Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA
By Emer O’Toole
Something has shifted in Ireland’s attitude to abortion. I see it in the opinions my friends express online, in conversations with my loved ones, even the timbre of the comments below pro-choice articles. This is borne out by empirical evidence too. Last July, an Amnesty poll found that 81% of Irish people favour more liberal abortion legislation; in October, an Irish Times poll found that 68% of people want a referendum on the eighth amendment, which enshrines the equal right to life of women and the unborn; and, just days ago, a second Amnesty poll found that 87% of people want access to abortion expanded, while 69% believe it should be a priority for the next government.
Legislation introduced in 2013 stipulates that the unborn’s right to life begins at implantation. To change the constitution, we need a referendum. Until we get one, the misogynistic ideology that a clump of differentiating cells holds moral parity with a woman remains the law of the land.
Over the last year, feminists in Ireland have been campaigning passionately for an abortion referendum, tapping into the progressive political current that carried Ireland’s marriage equality referendum to triumph in May 2015.
Tara Flynn, Róisín Ingle, Helen Linehan, and Susan Cahill bravely shared their abortion stories publicly. The activist group Rosa (for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity) toured the island on an ‘abortion pill bus’, providing banned medication to those in need, risking prison sentences of up to 14 years.
With wicked humour, the performance group Speaking of Imelda (Speaking of Ireland Making England the Legal Destination for Abortion) served the taoiseach, Enda Kenny, a pair of bright red knickers for choice at a fundraising dinner, while the comedian Gráinne Maguire convinced us all to tweet her details of our periods.
The annual march for choice is growing each year, and new pro-choice groups are popping up in every county.