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 firstname.lastname@example.org – 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