for whom we feel contempt.

I mentioned this to Dau.II the day after. While I'd been in Maths-with-gender-politics class she had been on the Second March Rally Repeal on International Women's Day. She chid me good because she felt that as a Patriarch my arguments would have more meaning and conviction with the Young Buck. Clearly the young feller didn't have a very high opinion of the responsibility or sense of the young women of his acquaintance. Dau.lI also shared an important piece of statistical evidence, which cast up a very different image of woman-on-boat-to-England-for-termination. 54% of women who would take advantage of Irish abortion services are married women with children who know that they have done enough procreation and that another child would adversely impact the whole family.  We really need to get talking with our neighbours about how they are thinking, allaying their fears and engendering more compassion and much less judgment.

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