This is big.
When it comes to reproductive rights, Ireland was the big bad. It was one of the last bastions of medieval Catholic cultural hegemony left in Europe.
Now the bastion has fallen to forces of equality, of modernity. Not for nothing did Martin Luther King Jr famously say the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
Ireland was the place of Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes, no divorce, no contraception, and clerical sexual abuse with impunity. That terrible legacy is gone now. Soon Irish women will be able to get abortion care in their home country.
All these changes have come within a single lifespan. It boggles.
Most of these changes came earlier to New Zealand. But abortion was the exception to New Zealand’s vaunted progressivism. Our legal regime is older than Ireland’s. It’s less Draconian, but almost as hypocritical.
New Zealand went from illegal abortion, to a single maverick clinic in the early 1970s, to the unwelcome and retrograde legal regime imposed in 1977, to the surreptitiously permissive application of that law while successive governments looked the other way for 40 years.
Now we seem to have a government willing to address the issue of abortion law reform and to bring our country’s laws into the 21c.
Good intentions count for a lot, because they get things started. But between intention and completion lies a lot of ground for political manoeuvring. To get the kind of law reform that puts an end to discrimination against women and pregnant people, that acknowledges our right to bodily autonomy, we must keep pressure on our elected representatives.
Today we celebrate for Ireland. But we dare not be complacent for New Zealand.