The British Pregnancy Advisory Service has said it will provide a free after-care helpline to women in the Republic and Northern Ireland who have bought abortion pills on line. The agency said that while adverse effects of the abortion pill were unlikely, they were concerned that women might not always seek help when they needed it because taking the pills in Ireland was an illegal act.
This must be a relief for lots of Irish women now using abortion pills. But it highlights the disgraceful situation of these services not being offered in Ireland. Pregnancy agencies in Britain recognise that the illegal situation of abortion here puts women at risk, yet authorities in Ireland simply do not care.
The offence of procuring abortion, under the 2013 the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 carries a potential 14-year jail term.
In Northern Ireland administering a drug to induce miscarriage is a crime. Earlier this year, a 21 year old woman was given a suspended sentence in Belfast after she bought drugs online to induce a miscarriage.
Medical abortion involves taking two sets of pills: mifepristone which detaches the pregnancy from the lining of the womb and then misoporostol which causes the women to contract and expel the foetus.
This option has increased because the cost of travel to the UK, including treatment and accommodation means that many women cannot raise the money to go. Yet surgical abortion takes a short amount of time, is more effective than medical abortion and has less after effects.
Irish women face all these barriers because of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. Article 40.3.3 which equates the right to life of the so-called ‘unborn’ to the right to life of the so called ‘mother’ – both loaded terms – means that abortion in all circumstances is outlawed.
The wording reflects the teaching of one religion – the Catholic Church. The amendment was added at a time when the Church still ruled Irish society and politicians pandered to their every wish – and, as we know now, turned a blind eye to what was going on behind the scenes.
The government is still hypocritical today. Irish women are as likely as any other women in Europe to seek abortions, even though they are illegal here. Yet the government pretends it is not happening.
At the end of August, two Irish women who went to Manchester for an abortion live-tweeted the trip to highlight the ban on the procedure at home and called for change. Minister Simon Harris had the nerve to tweet that he had sympathy with the women. Yet his government is purposely delaying repealing the 8th Amendment so as not to upset the Fine Gael backwoodsmen.
But things have changed a lot since the 1980s. Today 73% believe that the new government should hold a referendum on repeal of the Eighth Amendment. In March of this year, A Red C poll commissioned by Amnesty International found that 87% of respondents want abortion access expanded and 71% believe abortion should be decriminalised. The fact that the Sydney Rose of Tralee declared her support for Repeal is a sign of how much things have moved on.
It is important that pressure is kept up on the government to repeal the 8th Amendment immediately. The citizens’ assembly, which will consist of 99 citizens picked randomly from the population under the direction of a retired judge, is a stalling tactic and a farce. The government is delighted, apparently, that this phoney forum will be live- streamed. Why don’t they let the issue be decided in full light of day in the Dáil?
Anti Austerity Alliance- People Before Profit TDs are putting forward a bill to call for a referendum in October 2016. We should put other TDs – Independents and Fianna Fáil- under pressure to vote with the bill.
The government needs to wake up to the real world. It needs to realise that people want to have a say on this issue. We need a referendum to Repeal the 8th Amendment to remove the main obstacle to Irish women controlling their fertility and having equal access to healthcare.
A new generation of young women need to be freed from the chains of conservatism and given the right to choose.
Last year showed that the same sex marriage referendum galvanised a massive yes vote. It blew apart the idea that the Irish are inherently conservative and working class areas – Jobstown, Coolock and Ballyfermot – returned ‘yes’ votes of over 80%.
Conservative forces will do all they can to drive pro-choicers back. In Coolock, on 24th August, the local GAA club banned a meeting organised by People Before Profit calling for Repeal. But their decision was met with a street meeting of angry women and men. PBP Councillor John Lyons said that the GAA cancelling the meeting was a disgraceful denial of free speech. ‘Yet again conservative forces in Ireand prefer to bury these issues and a new generation of young people are denied the right to discuss them’.
This weak government want to delay things as long as they can. We need to mobilise as many forces as we can to ensure that Repeal carries the day. We want to see people power on the streets, outside TD’s clinics, on campuses and putting the pressure on the government to commit to a referendum as soon as possible.
Join us in supporting the Annual March For Choice organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign on September 24th. The march will be leaving from the Garden of Remembrance at 1.30 pm. We will be meeting outside the Teachers Club. The Annual March For Choice has been growing massively over the years and this is likely to be the biggest one yet!
Add your voice to the Repeal The 8th Movement and march alongside People Before Profit before we put our bill before Dáil Eireann to demand a referendum.
Join the event page on the Abortion Rights Campaign – https://www.facebook.com/events/1733115056947687