What a month. First the European Court of Human Rights tells Ireland to get its house in order and make life-saving abortion services available to women here. Shape up and reform your laws, the situation is no longer tolerable, the court told the Irish Government in December. Now mega-chemist Boots announces that they will sell the morning after pill to any woman over the age of 18 who requests it. Talk to a pharmacist, meet the medical criteria, come up with €45 and you can use this effective, tried, tested, reliable medication. Everyone else in Europe has been doing it for decades, so why can’t we? Well sisters, yes we can! From today, we can. We might pay slightly more to do so than women in other countries, but yes we can.
The tide has turned. It’s going out on an era of repressive, fundamentalist theistic control of women in this State and it’s time to make some sandcastles. Of course, one morning-after pill does not a revolution make. Well, yes, actually it does. For those of us whose small, personal revolutions have been facilitated by the ability to control our fertility… for those of us who have taken emergency contraception when we needed to …. for those of us who have avoided undesired pregnancies… for those of us who have had a choice that begat more choices, the morning-after pill has meant a personal revolution. And sure isn’t the personal political? Hell yeah.
Women in Ireland are about to cross the Rubicon. It’s not that we couldn’t get the morning after pill – the Irish Family Planning Association and other organisations have brave-faced opposition from religious fundamentalists and a reluctant State and made it available to women via their clinics. And GPs are willing to prescribe it too (some GPs that is). Technically we could get the morning after pill it’s just that it has been hard. If you’re lying in bed in Kerry with a beautiful boy and a burst condom and it’s Saturday morning, getting hold of emergency contraception to use when it is most effective has been a scary chore. If more chemists follow in Boots’ footsteps (and they will) emergency contraception will become widely available across the State – particularly at weekends, when it is most needed. For women in Ireland, using emergency contraception will become a financial transaction stripped of moral judgment, a decision for an individual woman to make when she has weighed up her individual circumstances. Not a decision for a priest or a refusenik GP. Not a choice denied to her because of where she lives or what day of the week it is. Hallelujia. Choice is truly liberation.
It’s a good day for Irish women. So many of them have worked hard to get here and it’s an achievement we can all share. We stood up for ourselves and kept demanding. Of course, it’s ironic that it has taken a multi-national pharmaceutical retailer making a commercial decision to finally open the doors, but sometimes you take victory where you can find it. It is a victory for choice, freedom and dignity. See, we can make our own decisions. We are responsible adults.
Things are looking up.