As the results from the referendum in Ireland come in, it looks as though the Irish people have voted overwhelmingly to repeal draconian anti-abortion laws, Elly Badcock reports
In a historic moment for women’s rights, exit polls suggest that Ireland has voted to repeal an outdated, inhumane and misogynistic law which forced women to continue with pregnancies against their will or travel to the UK in shame and secrecy for an abortion.
Introduced in 1983, the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution granted equal rights to a foetus and the mother it depended on. In practice, this has meant a campaign of unjustifiable and abhorrent state-sponsored trauma inflicted on Irish women over the last 35 years.
Much of the media focus in Ireland has been on the ‘hard cases’; a supposedly small number of women whose children are diagnosed with fatal foetal anomalies in the womb, those who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, and those whose lives are at risk if they continue with their pregnancies. Anti-choice campaigners have disingenuously implied they are in favour of supporting these women; but, as numerous campaigners on the Yes trail have pointed out, lawmakers have had 35 years to legislate for these women and have consistently failed to do so. Anti-choice campaigners have appeared on national television justifying a full abortion ban by suggesting there is no evidence that mental illness exists, and that abortion is a greater horror than rape. It is with a great sense of satisfaction that the Irish people have consigned these politicians and their misogynistic attitudes to the dustbin of history where they belong.
Campaigners the length and breadth of Ireland have knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors in the run-up to this referendum; sometimes facing aggression and backlash from committed anti-choice campaigners, but more often receiving tearful gratitude and resolute support from women who have suffered in silence and shame for an unspeakable amount of time.
Paula Dennan, convenor of Kerry Together for Yes in rural Ireland, said:
293 women traveled from Kerry to the UK for an abortion between 2012 and 2016. These figures do not take into account the women in Kerry who didn't give their address, traveled to other European countries or who have taken the abortion pills at home risking 14 years in prison.
These are not nameless, faceless women. They are our mothers, daughters, granddaughters, aunts, nieces, cousins, friends, girlfriends, partners, wives, neighbours and co-workers.
Whilst Irish women in the Republic celebrate, it is imperative to remember that their sisters in Northern Ireland must continue to live under one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Accessing an abortion in Northern Ireland still carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; and the DUP who support and enforce this ban are propping up our Tory government in the UK. It is an unacceptable scandal that thousands of women in the UK are still being forced to continue with crisis pregnancies; follow Belfast Rally for Choice to be the first to hear about plans for reinvigorating the campaign for abortion freedom in the North.
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