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Ireland erases women

A change in language is no small thing

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Ireland erases women
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Tomorrow, on International Women’s Day, Ireland will vote to erase the word “mother” from its constitution.

It’s ironic that on a day designed to honor women, Ireland will vote to erase the word that symbolizes the most uniquely feminine thing about women from its foundational document. The vote has been called in order to render Ireland “a kinder, a more inclusive society and one that acknowledges and respects the needs of all citizens,” according to Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman.

To Mr. O’Gorman I might ask how the mothers, particularly the stay-at-home mothers, in his country feel about Irish society in light of such a change. Because as a stay-at-home mother myself, it’s hard to imagine that they’d feel included, acknowledged, or respected, especially while doing the difficult, oftentimes isolating and thankless (though surely rewarding!) job of raising young children.

Of course, the erasure of women and redefinition of “family” is a pervasive effort amongst liberal elites who everywhere seek to flatten any and all distinction in the name of “equality.” But as author Leah Libresco Sargeant has noted, “when ‘equal’ treatment for men and women means asking women to be interchangeable with men,” women always “wind up shortchanged.”

Perhaps most ironic is that the provision on the chopping block actually protects women from government pressure to be interchangeable cogs in an economic machine that values no distinction but profit. Only compounding the irony is the fact that the work a mother does to raise children to be virtuous people creates and usually multiplies the number of able-bodied citizens who will contribute to society in a couple of decades.

The provision to be changed states that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved,” and that the State “shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.” Apparently those seeking to change the provision consider the language misogynistic. But must any talk of women raising children in the home elicit images of the actually misogynistic trope of the “barefoot woman pregnant in the kitchen”? And has anyone considered whether women might appreciate the choice to love children and create a nurturing environment for them at home instead of being pressured, whether by government, society, or the economy, to farm them out to external “care”?

Irish and Americans alike would do well to remember that the de-Christianization of society will only ever result in injustice.

The erasure of the statute actually leaves women vulnerable to exploitation by the state, which seems to think its only purpose is to inflate its GDP by forcing as many able-bodied humans into work outside the home as possible. (Is it any wonder why such a society doesn’t value children, members of society who by law cannot contribute to gross domestic product?)

In fact, we see this very thing play out in America, which has no such provision of protection for mothers in its law, and where women largely receive no paid maternity leave, are pressured into returning to work sometimes a matter of days or weeks after giving birth, where attaining financial stability can require a two-earner household income, and where families are pressured into outsourcing childcare to the state via public schools that catechize their children in the secularism that caused the problem in the first place.

According to John Duggan, who spent part of his childhood in Ireland, the effort to change the Irish Constitution is only the latest push to de-Catholicize Ireland in favor of full secularization; Pro-lifers might remember that just six years ago, Ireland amended its Constitution to allow for abortion. Ireland had previously been one of the only Western nations holding strong against radical abortion activists.

Irish and Americans alike would do well to remember that the de-Christianization of society will only ever result in injustice. And injustice always comes for the weakest, most vulnerable members of society first. As Sargeant continues, “Real justice for women requires welcoming us as women, not helping us better pass as ‘neutral’ humans.”

When all differentiation between men and women is coded as misogyny, we lose the distinctiveness of each. As G.K. Chesterton once said, the most vicious thing in a society is not rampant vice, but isolated virtue. Ireland’s ironic vote on International Women’s Day is only the latest example of a western society whose attempted empathy has become untethered from truth, and as a result, whose conception of biology has become untethered from reality.

Katelyn Walls Shelton

Katelyn Walls Shelton is a Bioethics Fellow at the Paul Ramsey Institute. She is a women’s health policy consultant who previously worked to promote the well-being of women and the unborn at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She graduated from Yale Divinity School and Union University and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, John, and their three children.


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