Monday, January 21, 2013

Ireland: the Catholic Church's assault on women's rights

by Richard Mellor

I am in Dublin Ireland for one more day and wish I could have stayed a little longer.  I was unable to attend the pro-choice meeting on Merrion Street on Saturday which corresponded with a huge pro-life rally nearby.

But reading the papers this morning, what I find so infuriating are the speeches about the sanctity of human life and particularly a child’s life, from the mouths of men, often rich men and so-called men of the cloth. The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin said on Saturday that that “Children are a sign of the Kingdom of God” (apparently Jesus told him this)  and that to protect children is to be pro-life, “..our attitude to children tells us a lot about our understanding of the Kingdom of God.” Martin said.

It’s incredible that a representative of an organization that has protected mass serial rapists and pedophiles within its ranks can make such statements in a public forum.  These people have no shame whatsoever.  The Catholic church not only covered for these serial rapists, officials actually sent them out of harms way and in to new pastures where they were able to continue their horrendous activities.  The Catholic church from the head man in the Vatican on down, chose to protect serial rapists and abandon the little ones.  It is an institution rotten to the core.

Politicians, men, and representatives of a misogynistic religious organization that has accompanied and still accompanies the imperialistic ambitions of nation states and global capitalism, lecture women and the rest of us about the sanctity of life.  They are very concerned about life before it emerges from the womb but care little about the lives and health of children beyond that.  Most of the dominant forces behind the pro-life movement in Dublin, or the US, remain silent about the deaths of Iraqi, Afghani or Pakistani children.  Where were the protests against US driven sanctions against Iraq that led to 500,000 deaths prior to invasion, mostly women and children?  Madeline Albright referred to these deaths as “worth it”.

Where is the Catholic Church, or any of them as Bangladeshi women working for nothing in the factories that supply the Wal-Marts and other retailers of this world battle cops and thugs on the streets as they fight for better working conditions and higher wages? Some family life they have.

There have been previous comments on this blog concerning women’s rights and in particular a woman’s right to control the reproductive process.  I have women friends who have had abortions and women friends who will not for one reason or another, including their religious views. But either way, choosing to have an abortion is surely not a simple thing; in many cases, economics is the driving force.

It is a complex issue and not every woman that chooses not to have an abortion is a right wing religious fanatic.  But it is also not a decision taken lightly either as some try to portray it. It is a woman’s body and it has to be her decision.

Socialists must demand that abortion must be legal and provided as part of a national health system and that birth control be an affordable and available service. It is working class women that suffer the most when such rights are denied women, the rich will always have this right one way or another.

But while we support the right of abortion on demand we must fight for the right of a woman to have a child and offer it a secure and healthy environment, a woman cannot rely on a man for the health and future of her child.  That means financial independence, a wage that provides a safe and secure existence, free education, health care, on-site child-care in the workplaces and institutions of education.  Society spends billions of dollars destroying the lives of children it can spend just as much providing an environment that nurtures life and allows it to flourish.

The demos in Ireland come in the wake of the death of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian woman who died because an Irish hospital refused to terminate her pregnancy reminding her that “This is a Catholic country”. Wendy Forest, another writer on this blog wrote of Savita:
“She was murdered. Her body, her mind, her emotions were in these hours before her death were dominated, manipulated, appropriated, controlled and ultimately put to death by a patriarchal state and an institution promoted by the same state. She is one of millions of women historically who have been murdered simply because they are female. Her death is a tragedy-but not an accident. The powerful weapon, shame, used throughout history against women will not be felt by the Catholic church or by the state of Ireland. Yes pressure from below will hopefully make them change the laws that oppress and violate women’s rights to control over their bodies and reproductive capacities. And yes that is what we want as way forward for women. But it goes much deeper and will not end until women understand the power of shame and are determined collectively to refuse to succumb to its paralyzing power.”

The pro-lifers are against legalizing abortion even when a woman’s life is in danger, this is being driven by men and the Catholic Church.  At the pro-choice rally, Clare Daly, a member of the Irish parliament called for “The immediate introduction of legislation for the right to a safe, legal abortion when a woman’s life is at risk, including from suicide.”

By any standard this is not a radical demand.  Sarah Malone of the Abortion Rights Campaign pointed out that 150,000 Irish women have sought the medical care they need in England since the 1980’s.  Banning abortion completely does not stop women from finding the needed medical care elsewhere.

You can read more about this issue and Savita Halappanavar by selecting the “Women” Label on the right.

"Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children."

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
May 1965 speech to the Negro American Labor Council. Quoted in Thomas F. Jackson, From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. (2009) p. 230

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