YES to Repeal – Seize the time!

When Micheál Martin announced, on 18 January, that he knew that the 8th amendment had done great harm to women, that it had forced women to carry all pregnancies to term, that it had prevented Irish society from dealing humanely with women in traumatic situations, and that he would be supporting its repeal, something very significant was happening.

Socialist Worker

YES to Repeal – Seize the time!
Pic: Brid Smith TD and People Before Profit Councillors marching for Repeal

Brid Smith , People Before Profit TD

I don’t think that the whole thing was a revelation to him. In 2002, the failed Twenty-Fifth Amendment, which attempted to exclude the risk of suicide as a grounds for abortion, was led by Micheál Martin as the then Minister for Health.

Nor is it very likely that he had a Damascus-type conversion having read the Oireachtas committee report.

No, most likely he made a calculated guess.  Fianna Fail would have to look to the future. It would have to appeal to young people, to more women, to an urban vote.

That calculated guess may even have been made in consultation with Varadkar, who knows.

In any event, he reckoned that things could not go on as before. At a stroke, he gave a boost to the Repeal campaign. That can only be good for everyone who wants to see abortion legalized in this country.

Risks

Having just about survived the economic crisis and their austerity policies, the mainstream centre now face another political upheaval.

The Irish ruling class has historically relied on the Catholic Church.

To go against its teachings now represents a huge shift. Fine Gael’s new-found ‘liberal’ stance represents an attempt to manage change, renew its urban and youth support and, it hopes, to marginalise the radical activists and the left.

Its strategy relies on running the referendum campaign in a top-down, passive way. ‘Soft messaging’, fronted by experts in law and medicine, and low-key campaigning is how it hopes to win.

It is a risky strategy. As Martin’s ‘conversion’ shows, it will cause significant splits and ructions within the parties of the ruling class.

Having right-wing parties on our side also carries risks.  Fine Gael has donned its liberal cloak and some of its TDs identify with repeal.

But this may backfire. Working-class communities remember austerity, they experience the run- down public services; they see how the rich, under FG, are not taxed in this country.

The anti-choicers have understood poverty and homelessness has created wide resentment against the elites in Irish society.

Their hiring of a PR man from the British Brexit campaign is an indication that they will attempt to tap into this.

Mass
campaign

That’s why we need to build a massive YES campaign with a genuine presence everywhere. People Before Profit, already widely known for standing up against austerity and the water charges,sees that working-class communities care very much about so called ‘social issues’. We saw a high yes vote in working class areas in the Marriage Equality referendum.

People Before Profit have always had a pro-choice position. Lots of young people are fed up with the hypocrisy and conservatism of the Irish state. They care about the right to take abortion pills legally and with medical back-up. Its seems natural to them that abortion is all about choice.Already the large pro-choice marches have shown that there are lots of young women and men who will not be dictated to any longer.

The referendum is about the right of an individual to choose abortion. But it is also about the provisions of services and education that makes that choice open to everyone.

A woman could always have an abortion in this country if she could afford the €1400 or so it costs for a plane ticket and a British clinic. But when a woman is poor, a worker who cannot take time off, or an asylum seeker living in direct provision who cannot leave the country, things are not so easy.

That why we need full access to abortion – and to contraception and to full medical services – to make bodily autonomy a reality.

Abortion pills need to be decriminalized and provided free with proper medical supervision.In Northern Ireland three women have been arrested and charged for using or procuring the abortion pill.. That has to change.

At
Stake

It is very much my hope that if we get the eighth amendment out of the Constitution and begin to establish legal safe abortion in this part of the country, it will cross the Border. The North should have had it long before us under the 1968 Abortion Act in Britain.

Much is at stake in this referendum. If it wins, the door is open to take on the Catholic church in hospitals and schools, to seek full and non-judgmental sex education in schools, to demand that free contraception be made available.

People Before Profit activists are at the centre of the repeal movement. Only by being visible in the areas, with public meetings, stalls, going door to door reaching out to people will the mass campaignbe built. And that’s what we need to win.

 

Why does the 8th Amendment need to be repealed?

Because the teaching of one religion has no place in a constitution

Because it forces Irish women to access abortion facilities in secret and in shame

Because the 8th Amendment means that pregnant women in the Irish health care system do not receive the full range of health care available to women in other countries

Because we need legal medical support systems for women who face unwanted pregnancies

12 Irish women a day travel to the UK for abortions.Numbers of those accessing abortion pills in Ireland are impossible to know. But we do know that in June 2016, 78 abortion pills were seized in just 1 week.

A young woman from Dublin Bay North describes what she went through:

“A year ago, when I was experiencing a crisis pregnancy, I felt very alone. I remember one key moment was on the way over to Manchester at Dublin airport, I saw a much younger girl than me, on her own and in obvious distress, who I later saw again on the plane to Manchester. I guessed that she was doing the same as me, although she had no one with her. It started to dawn on me that I would have to take a stand and do all I could to get the 8th amendment out of the constitution”

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