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abortion rights

Last week the Dail passed the bill to legalise abortion in Ireland up to 12 weeks.

Once the bill passes the Seanad and is signed into law, it will be the first time in history of the state that free access to abortion is legal.

Although that seems monumental, people are still waiting for "basic human rights" to abortion care says the Abortion Rights Campaign.

Their comments come as today marks International Human Right Day 2018.

The campaigners have called upon Governments, both North and South to "secure and vindicate basic human rights to abortion access."

Although the Republic of Ireland held a referendum earlier this year, and subsequently voted to repeal the 8th amendment, abortion is still criminalised in Northern Ireland.

This weekend, the Abortion Rights Campaign submitted a response to the Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry on Abortion Law in Northern Ireland.

Linda Kavanagh, a spokesperson for the group, said: “We call upon Westminster to take the necessary actions to provide free, safe, legal and local abortion access for women and pregnant people in the North."

"As several international monitoring bodies have made clear, reproductive rights should never be a devolved issue. The UK Government have an affirmative obligation to provide abortion access in Northern Ireland,” she added.

“We urge the UK Government to decriminalise abortion across the UK, in line with international norms and best practice. The 150-year old criminal laws are still being enforced in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish government actively prosecutes people for accessing abortion medication outside of the law. These prosecutions are cruel, unjust and inhumane, and they need to stop."

The group called for local abortion provisions to be provided for people in Northern Ireland, adding that travelling to Liverpool, Manchester or in the near future, Dublin, is just "not good enough."

Linda explained that the public in the north are ready for change and highlighted that two-thirds say that Westminster has a duty to reform the country’s abortion law and enable people to access healthcare at home.

She continued: “As we mark this day, we acknowledge that people in the Republic too are waiting for their rights to be realised. Since the referendum in May, almost 2,000 people have travelled abroad to access abortion services which should be available at home. More than 500 have imported abortion pills despite the continued legal risks in doing so."

We are united with those in North Ireland fighting for the Government to decriminalise abortion and to give safe access to medical care.

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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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Leo Varadkar has been vocal in his support for repealing the 8th amendment in recant months. 

The Taoiseach uploaded a video to his Facebook page outlining ehy he will be voting Yes this Friday, and encouraging others to do the same. 

'When the 8th Amendment was put into our constitution back in  1983, that's 35 years ago, people believed that it would prevent abortion – but of course, it hasn't'

'It's just forced nearly 200,000 women to go overseas to end their pregnancies. We now have a lot of women, in fact two or three every day, who import abortion pills illegally over the internet, and end their pregnancies in their own home.'

'My views on abortion and on this difficult topic have changed over time.'

'Particularly during my time as Minister for Health, I became aware on occasion of some really tragic and really difficult cases.'

'Some people are worried that if they vote Yes, abortion will become too readily available in Ireland, that the new system will be too liberal – I want to assure you that that's not the plan.' 

Highlighting the logistics of a Yes majority vote, Varadkar noted that there will be a 72 hour waiting period for women seeking abortion.

'In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, it will be the woman's decision as to whether she wants to go ahead with the pregnancy or not, and her doctor will be able to give her advice on alternative options or counselling.'

He went on to assure the public that after 12 weeks, there will only be access to abortion when the mother's life or health is at risk, or where the baby will not survive after birth, which must be confirmed by two separate specialist doctors.

'If you're still undecided, I'd ask you to put yourself in the shoes of a woman facing a crisis pregnancy. Perhaps she has been raped and doesn't feel that she can continue through with the pregnancy. Perhaps she's a child herself. If you vote No, nothing can change, and things will persist as they are now where women have to travel abroad to get the care that they need.'

Varadkar went on to highlight that he will be voting Yes opn May 25th for a more compassionate Ireland, 'one in which we don't sweep our problems under the carpet anymore.'

 

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The referendum on repealing the 8th amendment to the constitution will take place on May 25 2018. 

It was speculated that this would be the date, but confirmation came today via Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. 

Earlier today, Simon Harris tweeted that 'the Referendum Bill has now passed all stages in Seanad Eireann.'

'Date for referendum can now be formally set.'

Senators voted 40 to 10 to allow the referendum to take place. 

The referendum will come after months of political debate regarding the issue. 

'I cannot close my eyes and block my ears to the fact that 3,265 of our citizens travelled to the UK in 2016 from every county in Ireland,' Mr Harris said previously. 

'I cannot stand over a situation where the abortion pill is illegally accessed in this country and women, perhaps in the privacy of their own bedroom, in a lonely isolated place, [are] taking a pill without any medical supervision.'

You can make sure you are registered to vote here. 

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When it comes to abortion rights in Ireland, it's safe to say we are far, far behind other countries. 

With abortion being painted as something shameful by Save the 8th establishments, it's no wonder that some women feel they would not be able to be open about their reproductive care with their employer.

According to The Irish Times, recent research has found that some women think they would need a cover story to tell their workplace about their absence if they had to take time off to procure a termination. 

Research carried out on behalf of the Alliance for Choice, found that women in Ireland would not feel comfortable telling their employer the real reason for their absence. 

'There is pressure in that. When you are telling lies upon lies upon lies' Fiona Bloomer of the University of Ulster told The Irish Times.

'The burden of that on top of everything else. I think the general stigma of silencing over abortion means that women are reluctant to speak support. They are not sure of who to turn to.'

This research echoes the real life stories shared by many women who suffer through a crisis pregnancy in this country. 

One woman shared her experience with The Abortion Right Campaign, detailing how she had to call in sick when the cramps brought on by her imported abortion pill became agonising. 

'The cramps were the worst pain I’ve ever been through. I had planned to go to work the following day but I was dizzy and weak and had to call in sick,' she said. 

'I’m pretty sure my boss thought I had faked it to go to a festival for the weekend.'

'It was difficult not being able to tell her, or other people, what I had been through. I did tell a few people, and some of them tried their best to help me through it. But overall, it was a very lonely time.'

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Ireland is currently in the grips of a fight for reproductive rights and body autonomy. 

Women in this country are forced to travel abroad or import illegal pills to procure abortions or reproductive health care.

Each person who has a termination has a reason for it – while the anti-choice side may pretend that women will utilise abortion access as a form of contraceptive, those who have had one know that this is a complete straw man argument. 

An art exhibition is bringing these reasons to life, as they showcase the personal, and sometimes painful reasons women have gotten abortions. 

My Body, My Life, is a travelling exhibit, using canvas and cloth as the vehicles for these stories. 

Currently set exhibiting in London until March 5th, the exhibition has previously toured through Belfast and Edinburgh. 

Along with the physical exhibition is a website, where you can read the experiences of women who have had a termination. 

You can also submit your own story to the installation.  

The poignant installation does not have another date or venue listed so far, so perhaps now would be a good time to tweet them and see if it would be possible to bring this relevant showcase to the Republic of Ireland.

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With the abortion rights referendum creeping ever closer, it's important to keep the discussion surrounding the repeal campaign flowing. 

Saoirse Ronan has spoken to The Irish Times regarding her thoughts on the upcoming referendum. 

Speaking 'cautiously' in an interview, the Oscar-nominated actress told the news tome that she feels that women have the right to make decisions about their reproductive health.

 

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'I will be voting when the referendum happens,' she told The Irish Times.

'I was coming into my womanhood when that discussion was being had after the marriage referendum. And I know so many people who have been affected by this situation.'

'I just feel everybody has a right to their own body. Everyone has a right to make their own decisions,' she continued. 

 

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The actress also feels that people have their right to an opinion on the matter, but that it is essential for the people of Ireland to vote and make that decision for themselves.

'I think it will be an empowering thing for the people of Ireland to get out and make their own decision on the topic. More than anything else – regardless of how you vote – we need to be given the chance to have our voices heard,' she said.

'Since the marriage referendum, Ireland has definitely taken a turn. I do feel it’s become more of a modern, cosmopolitan place. It’s such a turnaround.'

'I feel like there is a turning point with our generation. Women are being empowered in a way they haven’t before.'

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This Saturday, October 28, marks the fifth anniversary of Savita Halappanavar's death – an event which serves as a tragic reminder of the “watertight medical rationale” for legalising abortion in Ireland.

The Coalition to Repeal the Eight Amendment is organising a vigil at 4pm on Saturday outside the GPO on O'Connell Street, Dublin 1.

Announcing details of the vigil today, Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “The medical rationale for abortion is watertight. In cases like Savita’s, abortion saves lives.”

“As we’re marking the fifth anniversary of Savita’s very sad death, an Oireachtas Committee is considering what should be done about the Eighth Amendment.  The Committee has heard from leading experts on maternity healthcare in recent weeks.  Their opinion was unequivocal: if it weren’t for the Eighth Amendment, Savita Halappanavar would be alive today.”

“For once in Ireland, we need to take on board the lessons from our past.  We need to ensure that no more women die in the sort of tragic circumstances experienced by Savita Halappanavar.”

For those who do not live in Dublin, but would like to attend, there are over 20 additional vigils taking place across the country.

All vigils will be silent and those in attendance are invited to bring flowers and candles if they wish.

For more information, click here.

The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is an alliance of over 100 organisations including human rights, feminist and pro-choice organisations, trade unions, health organisations, NGOs, community organisations and many others.

Its members agree that the Eight Amendment must be repealed in order to the lives of women in Ireland.

Feature Image: Twitter 

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Yesterday's March for Choice saw up to 30,000 people take to the streets of Dublin to fight for the right to free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland. 

Pro-choice supporters from all over the country gathered at the Garden of Remembrance before marching on Dáil Éireann, in what was one of the biggest demonstrations of the Repeal campaign to date. 

With a referendum in sight, yesterday's march was arguably one of the most significant to date – and the people of Ireland did not disappoint (nor did their creative signage).

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Here at SHEmazing HQ, we're looking forward to today's 6th annual March for Choice. 

It's an issue that we have written about, considered and been impacted by as women in this country. 

For this reason, we have decided to share with you the reasons why we will march today: 

'Why I March – Because no one has a right to tell a woman what to do with her body. End of. It's her body. Not yours. Get over it.'

'I march because when I think of the trip that many women have had to make to England on their own, in secret, it makes me angry that this happens in 2017. They should be able to get the same care here.

I march because regardless of what I think or believe what someone else should do….it doesn't actually matter because they deserve to make their own decision.' – Jolie Niland, Business Development Manager at Sheology Digital

'I suppose from seeing friends go through the hard travel to England, I have seen first hand how not having the right to choice in Ireland has effected them, that journey stays with you for the rest of your life.'

'Having to put the burden of costs, travel  and stress of perhaps keeping it a secret from loved ones.The whole experience is just terrible to put any woman through in their lifetime. '

'I understand both sides of the argument on abortion but at the end of the day, it is my life, my body and if I am not ready to have a child, I deserve the right to decide for myself.'

'I am pro-choice and would finally like to see change to the 8th amendment at the referendum in 2018.' – Alannah O'Sullivan, Client Services Executive

 

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'I march today because in spite of being my own person, there is a part of my body that, in this country, is seen as being more important than my choice, my will, by the State.'

'I don't know if I could even get an abortion if I did become pregnant, but I need to have the choice, the right to choose my future, one that isn't dictated by an insemination of any kind.' 

'I march today because there are woman in this country who will face an unwanted pregnancy after surviving rape, and will face a longer prison sentence for having an abortion after that rape than their rapist will serve.'

'I march because I can make my own decisions, and it is my right to do so. A woman, not a womb.' – Sarah Magliocco, journalist and content creator at SHEmazing

 

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'Until I moved to Ireland, I never even questioned it. French women acquired the right for abortion in 1975, long before I was even born.'

'We actually talked about it a lot recently as the lady behind the law, Simone Veil, just died. She is a true hero for us French ladies.'

'Anyway, what happens in my body should be up to me.'

'Of course, if we could avoid abortion, that would be great, and I think it is never an easy decision, but the reality is women have been getting it anyway and it is just hypocritical that you can't do it at home when people who can afford it fly to London.' – Elodie Noël, Food Editor at Sheology Digital

 

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'They say home is where the heart is but the eighth amendment has made so many women feel like outsiders in their home country. I support the repeal the eighth campaign because we deserve complete control over our bodies.'

'The repeal the 8th campaign shows women that they are not alone. It shows the world that we will never give up on what we believe in. It shows the government that we won’t stop until we get what we deserve.'

'I am pro-choice because approximately twelve women a day travel abroad to get an abortion. They have to endure long strenuous journeys, they have to leave their partners and families behind in a country that has conditioned society into believing that abortion is bad.'

 

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'We have no choice but to look elsewhere for help. The lack of support in Ireland is making our own women feel like they are criminals; they feel guilty, ashamed, they feel like they’re doing something bad.'

'I support this campaign because I want to show women in Ireland and around the world that we are strong.'

'The women who march are showing the world that we aren’t afraid to stand up for ourselves. We are going to fight for our rights.' – Kat O'Connor, journalist at Mummy Pages

'I march because a woman should be free to make her own choices regarding her own body,' – Mary Byrne, editor of Magic Mum

 

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'I march because I cannot support a law which seeks to isolate and criminalise women for daring to take control of their bodies.'

'I march because the idea that a woman in this country would be forced to endure a pregnancy, which she was brave enough to admit may cripple her mentally, emotionally or financially, makes my skin crawl.'

'I march because one day I may be faced with a situation many women before me have bravely endured, and I would hope my country would support me, not demonise me.'

'I march because women in Ireland deserve better.'– Niamh McClelland, SHEmazing Editor

 

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'Not every woman wants to be a mother and not every woman would be a good mother. Not everyone has the means or desire to raise and care for a child.'

'There is inequality in Ireland when it comes to accessing hormonal contraception. Many GP's won't accept a medical card patient, particularly a new patient who moves to the area. The Well Woman centre doesn't take medical card either.  Plus you can only get a three-month prescription if you can afford to pay, meaning you have to go back a minimum of four times per year.'

'You can buy a pill prescription from online pharmacies and this is cheaper than GP visit but still expensive so not really an option for a medical card holder. It's also only really meant for someone who has already been prescribed the pill by a doctor and needs a new prescription.'

'Many women have issues with hormonal contraception and have to stop taking it because of a risk to physical or mental health.' – Anonymous 

If you can't make it to the march, check out the SHEmazing Snapchat and Instagram feeds, where will will be reporting live from the event. Find us at @shemazingie on both platforms. 

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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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