Ireland’s maternity leave legislation will have its wording changed to include those who are not women, according to Green Party Equality Minister Roderic O’Gorman.
The comments were made in the Dáil this week while O’Gorman was discussing amendments to the Maternity Protection Act 1994.
“Section 15 amends the Maternity Protection Act 1994 at section 2(1) to provide for a new definition of “employee who is breastfeeding”, which extends the entitlement to breast-feeding breaks under the Act from six months to two years,” O’Gorman said.
“As I outlined, this will fulfil an important commitment.
“This section also deletes section 7(2) and amends section 16(1) by substituting “woman or other person” for “woman”. These amendments are necessary to ensure the entitlement to maternity leave is available to any person who gives birth.
“This language has been slightly amended from the general scheme proposals, following consultation with LGBTI+ organisations and women’s organisations, and has been deemed the most inclusive form of wording with which we can proceed.”
Effectively, the purpose of the new legislation is to allow individuals who identify as male under law, but who have a womb and cervix, utilise maternity leave. The implication is that not everyone who takes maternity leave is a woman, and that males can do this also.
Before O’Gorman’s announcement, Aontú leader Peadar Toibín TD spoke out strongly against any proposed removal of the word “woman” from the legislation.
“I wish to address an aspect of the Bill that has caused great controversy in recent months, that being, the deletion of the word “woman” from it,” he said.
“Across the country, people were angered that the Government would consider doing this. It shows that there is an increasing detachment of the Dáil bubble from the ordinary people of Ireland.
“Most people I spoke to were horrified to think that, after decades of women struggling, campaigning and fighting for equality, the political elites would, with the stroke of a pen, seek to delete references to women from legislation.”
Toibín added: “It is not an isolated action. The HSE produced documents recently that removed the word “woman” from information on cervical cancer and replaced it with “people with a cervix”.”
The Deputy was referring to the HSE’s controversial move to remove references to women from their web page discussing cervical cancer.
“This language caused confusion among people who were in a difficult health situation and damaged the clear messaging around CervicalCheck,” Toibín continued.
“It was also grossly insulting to many women to be called a “person with a cervix”. Women have a right to their identity. Identity is an important issue for many people. I cannot understand how deleting or erasing the identity of millions of women from legislation, the health service or even schools could be dressed up as inclusivity.”
Additionally, Independent TD Mattie McGrath spoke out against the move.
“The Minister has said changing the word “woman” is not in the Bill but we have a woman being described as a person with a cervix,” he said.
“Ordinary people come to me and email me. They have contacted me because they are aghast at the way we are going. They are aghast at some the legislation we are passing. They are fundamentally opposed to it. They are proud to be women and known as women and live a normal life. They feel we are going way over the threshold in an almighty rush to change the image of our country and turn it inside out.”
McGrath said that the issue was one which had importance for the “family unit” as a whole.
“I go back to the family unit,” he said.
“There are different kinds of family unit now. The family unit is so important for nurturing children and helping to support from the cradle to the grave. I have issues and we will table amendments, if we can do so, to seek more clarification.”
Reacting to the development on social media, UCD Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Gerard Casey, asked: “What human person, other than a woman, breastfeeds? What human person, other than a woman, requires maternity leave?”
Jokingly, Catholic Friar Fr. Brian McKevitt replied: “Oh, don’t be so exclusivist & bigoted. You’re still clinging to the old-fashioned notion of reason & rationality.”
McKevitt added: “This is 2022 where Alice in Wonderland rules. “A word means what I choose it to mean”, & that includes “mother”. Right to choose ideology now prevails in culture.”
Oh, don't be so exclusivist & bigoted.
You're still clinging to the old-fashioned notion of reason & rationality.
This is 2022 where Alice in Wonderland rules.
"A word means what I choose it to mean", & that includes "mother".
Right to choose ideology now prevails in culture.
— Brian McKevitt (@BMcKev) October 13, 2022
However, some were happy with the development, such as Irish Examiner journalist Alison O’Connor, who celebrated the fact that the word “woman” was included at all.
“Excellent News. Just in,” she said.
“The word ‘woman’ is no longer to be disappeared from our Maternity Acts.
Common sense has prevailed. Statement from Dept of Equality just now says “language has been slightly amended” and now reads “woman or other person”.”
Excellent News. Just in.
The word 'woman' is no longer to be disappeared from our Maternity Acts.
Common sense has prevailed.
Statement from Dept of Equality just now says "language has been slightly amended" and now reads “woman or other person”.
— Alison O'Connor (@alisonoconn) October 13, 2022