AS Ireland moves closer to its landmark referendum on abortion, the campaign has taken an odd turn: “pro-life” beer mats. These, along with anti-abortion posters to be placed above the urinals in men’s toilets, have been launched in the hope of starting “meaningful conversation” by Save the 8th – the campaign to retain Ireland’s ironclad abortion laws.

One can’t help but assume the brains behind this bizarre intervention – which references the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution, the legislation that bans abortion – have never been to a pub, nor had a meaningful conversation in their lives.

It is suitably ridiculous ephemera for a draconian campaign against women’s bodily freedom. Beer mats aside, the referendum shows how misogyny is woven into the social fabric. The amendment puts women’s lives on a par with a foetus on paper, and her health secondary to it in practice.

As the campaign rhetoric has been ramped up ahead of the May 25 vote, it has shown how women play a role in upholding the sexist ideology that undermines their progress and freedom. It’s far easier to point the finger at other women, to label them murderous Jezebels, than it is to defiantly profess progressive views where law treats women as second-class citizens. It’s easier to say nothing than suffer the social consequences of speaking up.

Even though this referendum isn’t happening here, it’s important to understand why it matters. Misguided attitudes and beliefs are a threat to all of our reproductive freedoms. Here is an approximation of some of the arguments I’ve encountered while trying to have a sensible discussion about abortion access.

“A foetus has the right to life. Abortion is state-sanctioned murder.”

If that same foetus kills the woman carrying it, does that then make the foetus a murderer? Or if it diminishes her health permanently as a result of the pregnancy, does the child carry the blame?

If abortion is permissible in some circumstances, how do you rationalise it? Either all life is precious, and all foetuses are considered fully human, or none are. If you oppose state-sanctioned murder, I presume you’re also a pacifist opposed to all military who quite literally carry out state-sanctioned murder. Is that a problem, or is it only a problem when it’s in a woman’s body?

Women are not obligated to sustain life or to martyr themselves to the potential of an unborn child. They are not a resource to be used, and or whose needs are lessened the moment they become pregnant.

The less obvious view underpinning this one is the biological essentialism that dictates women exist to bear children. It promotes the idea that a woman’s needs, wants and freedoms come second to her reproductive capacity. Women aren’t broodmares. They don’t owe you their wombs or the human race every child that might ever be conceived.

“If a woman doesn’t want a baby, she should put it up for adoption.”

This suggests that the only reason a woman would choose not to have a baby is that she doesn’t want to be a mother. It’s a simplistic and inaccurate encapsulation of why women terminate pregnancies, and adoption is not always a viable alternative. Pregnancy is not a neutral state. It’s taxing on a woman’s body, on her health.

And whether she raises the child herself or not, pregnancy and childbirth have a lasting legacy. It has the potential to kill her, to cause illness or postnatal depression. It can impact on her health and her wellbeing long before she gives birth, and long after – even if she hands over her child to the state.

And if her baby has special needs, then what? It’s an uncomfortable truth that babies with disabilities and extra care requirements are “hard to place”, meaning they are far less likely to find a family willing to adopt them.

There will always be women who want to have children, but can’t conceive. Some of them might want to adopt, but that is a separate issue. Women who can get pregnant do not owe their children to those who can’t.

“Abortion allows women to make rash, life-altering decisions.”

As a woman with four children, let me tell you, nothing is more life-altering than having a child. That also sounds like you don’t think women are capable of the lucidity required to make big decisions about their health, lives or future. Women are not too emotional, too stupid or too short-sighted to decide when pregnancy is right for them. You can bet that if men were expected to live with potential consequences of any sexual encounter, ie mandatory adoption or support of the child, choice would be on the table.

Abortion already happens in Ireland – it’s just that women and girls are forced to travel, buy medication online and seriously risk their health by seeking unsafe procedures. This makes access to reproductive healthcare a class issue. The wealthy will travel freely, others will make sacrifices to do so, and those most in the margins will be forced into motherhood or to take drastic measures. Those are the life-altering conditions abortion restriction forces. In a society where safe medical procedures can be carried out, it’s unethical to force women to bear the reproductive burden just because they’re the child-carrying sex.

“Women deserve better than abortion.”

I agree entirely. They deserve better, in every sense of the word. They could do without the state deciding what can and can’t grow inside them. But given that no sexual encounter is without risk, they deserve unfettered access to contraception, free from financial or social barriers. They deserve a society that doesn’t financially penalise them for giving birth or judge them for doing so outside of marriage, as a teen, or on their own.

They deserve to be seen as more than their reproductive potential. They deserve to have full control over how, when and with whom they choose to have children. They deserve to not be demonised by moralists for prioritising their health, their lives and their wellbeing over the wants and needs of other people.

We’re fortunate that here in Scotland attitudes towards women’s reproductive health are more progressive. We have a considerable degree of control over how, when and if we chose to have children. We’re largely free to discuss it, and to advocate a pro-choice position without the fear of social stigma, familial tension or a visit from the self-appointed morality police.

Given our relative freedoms, it’s easy to miss what repeal supporters are up against just a couple of hundred miles away. To get to the stage of having a referendum is a testament to the fearlessness of Irish women and their tireless campaigning in such openly hostile territory. They need our support. To know that they are not alone as they fight this vital battle for women’s emancipation. We may be separated by distance, but we are inextricably linked by the realities of our sex. We must stand with them.