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A comparison between contraception and abortion laws, and attitudes to them, in the Czech Republic and Ireland

A comparison between contraception and abortion laws, and attitudes to them, in the Czech Republic and Ireland

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A focus on the level of liberalism in these two countries in legalising contraception will serve as a backdrop for the main focus of the essay, an analysis of abortion laws in the Czech Republic and Ireland-there will also be an analysis of popular opinion on these laws in these respective countries.
A focus on the level of liberalism in these two countries in legalising contraception will serve as a backdrop for the main focus of the essay, an analysis of abortion laws in the Czech Republic and Ireland-there will also be an analysis of popular opinion on these laws in these respective countries.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
A comparison between contraception and abortion laws, andattitudes to them, in the Czech Republic and IrelandOrna Mc Donald 16/5/2008
Teacher: Pavla JonssonovaCourse Title: Gender and Post-Socialist TransformationThis essay will first endeavour to study the concept of motherhood in general,focusing on societal pressures that mothers faced in the past and still face incontemporary society and the important link between women and the workplace,especially prominent in the Czech Republic whilst under Communism. Then, theessay’s attention will focus on contraception laws in the Czech Republic, withcomparisons to Ireland. A focus on the level of liberalism in these two countries inlegalising contraception will serve as a backdrop for the main focus of the essay, ananalysis of abortion laws in the Czech Republic and Ireland-there will also be ananalysis of popular opinion on these laws in these respective countries. The essay willshow the indisputable current disparities between the Czech and Irish Constitutionsand often between the opinions of the common individual regarding contraception andabortion, despite the fact that both countries are susceptible to change over time. Aswas seen in the 1967 debates in California on the topic of abortion: “A group of women who valued motherhood, but valued it on their own timetable, began to makea new claim, one that had never surfaced in the abortion debate before this, thatabortion was a woman’s
right 
.”
1
 This is representative of a global trend in thinkingsince then. As a result of these new and powerful claims, the abortion debate is to thefore in many societies, as women question their reproductive rights, regardless of legalisation.Women faced extreme pressure in the past and continue to do so, despite thefact that the pressures women of the past were privy to often differ slightly to modernwoes. Many women feel that they will be condemned by society as a result of their decisions regarding their personal lives and careers. If mothers choose to solely stay athome, they are criticised for not having the sort of ambitions that contemporarysociety is often contingent upon. If they simply work, they are seen as abandoningtheir responsibilities to reproduce and if they try to do both, they work the “double
1
Luker, Kristin,
 Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood 
(Berkeley: University of California Press,1984), p.92
1
 
A comparison between contraception and abortion laws, andattitudes to them, in the Czech Republic and IrelandOrna Mc Donald 16/5/2008
shift” and are castigated for the fact that they do not give sufficient attention to either sphere. Women feel that there is no ‘easy’ option and that they will be ‘damned if they do’ and ‘damned if they don’t’, as shown in this clever, but realistic quote, fromone woman who sums up societal mentality: “Want to have a child? Well don’t do ittoo early. Don’t leave it too late. Don’t do it before you’re nicely settled. Don’t havean abortion. Don’t have an unwanted child. Don’t be a single parent.” 
2
 Also, women face pressure to only become mothers within society’s view of the ‘right’ social, sexual and economic circumstances, everything outside of these setcategories seeming deviant: “There is a hierarchy of motherhood with theheterosexual, white, middle-class married woman being the most highly valued.”
3
Therefore, women not only have to make the decision on whether or not to becomemothers in the first place, but they also face the pressure to only do it in a specificway. This is heightened by the media who often offer a narrow portrayal of motherhood, only showing women settled in families, as opposed to focusing onvariants, such as the single mother. The media constantly creates pictures of ‘bad’mothers who neglect their children when they go on holidays or who put their career needs before their children’s needs. Not only do women have to fear criticism fromthe media but they are often mocked by other women who exaggerate their flaws andcritique them for being ambitious and not fitting the stereotypical role of motherhood,as B.K.Rothman describes: “She’s the woman who organises her birth do it doesn’tinterfere with her life. Sometimes it’s the elective caesarean section scheduled for aconvenient work-break. Sometimes it’s the woman who takes business calls or  polishes her nails, or both, while in labour with an epidural.”
4
Birth and motherhoodare seen as all encompassing to some and anybody who does not view it in a similar way feels somewhat ostracised from mainstream motherhood.Another new aspect of motherhood is the changing role of fatherhood, asmany fathers have come to assume more responsibility for rearing their children thanthey have in the past. This can be encouraging for women, as they do not have to
2
Bennett, as quoted in Earler, Sarah and Letherby, Gayle (eds),
Gender, Identity and Reproduction-Social Perspectives
(Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p.2
3
Earler and Letherby, p.4
4
B.K Rothman, as quoted in Earler and Letherby (eds), p.78
2
 
A comparison between contraception and abortion laws, andattitudes to them, in the Czech Republic and IrelandOrna Mc Donald 16/5/2008
shoulder the domestic burden alone. Simultaneously, some women feel threatened bythis, as the increasing involvement of men challenges the idea that reproduction issolely women’s business, visible in the conflicting emotions inspired in women by thecourt case in the UK, where Stephen Hone went to the High Court to stop his pregnant ex-girlfriend form having an abortion.
5
There is also intense media coveragein our society of this ‘new’, nurturing father, which creates a traditional/ newdichotomy among fathers. The crisis in fatherhood inevitably has an impact on therole of motherhood, whether this impact is for better or worse is quite subjective.Careers have an important influence on female decisions about motherhood,something that was even more significant in Czechoslovakia whilst under Communism. Czechoslovakia had nearly full female employment by 1960. There wasalso a rising female education rate and a decrease in consumer goods, which caused adecrease in fertility rates. This prompted fear among Communist authorities that the population would diminish, consequently resulting in a shrinking workforce. As aresult, the government developed pro-natalist policies. Incentives such as longer maternity leaves were offered to encourage people to have children and there werealso disincentives to remaining childless, such as the privatisation of abortion. These proved to be effective, with a substantial increase in the birth rate after 1970.True outlines how women felt totally torn and did not appreciate being forcedinto motherhood, especially if they were not naturally inclined towards it: “Womenare torn in all directions by the demands on them at home; relations in the family areso bad that (women) do not want to be at home, and so for them, work is the onlysocial activity.”
6
The housing crisis was also used by the Communists and renderedwomen mere pawns- women were torn between wanting a career and a consequentdesire to remain childless and the fact that, as a result of the housing crisis, peoplewere only guaranteed accommodation if they had a family. In subsequent years, policies encouraged women to leave paid employment as it meant there was lessfinancial stress on the State to provide for childcare. Many women saw this as the
5
Earler and Letherby, p.4
6
True, Jackie
Chapter 2:’Gendering State Socialism’ 
in
Gender, Globalisation and Post-Socialism
(New York: Columbia UP, 2003), p.44
3

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