Ireland is getting ready to decide whether or not abortion should be allowed in the country, at a national referendum on May 25th. Voters are expected to say Yes or No to repeal the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution. The law states that both mother and “unborn child” have the equal right to life.
Northern Ireland is the only country in the United Kingdom where abortion is restricted to cases when there’s a risk to the woman’s life or serious damage to her mental or physical health. In every other case, a woman is legally bound to carry the pregnancy and can face up to 14 years of prison in case of an illegal abortion. The same applies to the Republic of Ireland and more and more women have been traveling to London and other places to carry out abortions.
Talking Numbers: opinion polls indicate women’s victory
Statistics show that more than 150,000 Irish women had to travel abroad since 1980, to access basic reproductive rights unavailable in their country. But this number only refers to those who could afford leaving the country for an abortion. A more realistic picture would include the data from rural Ireland and poorer communities, which are more exposed to unsafe induced abortion procedures. Such methods include “coat hangers, starvation, high doses of vitamin C, strenuous exercise, large quantities of alcohol, scalding water, drinking bleach, throwing them downstairs or running into traffic”.
The latest opinion poll released by the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI on May 17th shows 44% for Yes to repealing the amendment against 32% for No. Numbers are constantly changing, but it looks the vote is going to be “tight, very very tight”.
The #HomeToVote campaign is urging expats of Ireland from other countries to come back and vote in the favor of better abortion laws. This 27-years-old is one of them and she’s ready to fly all the way from Australia. “When a woman gets pregnant in Ireland she becomes a second class citizen – this is not acceptable“, she explains.
Spreading the word for safe abortion in Ireland
The draconian 8th Amendment has been under scrutiny for a year now and, all over the world, we people have been saying – and writing – #Repealthe8th. As repressive as it is, the law has ironically paved the way to shift the conversation on women’s reproductive rights and managed to get the mainstream media to talk about it.
Everywhere, the understanding that safe abortion is a undeniable right has reached an unmatched level of support. It has engaged artists, schools, housewives, liberal and conservative politicians, and, above all, common citizens like you and your family, including Muslin leadership.
Resistance and friction are known to be the vital force behind the progress of each society. Public debate about women’s sexual and reproductive rights is key to highlight centuries of political and legislative injustices within the system and consequently bring more awareness and information to the public.
No matter how much the overexposure to anti-abortion propaganda can make us feel these are dark times for our reproductive rights, it’s moments like this that remind us, at safe2choose, how important it is to take a side. The side of reproductive justice, body autonomy and women’s rights.
How can each of us make a difference
Even though, we might be watching this moment from a thousand miles away – without a chance to vote or protest locally – we can still make our voices be heard for all the women who lack basic reproductive rights. Not only in Ireland, but in our homes too. We’ll be following the polls and we’ll be with them in our minds to celebrate victory.
Check out some of the incredible groups who are making a difference:
Feeling inspired? Share this article and join us with the hashtags #Together4Yes #RepealThe8th, #HomeToVote, #WhoNeedsYourYes, #InHerShoes, #FashionIsRepealing, #farmers4yes, #men4yes, #VoteYes. Together we’re making a lot of noise!
By Aqsa Kay