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In a letter to the Taoiseach yesterday evening, the Abortion Rights Campaign made clear that repeal simpliciter is the only option that should be put to the people in a referendum.

Commenting on the letter, spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said “In September the March for Choice, organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign, saw over 40,000 people take to the streets of Dublin calling for the full repeal of the 8th Amendment and free, safe, and legal abortion access."

"The Abortion Rights Campaign has active regional groups in almost every county. This referendum campaign will be won on the ground by our members and volunteers. We cannot ask them to support a referendum that would insert an ill-advised clause with potentially far reaching implications into the Constitution.”

Spokesperson for the campaign Clare Lanigan added: “As both legal and medical experts to the Joint Oireachtas Committee made clear, the Constitution has never been the right place to deal with abortion care provision.”

“Successive governments have had 35 years to address the 8th Amendment. We are alarmed to see a replace option now being hastily proposed. The opportunity to finally address the issue of the 8th Amendment effectively is too important to be affected by last minute scrambles.”

“Full repeal is the only option we’re going to support. We’ve strongly urged the Taoiseach to put this option in front of the people.”

Ms Kavanagh and Ms Lanigan were speaking in advance of a free public information evening on the Eighth Amendment and Healthcare, hosted by ARC tonight at 7pm in the Ashling Hotel in Dublin and featuring guest speakers from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Midwives for Choice, AIMS Ireland and others.

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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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Cancer survivors will create an arc of light around Dublin bay this evening as hundreds gather for The ARC Torch of Hope Relay, to raise funds for cancer support services.

The walk give cancer survivors, and their family and friends, the chance to unite and honour their lost loved one, or anyone who has been affected by the disease.

From 5pm, teams of people will set off on a walk from either side of the city – meeting at the entrance of Blackrock Park on the Southside, and The Wooden Bridge, Dollymount on the Northside.

Participants from both sides will come together on the Sean O'Casey bridge at approximately 6.30pm.

Aslan frontman Christy Dignam and Leinster rugby star Luke McGrath are among those urging members of the public to support this community event.

Mairead Mangan, head of fundraising for ARC Cancer Support Centres, said "It sees cancer survivors, and their loved ones, friends and family, coming together and walking Dublin Bay."

"Everybody walks with a torch, we have two torch-bearers who are cancer survivors, bearing the torches over to the two sides, from the Southside at Blackrock Park and Woodenbridge, simultaneously in Donnybrook."

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As news broke that a referendum on the 8th amendment had finally been confirmed for next year, thousands celebrated the advancement in a long-running campaign to repeal the hugely contentious law.

But who are the people driving the campaign? What compels them to work free of charge? And what obstacles do they face when demanding change for the women of Ireland?

We sat down with Abortion Rights Campaign volunteer, Sarah Monaghan, to get an insight into the work that goes into pushing one of the biggest political movements of recent times.

As Partnerships and Outreach Rep for ARC, Sarah is responsible for liaising with the organisation's multiple Regional Groups as well as other affiliated groups around the country, but how did she go from attending the March for Choice in 2013 to taking an active role in the campaign?

“When the story of Miss Y – an asylum seeker, raped in her home country and seeking an abortion in Ireland under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 – broke I was horrified,” she recalls.

“Miss Y sought an abortion on the grounds of being suicidal, the panel delayed her case to the point of gestation that she was no longer eligible. As an asylum seeker, she was unable to travel to the UK for an abortion under her Visa. She went on hunger strike, was forcibly hydrated, before undergoing a caesarean section against her will.”

“This case disgusted me to the point that I could no longer be passive, attending a march once a year was not enough. Things in this country needed to change and joining ARC was my first step in helping with this,” Sarah explains.

Over the course of recent years, Sarah has seen a shift in societal attitudes, saying: “When I became involved three years ago I encountered a lot more direct criticism than now. The fact is the majority of people in Ireland are now pro-choice so instances of being called a murderer have lessened drastically.”

Despite the aforementioned shift, the pro-choice campaign still bears the brunt of criticism regarding the delivery of their message.

Acknowledging this perception, Sarah says: “We’re told we’re too angry, we’re too shrill.”

“[But] as someone who has been involved in the hard work of enacting change, faced with a Government who has repeatedly stalled a referendum and allowed countless people to travel for medical care and disregarded those who are unable to travel, I am angry. And you should be too.”

Sarah’s role affords her an insight into the lived experience of women who have been affected by the 8th Amendment – stories which continue to fuel her desire for change.

“In the beginning, I was certainly shocked by the stories of those affected by the 8th Amendment. I also learned how the 8th effects so many aspects of reproductive care and women’s rights in Ireland. After three years, I am not particularly surprised, rather, I am often upset and furious that this is still ongoing,” she explains.

With a referendum scheduled for 2018, Sarah highlights the illogicality of the government’s decision to delay it for so long, reminding us: “It has been 34 years since people in Ireland had the opportunity to vote on the 8th Amendment.”

“No-one who voted in that referendum is currently of child bearing age. Those who it directly affects have never been afforded the respect to vote for a change that will save lives and bring us in line with International norms for Reproductive Rights.”

With the March For Choice taking place in Dublin city centre this Saturday, the majority of attention is focussed on the Irish capital, but having worked directly with Regional Groups, Sarah has borne witness to the ardent campaigning which takes place around the entire country.

“Being involved in activism in Dublin has its challenges; being involved in a pro-choice campaign in rural areas is an entirely different story,” she explains.

“Those involved are some of the bravest and fiercest people I have ever met. They are constantly met with obstacles such as lack of public transport, lack of supportive venues and often having your opposition being your next door neighbour!”

“On the day of Strike for Repeal thousands of people marched in Dublin. In Skibereen, 11 people marched down main street," she reveals. "That takes amazing dedication and daring.”

Back in 2013, Sarah attended a march organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign, four years on she plays a vital role in the execution of many of the organisation’s events.

If you too want to make the leap, Sarah insists that everyone has a place.

Whether you are creative and want to join Actions, interested in social media, want to work with Allied groups, interested in hosting fundraising events, or would prefer to work in the background in the organisation's admin group, Sarah says: “There is no one way to be a member of ARC."

"We crucially need more help in every single area, no matter how much or how little time you can afford to give,” she urges. “This will be an incredibly important year, get involved and tell future generations you fought for their rights. “

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Over the past few years, pro-choice campaigners across the country have come together to fight for the rights of Irish women. 

In one of the biggest political movements seen in recent times, abortion rights groups have worker tirelessly to push for a referendum to repeal the Eight Amendment – and now, with an indicative timeline confirmed, we must fight harder than ever to make sure our voices are heard. 

In the build up to this Saturday's March for Choice in Dublin city, we spoke to Clare Lanigan from Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), about the campaign goals, her work as a volunteer, and the significance of events such as these. 

Established in 2012, ARC is a grassroots, all-volunteer campaign advocating for free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland. As well as promoting the referendum to repeal the Eight, it also has a broader goal in making sure that the procedure is available to anyone who may need or want it.

After joining ARC as a volunteer in 2016, Clare explained what drew her to the campaign: 

"I was always very pro-choice but I wasn't really much of a 'joiner' – I would just kind of watch from the outside."

"The success of the marriage equality referendum was quite inspiring to me, even though the actual process I thought was difficult. I thought looking from the outside in,  it seemed really hard on LGBT people to kind of have to politely beg for rights. I did think that the campaign had a really inspiring outcome, so that kind of made me feel like change was possible." 

The role of an ARC volunteer is varied and rewarding. Those interested in getting involved are invited to take on positions that play to their strengths and interests, meaning there's something to suit everybody. 

Clare explained: "Most times when people volunteer they come to one of our open meetings, which are held once a month."

"People can sign up to a group depending on their particular skills or interests. There's admin, media, policy and advocacy, partners and outreach, and actions."

"I was interested in admin and in media so I signed up for those and started going to meetings and just kind of found tasks to do and went from there really."

Organisations such as ARC would not survive without the help of volunteers like Clare. The campaign is run entirely by people who have given up their time for free. 

"We've no paid staff, so all these events (march for choice, etc.) don't happen without the work of volunteers. Generally in pro-choice campaigning it's nearly always people giving their time for free."

Marches, demonstrations and the dissemination of information, are all part of what make the role of an ARC volunteer so fulfilling, however, Clare says watching the regional groups go from strength to strength has been her real highlight so far. 

"I've been really inspired seeing all the regional groups that have developed – we've always had regional groups, but over the past year they've gone from strength to strength."

"Groups in Meath, groups in Kerry, Galway, Cork, Sligo, Donegal, all over the place and so more and more people are getting involved and they're all going to be joining us at the march now on Saturday which is great because we've had regional groups before, but this is going to be the largest group yet."

While the government have committed to a referendum on the Eight Amendment in May or June of next year, Clare believes this is just the beginning.    

“The key message we want to get out there is 'repeal not replace' – we don't want more stuff in the constitution about abortion… simplicity and clarity is what we'll be looking for."

"More broadly we're really advocating strongly for more than limited access. We think it's really important to get the message out that only having exception based access, which a lot of politicians seem to think is the way forward, is not good enough."

"We're pushing very strongly for broad access which is what the citizen's assembly decided on when they went through their deliberations – so, if random members of the public can come to that conclusion, we're pretty sure the population at large can come to the same conclusion."

"A referendum is not the end of the story, in fact, in some ways, it's only the begining."

If you'd like to get involved in the campaign, ARC are looking for volunteers to hand out flyers this Thursday and Friday night. You can register your interest by e-mailing info@abortionrights.ie – or if you'd like to volunteer on a ongoing basis, new recruits are invited to pop along to the open meetings which are held once a month. You can find more information and the full calendar of events here

ARC are also hosting speak out on Thursday evening, offering women a safe space to talk about their abortion experiences without any judgement or without any expectation.

And don't forget to head along to the March for Choice in Dublin City Centre this Saturday, September 30. It all kicks off at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance. 

See you there, ladies! 

Feature Image: Twitter 

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As a 34-year-old women battling numerous cancerous tumours, her heartbreaking and touching story captured the attention of the nation earlier this year. 

Following her exclusive sit-down with SHEmazing in June, Jacinta Kelleher's incredible tale of resilience was picked up by national and local publications and broadcasters. 

In the aftermath, the Dublin woman admitted to being overwhelmed with the stream of good wishes she received. Now, and still basking in the support of countless strangers, she is using her newly-raised profile to thank the one organisation she feels made a real difference since her diagnosis with liver cancer three-and-a-half years ago. 

"Walking through the doors of an Arc Cancer Support Centre was the best thing I ever did," Ms Kelleher says now. 

"It's a safe place for me and so many other people dealing with cancer. They have picked me up more times than I can say and I honestly wouldn't have gotten this far without them."

Arc Cancer Support Centres offer support to men, women and children affected by cancer and those who care for them. The support is holistic and complements medical treatment with counselling, psychological support, complementary treatments and care. 

Jacinta had previously told SHEmazing that while she has "bad days" – she is also "eternally grateful to Arc" for everything they have done for her and her loved-ones – including her husband of three years, David.

"Mentally as well as physically, going through numerous surgeries is tough, and without Arc I just don’t know if I could keep going," she had revealed. 

Importantly, Team Arc are once again taking part in Saturday's Run-A-Muck Challenge. Now it their fourth year of competing, this year the event takes place on September 24 in Co Kildare.

"We need to raise funds for the organisation," Jacinta adds. "On the dark days that cancer brings, they showed me the light."

You can support Team Arc here. You can also find more information on Arc's service here.

For 2016, Team Arc aims to raise €1,000 – and has already surpassed the €600-mark.

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*Some users may find these images distressing*

A warning has now been issued to pet owners in the Cork area, after a family dog was attacked seemingly for no reason while he lay in his own back-garden.

In a heart-wrenching post on an animal charity's Facebook page, images of the injured pet were afterwards posted – prompting an outraged response from hundreds of people. 

Shared via ArcAnimal Rescue Cobh – it read: "Word of caution to any dog owners in Cobh – it's a fright to God when you can't even keep your own family dog out in the back garden without him being abused.

"Our family dog who wouldn't hurt a fly has been minding his own business in the back garden when some lowlife poured some sort something over him which has been described by the vet as a sort of chemical.

"The holes in his back are from someone poking him with an iron through the fence.

"So everyone please keep an eye on your dogs and if you see any suspicious activity around a house please report to the Gardai! We are absolutely devastated that someone would do this to our dog."

In response, Peta Ireland has also offered up a €2,000 reward for information that leads to the discovery of the perpetrators of the vicious attack.

"It's imperative that any community faced with a cruel and callous act such as this take measures to find the culprit and bring him or her to justice," Peta's Elisa Allen said.

"Animal abusers are a danger to everyone – they take their issues out on whoever is available to them, human or non-human – and must be caught before they act again."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666-111.

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Christmas is the season of giving, but it's not just about buying smellies for your mum or socks for your dad.

At this time of year it's nice to give back a little too, and ARC Cancer Support are making it extra easy to help them raise some much-needed funds.

If you've happened to be in St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre this week, you may have noticed a very special addition on the first floor floor – the blue ARC Tree of Hope.

As well as admiring the gorgeous tree, shoppers are encouraged to buy an ARC bauble for just €5, which can be taken home or hung on the tree. Each bauble has space for you to write a personal message of hope and love – be it for a loved one who is in need of a kind word, or in memory of someone who has passed away.

On the 13th of this month, an official lighting ceremony will take place, with the Dublin Gospel Choir on hand to provide some festive entertainment and Aslan frontman Christ Dignam there to light the tree.

ARC hopes to raise €20,000 from this year's festive initiative, with funds going towards counselling and complementary services for those with cancer and their loved ones.

For more information, head along to St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre or follow ARC on Facebook and Twitter.

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It’s been a hectic month for Hilary Duff from signing a record contract to starring in a new television show, but it now seems Hilary could be considering a conversion to Scientology.

The 26-year-old actress has been spotted spending a lot of time with Hollywood’s young Scientology crowd and Hilary has even gotten temporary tattoos, of Scientology symbols on her arms.

The symbol spotted on Hilary’s arm features a small triangle, which is also known as the “ARC” or “Affinity, Reality and Communication” triangle.

This symbol is most frequently used to represent the church of Scientology.

Duff has also become very close to Alanna Masterson, who is a proud advocate of Scientology and also rumoured to have dated Tom Cruise’s son, Connor.

Hilary has spoken passionately before, about her religious beliefs.

“I travel so much and I work so hard, but I have faith in that kind of thing and I pray all the time and I believe in God,”

Many have commented that Hilary could’ve been seeking solace with the Scientology church, after her recent spilt from three year marriage with Mike Comrie.

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