Amidst the debates on potential government coalitions, emerged the idea that we need social democratic parties – such as the Labour Party – in order to bring about progressive social policy. This is not true. It was Fianna Fáil who brought in the 1947 Health Act which introduced universal health care. Provision of basic services such as these are legislated for only when the need for them becomes dire enough or when people get out on the streets and demand change – such as the protest involving 30,000 pensioners in October 2008 in response to a threat to withdraw medical cards.
The recent election represented a massive blow to anti-choice individuals and parties. The decimation of Renua is especially indicative of this, as rejection of bodily autonomy was implied in the foundation of their party when Creighton established the group as a direct response to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013.
Pro Choice activists made gains in the February election – with Clare Daly retaining her seat and Brid Smith winning a seat in Dublin South Central – to name just two.
Speaking to Socialist Worker, Clare Daly said:
“As it’s shaping up the possibility of a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael partnership is probably the worst combination for pushing repeal. That said, the momentum is accelerating with the latest Amnesty Red C poll demonstrating that across all social strata and all regions as well as ages; people believe that abortion provision must be widened in Ireland. The same poll revealed that people had least trust in politicians on this matter. Therefore, the reality is that it doesn’t matter who is in government, the external pressure from the population at home, combined with international human rights pressure abroad; means this issue will remain centre stage, until womens’ lives, health and choices are respected. The election of outspoken pro-choice TDs across the political spectrum will put more pressure and focus for change, than having Labour in government ever did.”
The discussion regarding repealing the 8th amendment to the constitution has allowed some politicians – such as Roisin Shorthall – to suggest that we need an alternative set of guidelines regulating women’s bodies in place, before we delete the line from our constitution which reduces women’s right to life to equal status with a foetus. This is a strategy designed only to slow progress, not to ensure the safety of the pregnant individual.
On this, newly elected TD for People Before Profit, Brid Smith stated:
“Abortion rights are an absolute priority. Talking about setting up commission is a delaying tactic. It is not acceptable that women have been forced to wait thirty years. The substantive issue should be brought to the people through a referendum within first few months of the next government’s term. After repealing that amendment, abortion would no longer be illegal, but a matter for the relevant health services. They will have to regulate abortion based on good practice and the mother’s choice and health.”
This amendment is also tying the hands of health care professionals when making decisions about routine procedures such as timing inductions. An array of grouping have emerged – such as “Doctors for Choice” and “Midwives for Choice”, which highlights the pressure the state has put on front line health workers by bringing in legislation which undermines an individual’s bodily autonomy.
It is too late for Savita Halappanavar and Ann Lovett, however it is not too late for current and future generations and it is imperative that we continue to use people power to pressurise the government to strike this odious amendment from our constitution.