They called her Ms Y: Migration and abortion

pro-choice-protests-6-310x415They called her Ms Y. She is a young asylum seeker who had been raped in her country of origin. When she arrived in Ireland she realised she was pregnant during the medical examination; she asked for an abortion and was told she could have one at eight weeks. But by the time she had spent weeks in hospital, being assessed by a variety of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and obstetricians, she was told that the only way of ending her unwanted pregnancy was to have a Caesarean section.

Like many other pregnant migrants, going for abortion in England was not an option for Ms Y. Although the process seemed to be in train, she found out that the estimated cost of travelling to England, having the abortion and possible overnight accommodation could be over €1,500 and that the State would not fund the costs. At this stage she was 16 weeks pregnant and although being pregnant because of rape is a source of great shame in her society, she had no option but to have that Caesarean section at 24 weeks.
A new December 2014 report by the IFPA, Right to Travel for Abortion Not Reality for All Women in Ireland (http://www.ifpa.ie/node/601) reveals that at least 26 asylum seekers or migrant women with travel difficulties who had used its counselling services in the 12 months prior were unable to access abortion abroad due to insurmountable legal, travel and financial obstacles. As a result at least five of the women were compelled to continue with their pregnancies and gave birth against their wishes.
In Ireland it is almost impossible for a pregnant asylum seeker to arrange travel to access abortion abroad. The first obstacle is obtaining an entry visa to the country they wish to go to; the UK has been reluctant to issue entry visas to women with temporary travel documents, so pregnant asylum seekers often prefer the Netherlands.

Continue reading “They called her Ms Y: Migration and abortion”

Book review: Pregnant on Arrival: Making the Illegal Immigrant, Eithe Luibheid

pregnant-on-arrivalPublisher: University of Minnesota Press 2013     Price: $25

ISBN 978-0-8166-8100-6

In January 2002, a Nigerian woman appealed to the Irish High Court to prevent her deportation on the ground that she was pregnant. Her lawyers argued that her deportation contravened Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution which guarantees to defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn, who, Irish law considers to be ‘a person’. The woman, who became known as Ms O, had lost her asylum application and her appeal, but in a judicial review of her deportation order, building on the right to life of the unborn, she argued that due to high Nigerian infant mortality rates, the rights of her unborn child could not be guaranteed if she was deported. The Supreme Court rejected her appeal, apparently concluding that in the case of some (non-Irish) women, the unborn is not a person. In this book Eithne Luibhéid employs Ms O’s case alongside the infamous X case to draw attention to the long history of Irish women travelling across borders, both as emigrants and as women seeking abortions abroad, and the shorter history of women immigrating into Ireland, to suggest that the Irish state’s pro-life position is one of the factors shaping its approach to managing migration in and out of the country, and thus, that (hetero)sexuality is a factor in shaping Irish immigration policies.

Considering the plethora of recent books on the topic of immigration to Ireland and, to a lesser extent, emigration from Ireland, and though there had been several previous studies of Irish women emigrants,   it is surprising that Luibhéid’s Pregnant on Arrival: The Making of the Illegal Immigrant is the first volume to fully engender migration which, she argues, illustrates Ireland’s heteronormative regime. Luibhéid’s main argument is that constructing pregnant migrant women, and in particular pregnant asylum seekers, as illegal immigrants, has implications not merely for Ireland’s immigration and deportation regimes, but also for the future of the children born to these women through what she calls ‘reproductive futurism’. Continue reading “Book review: Pregnant on Arrival: Making the Illegal Immigrant, Eithe Luibheid”

Legislate against prostitution

I didn’t really want to write about prostitution again. When I did so in 1981, research exposed a horrible world of sexual violation and violence. I didn’t really want to go there again, but was challenged by Patricia Kelleher who did the research for Turn Off the Red Light, the Immigrant Council of Ireland campaign. When articles by women who I had considered feminists started appearing in the press, defending prostitutes’ right to choose to work in the sex industry, and by implication, men’s right to continue to dehumanise and violate women, I felt I could not be silent any more. Reading Rachel Moran’s book, Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Dublin: Gill and McMillan, 2013), persuaded me to support the demand to fight prostitution by criminalising clients, hence this article. I was going to use Moran’s photograph to illustrate the article, but decided not to objectify her – her words speak for themselves. Please read the book.

To complete the argument, I am also pasting below the Israeli journalist Vered Lee’s article, calling to criminalise clients, not prostitutes.

The proposal by the Oireachtas (Irish houses of Parliament) to adopt the ‘Swedish model’ that seeks to abolish prostitution by criminalising the buyers rather than the sellers of sex, has incurred opposition by several Irish academics. In a recent Irish Times article Dr Eílis Ward of NUI Galway criticised the lack of evidence for this proposal, based on the ‘Turn off the Red Light’ campaign. Her liberal feminist argument that women should be free to be sex workers ignores the violence, coercion and abuse that dominate the sex trade, in Ireland and throughout the world. Prostitution, she argues, without a shred of evidence, cannot be abolished.

Unlike Ward, I did research the topic. In April 1981 Geraldine Niland and I published a two part series in the Irish Times on the lives of real prostitutes in Dublin. We spent several weeks ‘on the beat’ with the women, interviewing many prostitutes and male clients. The women insisted that without clients, prostitution would not exist. Clients came from all walks of life. From married men seeking casual sex on Percy Place on the way home from the pub, to priests whose dog collars on the back seat gave them away, and who the women described as ‘taking from the poor to give to the poor’. Many of the women were abused as children, most had a drug habit and all spoke of their wish to leave prostitution. For most the decision to enter ‘the life’ was a lack of real choice. Most of the women we interviewed would agree with how one of them described herself: ‘you’re dirt, and no good to anyone’. Continue reading “Legislate against prostitution”