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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We can remember the emotional distress and pain endured one year ago, when the 8th Amendment was repealed by 66 percent in a groundbreaking referendum which shook the nation.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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The 8th Amendment has been repealed, but women are still travelling for abortions as we await the appropriate legislation. 

The constitutional impediment to abortions in Ireland is now gone, but there was a delay in actioning the amendment to the constitution after a Dublin woman appealed to challenge the referendum result.

On yesterday's anniversary of the 8th Amendment being voted in, the Supreme Court decided to clear the way for abortion legislation to proceed in the Dail by dismissing her challenge appeal. 

Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign said: “It was frustrating to see these attempts to block the will of the people of Ireland, but we’re glad to see that this obstruction has been cleared away.'

'Now more than ever we most focus on bringing in legislation and services to provide abortion care to everyone who needs it in Ireland.”

She continued “While legal challenges are part of the democratic process, we are relieved that this petition is finally dismissed. It was another in a long line of stalling tactics which the people of Ireland have had to endure while waiting for the full range of reproductive healthcare options here at home.'

'Since 66% of voters said “Yes” in the referendum on May 25th, over 1000 people have travelled to get abortion care, and others have imported safe but illegal abortion pills.'

The Abortion Rights Campaign wants to make abortion and reproductive care accessible to all, regardless of financial restrictions. 

'We now must ensure that no one gets left behind when legislation and guidelines are introduced. We’re marching on September 29th to demand that this legislation ensures the free, safe and legal abortion care that we have always asked for, and that the Irish people voted for on May 25th.'

The theme of the march this year is “Free, Safe, Legal. 

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This morning, while those of us in relationships received love nots and cards from our signifiant others, a different kind of Valentines Day card was being delivered to Dáil Éireann.

Time Travellers for Choice, a branch of the Abortion Rights Campaign, donned their historical costumes and presented themselves on Kildare Street with a card highlights that what Irish women want for Valentine's Day, and have wanted for centuries, is the right to choose. 

Holding the card emblazoned with an image of two love birds perched side by side, campaigner Lute al Raad cut a striking figure in her Suffragette costume and Repeal sash. 

'We are from the Abortion Rights Campaign, and in particular today we are Time Travellers for Choice so we are a project under the Abortion Rights Campaign and we are here to deliver Valentines cards to politicians,' Lute told SHEmazing.

'Its our pro choice Valentines Card, which says "This Valentine's Day, give them what they really want… Bodily Autonomy."'

The demonstration comes as a reminder that 100 years after Irish women gained the right to vote, we are still campaigning for the right to make private, personal decisions about our lives and our health.'

It reminds us that while we may have secured right to vote 100 years ago, we're still centuries behind in the area of abortion rights. 

With the referendum looming in may, you can donate to The Abortion Rights Campaign here.

 

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The Abortion Rights Campaign has today welcomed some of the recommendations from the Oireachtas Committee.

The Committee has today voted in favour to Repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution 'with no restriction as to reason' in cases of pregnancy up to 12 weeks.

Recognising them as 'an important step towards securing real and realistic abortion access in Ireland, ARC highlights the importance of ensuring free, safe, and legal abortion access in the impending legislation.

 

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'The majority of the members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee have acted in good faith throughout the committee hearings, and have heeded the expert advice given by those invited to address them. Now the Government must act swiftly in order to protect those in Ireland who seek abortions every day,' ARC spokesperson Sarah Monaghan said.

'They must immediately undertake the work required that will ensure we have a referendum in the first half of next year.'

'We welcome the recommendation to allow access to abortion without restrictions as to reason.

 

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'However restricting this to only the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is far from the barrier-free access required to provide women and pregnant people in Ireland with proper, compassionate care.'

'Nonetheless, it was encouraging to see the Committee recommending that the abortion pill be made available via GPs, and that those seeking abortion as a result of rape not be required to “prove” their attack.'

'We were also pleased to see a recommendation for access to abortion without gestational limits in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.'

'However, the Committee’s decision to reject similar access in cases of serious foetal anomaly will affect families who may not receive an accurate diagnosis until later in pregnancy.'

Leo Varadkar today reiterated that he would like to see a referendum be held on the issue be held next May. 

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Repeal jumpers at the ready – the 6th Annual March for Choice takes place in Dublin this weekend.

On Saturday September 30, pro-choice campaigners from across the country will descend on the capital city to fight for the right to free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland.

In what will be the last march before a referendum is called, Abortion Rights Campaign are calling on the citizens of Ireland to make their voices heard.

Assembling at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square from 1.30pm, campaigners will take to the streets before marching on Dáil Éireann at 2pm.

Proceeding down O'Connell street, marchers will turn left at the quays towards The Custom House. Those unable to walk the full route are advised to join the march at this point.

Crossing the Liffey and moving toward the back entrance of Trinity College, campaigners will proceed down Pearse Street and onto Merrion Square, before finishing up outside Dáil Éireann.

Here, crowds will hear from speakers who will drive home the message that although the march may be over for another year, the fight is not over until our government legislates for free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland.

Those wishing to travel to the march on Saturday have a number of options available to them. Pro-choice groups across the country have organised a number of buses scheduled to leave from Belfast, Clare, Cork Galway, Donegal, Derry, Kerry, Limerick, Longford, Meath, Sligo, Tipperary and Wexford.

You can find more information and a full list of available transport here, on ARC's Transportation Facebook page, where many campaigners have organised carpools from every corner of the country.

This is our last chance ladies, so make sure you make your voice heard! 

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Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) volunteer Naomi Elster investigates the use of safe but illegal abortion pills in Ireland today.

The abortion pill is a safe method for ending early pregnancies, and even though it is on the World Health Organisation list of essential medicines, it is illegal in Ireland.

Despite this, hundreds of people in Ireland illegally import the pill every year.

While there are reputable sources for ordering the pill online, there is always the risk of women paying for fake, ineffective or even dangerous substances from unauthorised sources.

Therefore, the only way to guarantee safety is to give Irish women the right to free, safe, legal abortion in Ireland. 

On 30 September 2017, ARC are organising the 6th annual March for Choice. ARC campaigns for free, safe, legal abortion in Ireland.

Abortion in Ireland is illegal, and carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. It has been legal since 1992 to travel abroad for an abortion, and last year, over 3,000 women attending abortion clinics in the UK gave Irish addresses.

The real number may be higher, as at our speak-out events, where we provide safe spaces for women to tell their abortion stories, we have heard from women who, out of fear, gave UK addresses rather than their real Irish one.

But travelling abroad for an abortion comes at a high price.

The Abortion Support Network is a small UK-based charity which provides practical information and financial support to Irish women travelling to the UK for abortions.

Their director, Mara Clarke, shared a price list from British clinics with me. To get an abortion up to 14 weeks is between €380 and €535, up to 19 weeks it’s up to €795 and up to 24 weeks it’s €1625.

Women in England, Scotland and Wales can access these same procedures for free on the NHS, but Irish women, who don’t receive that same support from our government, have to pay. These prices are only for the termination and don’t take into account travel, accommodation, childcare, and any extra expenses such as visa applications.

'People are like, "Ryanair’s still cheap",' Mara said. 'But you know what? Women can’t plan their unplanned pregnancies around fare sales.'

The abortion pill is sometimes called 'a safe illegal.' It’s available from doctor-led websites in exchange for a non-mandatory donation of up to €90 (no one will be denied a medical abortion from these NGOs due to lack of funds).

Medical abortion involves two pills. The first is a tablet called Mifepristone, which you swallow to block the hormone progesterone. This makes it impossible for the pregnancy to continue. The Mifepristone tablet is followed by an intra-vaginal tablet called Misoprostol, which induces contractions to flush the pregnancy out.

A medical study of 1,000 Irish women who took abortion pills they got from one of these doctor-led websites showed that the procedure is remarkably safe.

In response to news that the number of women known to travel to the UK for abortions has been gradually declining, the HSE crisis pregnancy agency pointed to research showing more Irish women are contacting providers of abortion pills.

But while we can be glad that there’s now a safe option for women who can’t continue their pregnancy and can’t travel, the only way to guarantee that Irish women with unwanted pregnancies are safe is to make free, safe and legal abortion available here in Ireland for all who need or want it.

Taking the abortion pill on Irish soil is illegal.

As Caoimhe Doyle, co-convener of The Abortion Rights Campaign, explains: 'The Protection of Life During Pregnancy act, introduced in 2013, means that anyone prosecuted for taking abortion pills can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison. As of yet no-one has been prosecuted under this act.'

'However in Northern Ireland we have seen a number of investigations and prosecutions, both of those taking and providing these pills, so it is not unlikely that we may start to see prosecutions here.'

The PSNI came under fire this year when, on International Women’s Day, they raided the homes and even workplaces of Northern Irish pro-choice activists, looking for abortion pills. According to Mara, legitimate sources of abortion pills have shipped to Irish women via Northern Ireland in recent years. Out of fear that women in the Republic would be arrested, the providers asked them to provide an address in the north.

'There have been more and more confiscation of pills in the north,' Mara continued. 'So women have contacted us saying "I ordered the pills and they’ve been stopped. They’ve been stopped by customs, they never arrived.'"

Because it’s illegal to buy or take abortion pills in Ireland, it’s difficult to promote reputable websites where women can consult medical doctors and be provided with what they need for a safe abortion.

Mara has also had women contact her who, hoping they wouldn't have to travel to end their pregnancies, contacted other websites claiming to sell medical abortions.

They paid €200, waited weeks, and nothing arrived.

And even though complications are very rare, they can occur. The pill works by stimulating a miscarriage, triggering cramps and bleeding.

Abortions carried out without the reassurance of a medical team nearby to advise when something is normal, and help when it’s not, can add an unnecessary level of upset and trauma to what should be a straightforward procedure.

According to Caoimhe, 'The fear of prosecution often puts those who take these pills at risk, as they are afraid to seek medical assistance in the rare event that something goes wrong.'

34 years on from the introduction of the 8th amendment, we live in an Ireland where what should be a medical issue is now a human rights issue.

The Government has said that a referendum on the 8th will be held next year. It is impossible to change our laws on abortion without a referendum.  

This will be the last March for Choice before that referendum, and we need every one of you to join us on that march and make your voice heard.

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Ahead of this Saturday's March for Choice, Abortion Rights Campaign and Damn Fine Print are teaming up to host the ultimate pro-choice poster printing workshop.

Supporters are invited to drop in and print their very own poster/placard for use at the upcoming press conference and the annual march on September 30.

Keeping the theme of this year's march, 'Time to Act', Damn Fine Print will have many designs to choose from, including one from street artist and Radio DJ, Will St Leger.

A limited amount of supplies will be on hand, but organisers have recommended that those interested in attending the event bring their own cardboard/paper/placard.

This event is free to attend, though donations toward the campaign are welcome but not expected.

Abortion Rights Campaign Props Make-In takes place in Damn Fine Print, Brunswick Street, Dublin 7, from 6pm – 9pm on Thursday September 28.

Click here for more information.

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