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8th amendment

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Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed the launch of a public consultation on increasing access to contraception.

Earlier in 2019, Harris created a working group to consider the policy, regulatory and legislative issues regarding improved access to contraception.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended access to free contraception, which the Minister has repeatedly claimed he hopes to achieve.

Image: RTÉ

Harris claimed he was aiming to give all women access to free contraception this year, and the public consultation will remain open until midnight on Monday, August 5 and is available on the Department of Health website

“Removing barriers to contraception in a key priority for me as Minister for Health,” Harris said.

“We have begun that work through the expansion of free access to condoms this year. This allows for expanded access to the groups most at risk, and within the youth sector, including third level facilities," he added.

Harris continued by emphasising the importance of public opinion in terms of informing the government and stakeholders on the issue.

“I would encourage all those with an interest to engage with the Department’s consultation before it concludes. It is our ambition to have the working group’s report concluded by September,” Harris said. 

The consultation responses will inform the working group's assessment of the problem, and should aid the group in making appropriate recommendations to the Minister.

The working group will investigate the extent to which cost is a barrier to getting reliable contraceptive options in this country.

Other factors influencing ease of access to contraception will hopefully also be addressed, such as financial barriers, legislative barriers, regulatory issues, and contractual issues. 

At the moment, women who have a medical card can gain free contraception. Without a medical card, the public have to pay for an initial consultation as well as a repeat appointment every six months for a renewal.

Options apart from the pill include the Implanon implant, or the Kyleena or Merina coil. Injections and a patch are other, less common options.

TheJournal.ie previously stated that Simon Harris has been lobbied by a pharmaceutical company and the pharmacy union in recent months, as plans for potential free contraception progress.

Feature image: RTÉ

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Helping our sisters up in the North of Ireland in their fight for reproductive healthcare can take just a few minutes; all you have to do is email your MP. 

We can remember the emotional distress and pain endured one year ago, when the 8th Amendment was repealed by 66 percent in a groundbreaking referendum which shook the nation.

It's hard to believe that a whole 365 days have passed since that moment, and even though the new reproductive healthcare measures are experiencing teething problems, we've changed the law forever.

With Alabama and Georgia passing hugely restrictive anti-abortion laws in their states over the last few weeks, the people of America are rightfully scared at the blatant attack against Roe v Wade. The state has criminalised abortion in any stage of pregnancy, including in circumstances of rape and incest, and is punishable by up to 99 years in prison in six months time, when the law is enforced.

This 1973 landmark decision of the US Supreme Court changed America's reproductive healthcare in the Constitution. The ruling that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental "right to privacy" protects a pregnant women's freedom to choose abortion or not.

Right-wing, conservative governments in the Southern states of America are targeting this ruling, and it's causing a Handmaid's Tale effect. Rightfully, focus has shifted back to Northern Ireland, which has even stricter laws.

On May 25, 2018, Ireland voted to pull it's women up and out of a criminalisation system surrounding their bodies and choices. Our hearts break for Alabama, but the North is still part of our home, our island. They deserve a choice too.

The 8th Amendment outlawed abortion in virtually all circumstances; Northern Ireland's laws would put a woman who had an abortion in prison for life, as well as the healthcare provider. 

Women in the North have zero access to legal abortion services unless they travel abroad, and are charged a large fee if they enter the Irish HSE system, despite being next door. Exceptions up North are only made in extreme medical and mental circumstances, but not for pregnancies as a result of rape.

Prison is the punishment for medical staff who perform abortion, unless the procedure is approved by two doctors. More than 900 women travelled to England and Wales in 2017 to 2018  to seek termination.

Alliance For Choice in Northern Ireland have written an emotional letter to the people of Alabama fighting back against this Draconian Trump-era law, which has led to widespread protest.

"We have begged and pleaded with the UK government to hurry up and address these human rights abuses in Northern Ireland for decades. We are still being ignored, so we really hope, like us, you get to the ear of some great politicians and great people on your side as we know how relentless and tiring the whole thing is. Don’t give up hope."

Their message was to fight with everything they had; get arrested, risk having their flat searched, create good relationships with online pill providers and healthcare practitioners, but most importantly to represent the people. Sharing information that is factually sound to the most amount of people is vital.

Grassroots movements are the reason why the 8th was repealed; not a single politician or party. Those 25 white men in Alabama who created this monster don't realise how powerful a group of people who want bodily autonomy can be. While the North has a smaller population than Alabama or America, the Republic is on their side.

While the Alabama laws cannot yet be enforced, up North there are heartbreaking cases which are still ongoing. One Northern Irish woman was reported by her GP for procuring safe but illegal abortion pills for her then-15 year old daughter, and is now embroiled in a legal battle. Things aren't looking good for their political situation.

At the moment, they are over 850 days without a functioning government after Stormont's 2017 collapse, and no legislation has been passed in over two years. The state is being left behind, and so are the women.

Notably, women-of-colour, those from the LGBTQ+ communities, migrants, those with mental health issues and those from lower economic backgrounds are the worst affected. Their lack of funding and policies relating to sexual violence and marriage equality are worth noting, clearly human rights abuses aren't on their list of priorities.

Westminster needs to act to impose fit-for-purpose abortion legislation for NI, seeing as their government is virtually non-existent. The people of the North contribute to the NHS as much as their UK counterparts, and deserve healthcare that represents the needs of their world.

The fears of upsetting the fraught relationship with the DUP and their ultra-conservative ideals are holding the Tory government back from taking this all-important action. In 2017, Labour's Stella Creasy instigated a rule that gave Northern Irish people access to free abortion care if they travel to England.

The costs of travel, emotional and domestic stress of uprooting and stigma-soaked journey to access this healthcare is hugely traumatic. Your own home is uprooting you, your own country is telling you that they don't believe you have the right to make a choice about your body.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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We urge you all to write to your MPs through #NowForNI, as well as donate to groups like Alliance for Choice and Abortion Support Network. 

Don't leave the North behind; it's the power of the people that will complete the final push in this battle, just like Repeal.

Feature image: inews.co.uk 

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After months of intensive, divisive campaigning, the Irish majority saw their May referendum vote come to fruition last night. 

Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion is officially lifted.

The 8th amendment was removed from the Irish Constitution, as President Michael D Higgins signed the formal repeal legislation.  

The signing allowed the 8th Amendment to be replaced in the constitution with the 36th Amendment of the Constitution, which reads:

'Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.'

As the Amendment says, the government can now make steps to sign legislation allowing abortion up to 12 weeks in Ireland. 

The referendum saw Ireland vote 66.4% to 33.6% to remove the amendment.

More than two million people turned out to vote.

The Abortion Rights Campaign's March for Choice will take place to September 29th, rallying for free, safe and legal abortion access. 

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On Saturday, the people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment, thus allowing the government to legislate for the legal termination of pregnancy. 

Following the historic result, Minister for Health Simon Harris revealed that the new legal framework to replace the Eighth Amendment will be drafted as soon as possible.

During a Dáil  sitting this week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told members that he plans to have the legislation in place by January 1, 2018. 

'The view of government is that it wants to legislate for the termination of pregnancies as soon as possible,' Varadkar said.

'But we don’t want to rush it either.'

'There will be people who don’t accept this result, and people who will wish to challenge.'

'It’s important that we act with haste, but not with so much haste that we bring through bad legislation.'

Some Dáil  members are calling for the government to forego their summer recess to allow the legislation to be drafted and passed in a timely manner. 

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Together For Yes have shared their support to name the new abortion legislation after Savita Halappanavar following her family’s request.

They believe that it would be the perfect way to honour Savita, who died of complications of a septic miscarriage. Savita was denied a termination, despite her request, and was told by a midwife manager at Galway University Hospital that she could not have an abortion because Ireland was a “Catholic country.”

Grainne Griffin, who is the co-director of the Together For Yes group, said: “In terms of Savita and her family I think our country owes them a great debt and we were so honoured and so touched by the support that they lent to the campaign over the course of it."

She added, “I was really glad to see her father say that yesterday they felt they had justice for their daughter."

Following the results of the abortion referendum, which seen the Yes side win by a landslide 66.4 percent, Savita’s parents issued a statement thanking the country.

Her father, Andanappa Yalagi stated that he has "no words to express his gratitude to the people of Ireland."

“I want to thank you so much. I want to say ‘Thank you’ to our brothers and sisters in Ireland for voting Yes. It is very important. There has been really a lot, too much struggle for the Irish ladies,” he added.

“We are really, really happy. We have one last request, that the new law, that it is called ‘Savita’s law’. It should be named for her,” he expressed.

It is understood that Simon Harris is hopeful that the new legislation will be in place by the end of the year.

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On Friday, we took to the polling stations after months of canvassing, discussing and marching.

The Irish people voted to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution, in a landslide victory.

It was, of course, an emotional weekend for many – as Ireland moves forward into a brighter and more compassionate future. 

Twitter has been awash with kind words, uplifting messages and stories that would warm even the coldest of hearts.

Here are some of our favourite responses to the decision to repeal the 8th amendment (finally!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today is the day folks. 

Irish people are taking to the polls, to vote on whether or not the archaic 8th amendment should be repealed. 

We have watched heartwarming videos of people returning home, we have listened to brave women share their stories, and we have shed a tear on occasion.

One thing that really struck me (and made me extremely emotional) is the attention the referendum is getting aboard – particularly among celebs.

There's something incredible about seeing people you admire taking to their social media to support a cause relevant to your future, and the future of all Irish women.

Here are just a few of the amazing celebrities who are supporting a change to the 8th amendment – because it's about bloody time! 

Niall Horan

P!NK

 

IRELAND: #repealthe8th #togetherforyes

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Adwoaa Aboah

 

Standing in solidarity with my ladies in Ireland today and always. 

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Emma Watson

Lily Allen

Ian Madigan

Christy Turlington

 

#repealthe8th @dominowhisker #voteyes #listentowomen

A post shared by Christy Turlington Burns (@cturlington) on

Pixie Geldof

 

I stand with the women of Ireland, today and always #repealthe8th

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Alexa Chung

Courtney Cox

Boy George

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Abortion – to some, a dirty word, and to others, a medical tool that allows us to establish full autonomy over our bodies as women. 

As Ireland prepares to lay their heads to rest for the final time before voting in the referendum to repeal or maintain the 8th amendment to the constitution tomorrow, some will sleep soundly, assured of their vote either way. 

Others among us will have a restless night, still undecided on which box to apply that all-powerful X to come morning. Those who won't sleep at all are the individuals who have been impacted by the constraints of the amendment, as many wonder what judgement their own country will lay upon them in the ballot box. 

 

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In 1983, when the amendment was added, I didn't exist, and had no say on a constitutional restriction that affects me every day. My own mother was barely old enough to vote at the time of the previous referendum, but voted against it's installation in our constitution. At the time, the amendment was passed, and we were granted the restrictive laws we have today. 

A decade after she placed her vote in the ballot box supporting the rights of Irish women, she was lucky enough to have an uncomplicated pregnancy, unlike many women, and gave birth to me. 

Tomorrow, we will go to our polling station together, and I will see my mum cast her vote on this issue for the second time, a repeating of her personal history. Except this time, my ballot will go in the box after hers, and if the opinion polls are to be believed, she will finally see the result she longed for 35 years ago. 

She will cast her vote once again in the hope of a changed system for her daughters, her sisters, her friends, and anyone who could be impacted by the 8th. 

 

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In 2016, I heard the first whispers of the movement to repeal the 8th amendment. I had always been pro-choice from the moment I was capable of grasping the concept, after seeing teenage pregnancies in my secondary school, and having personally known girls to have struggled with the most secret, stigmatised pain of a crisis pregnancy in a Catholic secondary school. 

An acquaintance of my 15-year-old-self drunkenly confided in me one night, as we walked through the fields of our rural town, that she had experienced an unwanted pregnancy. 

When I asked her, in my idiotic, naive way of the time, why she didn't look pregnant, she broke down, dropping to the grass of the street lamp-lit field, and told me that she had induced a miscarriage. I will not go into the details here out of respect for her privacy. I felt appalled at the time, not because of her actions of desperation, but because I realised in that moment that we existed in a suspended reality of outdated 'morals' and laws. 

Women who engage in sexual activity are punished with an ultimatum. Keep your 'mistake' or be banished to another country where they will deal 'with the likes of you,' a phrase that was used against my acquaintance by her student guidance counsellor when she brought her crisis to him.  

 

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As a teenager, who was less abashed than my friends, I would buy condoms and, in dangerous moments, pregnancy tests for others, who simply could not walk up to the Boots counter with those 'shameful' products in their hands. Some of my friends couldn't bear to buy them themselves, just from sheer embarrassment, or fear that someone they knew would see them and judge them. I would stroll in, my friend's crumpled €10 notes in my hands and secure the goods on their behalf.

When I got to college, my practice was put to good use when it was my own loose change I handed over the counter, knees knocking together, as I requested a test in the pharmacy.

The test was taken with shaky hands in the secrecy of a college dorm bathroom. Ragged breathing slowed as the second line on the test failed to appear and I knew I wasn't pregnant, but the entire time I thought I might be, all I could think over and over was 'I cannot afford to travel.' 

I laughed the very next day when my late period arrived, and my housemate and I celebrated with a 'you're not pregnant' party – because at the time there would have been no other option that was right for me but to have an abortion. Others have made a different choice, children themselves, and not regretted it, but that would not have been my choice. 

However, the struggles I would have dealt with to secure that medical option would have been unimaginable. 

 

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Ireland has a historically complex relationship with the impurity or sex and the anticipated chastity of 'good Catholic women.' 

Even in a recent Garda rape investigation, the case was described as a  'terrible rape on a decent girl.' What does this casual turn of phrase mean exactly? What does a 'decent girl' entail? A pure woman? A woman who could never be perceived as 'asking for it?' Would the terminology and empathy level be different if she wasn't seen as a 'decent' girl? 

Ireland is one of the few countries in the world where Catholic guilt is still deeply rooted, but like a festering rot, it manifests itself in the worst ways.

There are few No arguments that do not rely heavily on 'morals,' and a quick Google will leave you with evidence of religious associations on that side of the campaign. From mass goers being told they will no longer be welcome in the congregation if they vote Yes, to statues of Mary being carted around during Save the 8th marches, the societal connection of church and state is clear. 

 

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But the fact of the matter is, sex happens. Abortion happens, in this country and in clinics abroad who are now so accustomed to seeing Irish addresses on the appointment system they don't bat an eyelid. 

Abortion is a reality, but our country chooses to sweep it under the rug. All this scaremongering about 'floodgates opening' and '55 million babies being killed' is complete fallacy. When the morning after pill was introduced, pharmacies weren't seeing queues of hundreds banging down their doors the next morning looking for their pills. 

Women will not be using abortion as 'contraception' or normalising or minimising the seriousness of these medical tools. We won't be knocking back abortion pills over brunch with the gals thinking it's gas. Trust us. 

'We have moved on from dropping pregnant women at the laundries, and as a society we need to move on from dropping them at the departure gates, too,' said Gerry Edwards, at the launch of the Together for Yes campaign, and I could not agree more.  

Not only do these laws and social stigmas seek to belittle the bodily autonomy of women, but in doing so force women who are carrying complicated pregnancies, ones which could end in their own deaths or will definitely end in the deaths of their unborn, to continue to term – so long as there is a heartbeat. Yes, we now have the amendment that allows for legal abortion in cases of direct negative impact on the health of the mother, but we have all heard the stories from real women and couples about the lack of compassion and appalling medical conditions they are faced with still. If I can't convince you of this, the In Her Shoes Facebook page certainly will. 

 

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I have marched. I have tweeted. I have used my words to express my thoughts. I have donated. I have rallied. I have canvassed. I have volunteered. I have changed the minds of some no voters and been screamed at by others. 

When I look at the faces of my little sisters, who are too young to have their say, I hope for a safer future for them and their children.

When I accompany my mum to the polling station, I stand behind her in 2018 and in 1983. 

Tomorrow, I will vote Yes to repeal the 8th amendment because I believe in choice. For me, for the women who came before me, and the women who come after me.

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So I'm writing this article as a YES voter, who has a mother, Grandmother and extended family from Sligo.

I grew up in this beautiful county, which is so rich in culture and beauty.

One of the most admired landmarks in Sligo is Ben Bulben mountain.

WB Yeats is buried beneath it, and it is a symbol of the true beauty of our country.

That was, until it was defaced with plastic, making a political statement.

A group called Sligo for Life spent the early hours of this morning erecting a sign, which refers to Ireland's upcoming referendum on removing the Eighth Amendment from the constitution. 

Simply stating 'NO' in large white plastic, the sign is diminishing the beauty of the mountain. 

Earlier today, Sligo County Council made a statement: "As the land where the lettering was placed is commonage, Sligo County Council has no role in this matter."

I am all for allowing both sides to have their say, but honestly, this is too bloody far. 

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Today, the Together for Yes campaign launched a Register4Yes registration drive.

The drive aims to encourage people to make sure they are registered to vote ahead of the deadline on May 8, to vote in the referemdumto repeal the 8th Amendment on May 25th. 

There are 122,000 young people who have turned 18 since the last general election who are eligible to vote.

 

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Overall, 466,000 young people between the ages of 18-25 are currently eligible to vote in Ireland if they are registered.

Any person who turns 18 before the referendum on May 25 is also eligible to register in advance of the deadline.

'This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to vote for a more compassionate and caring society,' Laura Harmon, Together for Yes Mobilisation Team Lead said.

 

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'Nobody under the age of 50 has had a chance to vote on this issue.'

'We are encouraging everyone, especially young people and those who have changed address recently, to make sure they are on the Supplement to the Register of Electors before the deadline of May 8 so that they can vote Yes on May 25.'

Annie Hoey, Together for Yes Canvassing Coordinator said: ‘'Young people have a critical part to play in this historic referendum and Together for Yes is urging them to make sure they are registered to vote so they can vote Yes.'

Get on to www.checktheregister.ie or ring your local authority and confirm if you are registered to vote. 

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After a special Cabinet meeting last night, it was announced that a referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution will be held.

The meeting lasted for four hours, and the Cabinet concluded that late May would be the preferred time for the referendum to take place, or early June at the latest, RTÉ reports.

The timing of the referendum will depend on the passage of a referendum Bill through the Oireachtas.

Ministers decided that 'repeal and replace' would be the best policy so that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed by voters, new wording will be put in the Constitution stating that the Oireachtas 'may provide for the termination of pregnancies in accordance with law'.

If the Eighth Amendment is repealed, Minister for Health Simon Harris has been given permission to draft a Bill on the matter to be introduced in the Oireachtas.

As well, if this referendum passes, the Government would introduce legislation allowing unrestricted abortion access up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

After 12 weeks of gestation, abortion would only be allowed in 'exceptional circumstances such as a serious risk to the life or health of the woman or in the event of a fatal foetal abnormality'.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated in the press conference following the meeting that he wants abortion to be legal, safe, and rare, saying: 'We know that thousands of Irish women – women from every single county in Ireland – go abroad for abortions every year.'

'We know that many women are obtaining abortion pills through the post to end their pregnancies, without any medical support, or counselling, or supervision.'

'So, we already have abortion in Ireland but it is unsafe, unregulated and unlawful. We cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions.'

'As Taoiseach – as a medical doctor – and as a former Minister for Health – I do not believe we can continue with a situation where women in crisis are risking their lives through the use of unregulated medicines.'

In order to vote in the referendum, Irish citizens must register at least 15 days before polling day.

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As debate intensifies in the lead-up to the referendum on the 8th amendment, Down Syndrome Ireland have issued a statement, asking both sides of the campaign to suspend the use of images featuring people with Down Syndrome.

Referring to an article which was featured in The Irish Times on Tuesday, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland, Gary Owens, explains that an image of a little girl with Down Syndrome was used in a pamphlet by a pro-life lobby group called 'Love Both'.

"This has come on top of a number of references appearing in the media over the past few days where campaigners on both sides of the debate are using people with Down syndrome to present their views," he wrote.

"This is very disrespectful to both children and adults with Down syndrome and their families. People with Down syndrome should not be used as an argument for either side of this debate."

While Mr Owens stresses the organisation's respect for individual opinion, he adds: "We are respectfully asking both sides of the campaign debate, all political parties and any other interested groups to stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome to promote their campaign views."

The statement reiterates its support of people with Down syndrome and their families, and reminds campaigners to adopt a respectful tone as the debate on the 8th continues.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordan has shared the statement on his Twitter page in a move which has attracted considerable attention on social media today.

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