Repealing the 8th – Time to push forward

The results of the Citizens Assembly and consistent opinion polls show that the large majority of the Irish people support abortion rights for women in a form that is incompatible with the 8th Amendment.

Socialist Worker

Repealing the 8th – Time to push forward

By Mary Smith

For example a poll earlier this year showed that more than 80% of the population would favour the right to abortion in circumstances where there is a threat to woman’s health. This completely contradicts the 8th Amendment which equates the life of the foetus with that of the mother.

The same opinion poll showed over 70% in favour, if abortion is legalised, of allowing abortion up to 12 weeks.

Again this is utterly opposed to the 8th Amendment.

Yet the Fine Gael/Independent Alliance government is still dragging its feat on the issue. Leo Varadkar, the supposed liberal and progressive, is in particular trying to evade and prevaricate on the question.

Varadkar’s and his government’s strategy is to exploit the complexity of the issue to hide behind public opinion. But this won’t wash.

Yes, people will have different views on the details. Some, like People Before Profit and most socialists are committed to a free, safe and legal abortion rights for all and uncompromisingly in favour of a woman’s right to choose, whereas others like Sinn Fein, for example, may favour restrictions but this doesn’t change the fact that the 8th has to be repealed.

In reality what concerns Varadkar is not general ‘public opinion’ but appeasing his conservative and right wing base in Fine Gael – the base he relied on to win the Fine Gael leadership. It is because both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have relied on, and curried favour with, this conservative base for decades that there has been no progress on this issue for so long.

But now it is clear that Ireland has changed and changed fundamentally. There is a new generation of young Irish women (and men) for whom denial of their bodily autonomy is no longer acceptable.

And the way they have made themselves heard has given confidence to the latent majority for choice among the mass of working class people, including many older people.

This means that now is the time for the vibrant movement for choice to really put the pressure on the government to force a referendum NOW – a straightforward referendum on Repealing the 8th  with no strings or complications – not waiting for the Pope’s visit or other such nonsense.

To do this the whole Repeal movement has to hit the streets in huge numbers: first on 30 September in the March for Choice; but also in every local community across the State.

We need local groups organising everywhere, with stalls, meetings, rallies, and ultimately, door-to-door canvassing.

This is what was done for the Marriage Equality referendum and it was what delivered the stunning YES vote which so impressed and surprised the rest of the world.

This is what must happen for Repeal: we need a real people’s movement from below to win an Ireland fit for women in the 21st century.

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