Strike4Repeal will take place this Wednesday 8th March in Dublin and numerous cities around the world. As people withdraw their labour, industrial, domestic and otherwise, in a national strike in a move to focus the government on the urgency of repealing the 8th amendment, we might ask: how can we continue to support and advocate for those who are most affected by Ireland’s restrictive legislation on abortion?
Ireland’s Shady Past in Oppressing Women
It’s of course essential that we continue to give voice and show our support to the ten to twelve brave women who are forced to travel outside of Ireland daily to undergo a medical procedure which our public healthcare should provide. As traction continues to be gained on an issue which has waited too long to be resolved, we also need to give voice to those who can’t travel. Media reports confirming mass graves at the site of a former Mother and Baby home in Tuam serve as a harrowing reminder of the systemic abuses which women in Ireland, especially those already made vulnerable as a result of socio-economic marginalisation, have faced. This memory aid to our country’s disturbing selective amnesia regarding the serious structural violences facilitated by the state against the working class should cause us further alarm: the government’s lack of serious engagement with class issues, to the point of wilful ignorance, persists today.
Repeal: A Class Issue
The aftermath of the recession has seen economic inequality in Ireland only grow deeper – what has this meant for people struggling to gather the funds or get the time off of work to travel for a costly abortion? Abortion is, as Anne Howie emphasised during her brilliantly-argued and comprehensive presentation at the Citizen’s Assembly advocacy groups meeting last week, a class issue. Continuing on in the spirit of social solidarity and unity that Strike4Repeal symbolises, we need to remain constantly mindful of our political action and engage seriously with everyone that the government continues to isolate. How do we ensure moving forward that the Repeal movement remains united and inclusive, a strong opposition to a status quo that we can no longer accept?
It may seem that in introducing terms for the legislation of abortion after a repeal of the eighth amendment in these early stages when there isn’t even a referendum announced, we’re skipping a few steps and getting ahead of ourselves. And of course, the public discussion of terms for legal abortion in Ireland promises to be pretty unpleasant (we’re only at the stage of discussing a repeal of the eighth amendment and even still one of the presentations for the anti-choice advocacy groups at the citizen’s assembly entailed a horrifically graphic description of a late-term abortion conducted 30 years ago). Nonetheless, we need to get talking soon if we want to establish terms for abortion which will enshrine security for those who are made most vulnerable by Ireland’s extremely restrictive abortion laws.
As a bill for the minimalisation of penalties of abortion goes into the Dáil this week (abortion cannot be completely decriminalised due to the 8th amendment, so the bill proposes to reduce the penalty from 14 years of prison to a “peppercorn fine” of €1), we need to think ahead and address questions about the terms on which abortion in Ireland could be provided. Some terms that move towards the protection of those who are most alienated by the current state of affairs are, I think: the legalisation and provision of free, safe, and legal abortion at the will of the pregnant individual within the first trimester with conditions for abortion when necessary after this point and the provision of adequate services of support and care for the individual before and after the termination. Don’t agree? Good, let’s get talking.