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So the Late Late Show kicked off it’s first referendum debate last night. Given that Ryan Tubridy generally pulls some half decent guests, I was actually feeling confident that the show would quality assure representatives from both sides to some extent. Radio 1 had already aired what many deemed a very boring and inarticulate interview with an Antrim footballer earlier in the week. Pat Gallagher took about 15 minutes to communicate two questionable statistics, gave no credible examples and his sentiments could have easily been summed up in one sentence, such as, “Ach, save the wee Irish foetuses”. Pat may not even have a vote in the referendum but sure look it, an Antrim footballer had a day out at least!

When Ryan announced that we would hear a three minute speech from both sides, I anticipated 6 minutes of appropriate statistics, medical facts and reasonable argument. Dr Boylan was calm, informative and concise, drawing on forty years of experience in gynaecology and obstetrics when delivering his speech. His regret at having been debilitated by the 8th Amendment when administering to his patients was evident. Wendy Grace was next up. When she began by saying, “As a journalist…” I was a bit bamboozled. I follow a lot of female journalists and I felt a bit of a tulip for not recognising her. So I had to consult Google. (My mother was watching with me and she hadn’t a notion either). I immediately discovered the lady in red was in fact ‘an author at the Irish Catholic” . I’d be more of an Irish Times woman myself and mostly for the puzzles so I felt a bit better about my cluelessness. Something tells me I might be a bit out of my depth with the simplex crossword in the Irish Catholic. I can only name 5 apostles. During Wendy’s 3 minutes, I could tell that she was very emotional about the topic and that as far as she was concerned, it was vitally important that her personal and individual morals and values were reflected in the constitution and maintained by the hundreds of thousands of women throughout Ireland regardless of theirs. A textbook member of the flock. Also, she has incredibly sparkly hair. Coupled with her pure and sanctimonious nature, those shiny tresses could nearly be mistaken for a halo. Red was a surprising colour choice in hindsight.

After a lot of to and fro between both sides which I thought Ryan managed very well, we heard from those who had been impacted by the 8th…except we didn’t. We heard of one woman’s harrowing story of having to fly to England to deliver a baby who was destined to die and this was followed by a woman who changed her mind about having an abortion. As someone who had an unplanned pregnancy, I can say with total sincerity, the fear and indecision I experienced at the beginning of my pregnancy is in no way comparable to a woman being forced to leave her deceased child in another country, miss her funeral and receive her ashes in the post.

I would have liked to hear the No side give concrete suggestions and solutions as to how we could address unsafe illegal abortions in this country which regularly put the lives of young women at risk and how we can ensure women are not forced to receive their children’s ashes via a courier service. I don’t want to hear about UK statistics. Different country, bigger population, different culture, separate issues. Historically, we’ve not been very keen to follow the British. I don’t want to hear every question answered with, “The 8th Amendment is the only protection the unborn child has in our constitution”. As highlighted by all the brave women who have shared their personal horror stories, there are broader issues that need to be addressed here and that answer is not comprehensive enough to deal with them.

So having watched the debate and having tried to relate to both sides, I find myself repeating the same mantra that has stuck in my head since the beginning. If you are personally opposed to abortion, don’t have one. If this week’s news hasn’t exposed the culture of bureaucrats deciding what’s best for women, failing to respond to their needs in a timely and transparent manner, causing harm and fatalities, I don’t know what will. It worries me that people still feel they have a right to impose their personal beliefs on a nation at any cost. #REPEALTHE8TH #repeal #latelateshow #latelateshowdebate #togetherforyes

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