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Repeal Campaign

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Dr. Rhona Mahony has pledged that women whose unborn babies have fatal foetal abnormalities will be offered terminations from January at the National Maternity Hospital.

As the hospital's master, Mahony made the claim after it came to light that some maternity hospitals and GPs won't be ready to begin extended abortion services from January.

A spokesman has said that staff are "working to ensure we have a full, safe and compassionate service in place as quickly as possible".

Dr. Mahony's spokesman continued;

"Notwithstanding the outstanding logistical issues, we expect to provide termination of pregnancy in situations of fatal foetal anomaly from January 1."

Minister for Health Simon Harris rejected implications that the January target for abortion services was aligned with politics, and has commented that this claim was 'offensive'.

He added that the services will not be available everywhere straight away, and that it needed time to embed and evolve with the help of clinicians. 

Yesterday, the Seanad continued with their debate on the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

Dr Sharon Sheehan, master of the Coombe hospital, has commented that her new system of service won't be ready by January.

She said; "To ensure the provision of "safe, high-quality, sensitive and compassionate care for women", it is essential to have the finalised legislation in place, an agreed model of care nationally and national clinical guidelines.

She continued;

"There has been extensive work, and that is continuing to proceed at a pace, but they are not ready and we now have only 20 days before this service is to be introduced.

"In my opinion, the country is not ready, and therefore the Coombe is not in a position to deliver these services from the January 1."

The Rotunda maternity hospitals spokeswoman commented that;

"Rotunda Hospital will be complying with enacted legislation providing the appropriate model of care, resources and funding is in place to enable a safe service provision to women".

The Irish Family Planning Association has also said that an exact date of availability for abortion services cannot yet be offered;

"We are still working on a number of outstanding issues. We're working to resolve them as quickly as possible and we're making good progress. We won't delay in providing abortion care once that's done".

The Irish College of General Practitioners and the Institute of Obstetricians are set to meet today for the discussion of clinical guidelines which are seen as essential for doctors.

A 24/7 helpline will hopefully be advertised by the HSE once the legislation is passed for guiding women, GPs and hospitals.

Feature image: BusinessPost.ie

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Not many of our peers can say that we have read the full Irish Constitution, and yet it’s the most important political document in a country’s legislature.

Following the removal of the article regarding blasphemy, and of course the 8th Amendment, it’s time to turn back to the Irish Constitution, and examine what is left to be done to bring this document straight into the 21st century.

To start, the sexism, elitism and reductionist standards are alien to modern life, and the Irish people deserve a legal document which accurately represents all of its citizens.

In case we have forgotten from secondary school political history classes, Bunreacht na hÉireann was drafted way back in 1937, by the hugely conservative Éamon de Valera, who perfectly represented the conservative Catholic Church-state environment of the era.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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By writing a new Constitution, de Valera embarked upon a very risky political strategy considering Irish political life at the time was hugely volatile. It replaced the Irish Free State Constitution of 1922, and therefore erased Article 3 which guaranteed “discrimination without distinction of sex.

He revitalised his dream of Catholic women serving good, Catholic men in the home. Religious leaders also had a far-too-big input into the Constitution, including men who are now recognised as protecting child abusers.

Now, of course the entire religious community of Ireland weren't involved in abuse scandals, but it's important to note that a large group of them were, and were protected for years to the detriment of abuse survivors.

The Constitution has caused many a controversy, among them is the X case, where a young woman who was raped was denied the right to travel to the UK for an abortion. This was changed officially in 1992, as the 14th Amendment.

The right to divorce was only ratified in the mid-1990s, and even then partners had to be officially separated for four years. An annulment was next to impossible to get, even for those who were stuck in situations of abuse.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The protection for the life of the unborn still causes turbulence, seeing as it dramatically impedes female healthcare even outside of reproduction.

The legislation repealing the 8th has yet to come into practice, and is showing no sign of entering the healthcare system anytime soon despite it's valuable victory which took in 66 per cent of votes.

The right for members of the LGBQ+ community to marry was only passed in 2015. You cannot run for President until you turn 35, which would have ruled out some of Ireland’s major political candidates in the 1930s.

As recently as 2015, a shocking 73.1 per cent of the population voted against reducing the age to 21. Irish law appears to believe that age brings wisdom, rather than actual experience.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Many members of Irish society struggle with the union of the Catholic religion with the Constitution. It’s completely saturated with it. The opening lines to this day read:

“In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The oath sworn by the President of Ireland is “under almighty God.”

Article 44 on religion enshrines freedom of worship, but also notes that “The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.”

So there’s not much room for expansion there, to say the least.

I mean, seriously? Four million inhabitants on the island, and the Constitution fails to separate Church and State, fails to acknowledge that there is another religion besides Catholicism, and other nuanced beliefs and practices.

Ireland is a diverse place, an Emerald Isle of nationalities and cultures, yet this piece of paper essentially only benefits elite, Catholic men in upper class positions. Like Éamon De Valera. Who had ZERO LAW EXPERIENCE.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Éamon De Valera cast a shadow over Irish women when he drafted it by ignoring pleas from Irish women’s councils to aid in writing the charter.

One of the most intensely problematic, not to mention out-dated articles is 41.2 the infamous ‘women’s place in the home’ section of the Constitution. By now there are zero doubts as to the sexism surrounding the enshrined words.

It reads as follows:

In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

This essentially claims that women are needed to carry out their housework duties and care for children so that the real work (by men) can be carried out elsewhere, i.e. running the damn country. The duties of the home are elevated far above labour outside of domesticity.

Image: Oireachtas

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan says that the issue of Article 41.2 is primarily one of gender equality, and it’s next to impossible to disagree with him. The article limits the role of women entirely, and completely rejects the notion of men as carers and fathers, which is also unfair.

Men must take responsibility as carers of those who are vulnerable in society, not simply children. The elderly, disabled people, sick relatives and friends are all part of this category, which places most of the burden on women alone for their seemingly ‘nurturing qualities’.

The contention surrounding the article is whether or not to replace it with an alternative, or just delete it altogether. We’re thinking… DELETE.

The emotional and difficult referendum on the 8th amendment has had a clear impact on Irish society, especially on Irish women, who have recognised the inequality which still plagues our country, such as sexual assault and violence, discrimination and unequal pay.

The Constitution Bill (38th Amendment) must make its way through both houses of the Oireachtas before the Irish people can have their say on Article 41.2 via a referendum.

Independent TD Clare Daly said in response to Charlie Flanagan that she “feels like laughing, to think that you see yourself as a champion of gender equality given some of the decisions of your government.”

Image: Oireachtas

Another Independent representative Mick Wallace added his own negative comments to the pile:

“I find it interesting that you speak of gender equality in the workplace when the greatest barrier to that equality is the cost of childcare and your government has done bugger all about it.”

Ireland has the second highest-price of childcare in the OECD, meaning that it is still mostly women who struggle to return to work following pregnancy as the costs of childcare make the situation impossible.

Orla O’Connor, acting Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, later added that Article 41.2 “has not supported the home and family, and in our opinion has diminished the position of women” in Irish society.

Dr Laura Cahillane of the University of Limerick’s school of law described the Article as “an embarrassment”, as well as “effectively useless in law”.

A Constitution is meant to embody the moral and legal aspirations of an entire country and it’s individual citizens, we shouldn’t forget this. Women have the most to gain from changes to the Constitution.

All of the civic service committee members which Éamon de Valera employed in order to help him draft the document were men.

Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid as well as the head of the Supreme Court were two major influences, both male. Only three women were TDs during this time, and none of them said a word during the Dáil debate on the matter.

Essentially, we aren’t part of this document, and this document isn’t part of us. We make up half of this population, and yet not a single word of the parchment portrays the female experience.

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The tender age of just 19, Molly Keane is already an accomplished internationally-known photographer. 

The Donegal native was sitting studying for her leaving cert when she got a call that would set her career in motion. She was one of 12 contestants selected for the Sky Arts Master of Photography competition. 

"When I applied I thought I didn't have a hope. To be picked out of 10,000 entries from across Europe was amazing. I moved to Rome to take part, it was a bit mad- I even missed my mocks!

“It was an absolutely amazing experience.”

Thanks to the publicity and recognition from the competition, Molly was able to move to Dublin last summer to begin her career as a professional photographer. She now works with portraits, live music and conceptual photos. 

 

'Green Dream' (2018) #portrait #selfportrait 35mm #me

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As a young Irish woman, it was inevitable that she would get involved with the campaign to repeal the Eighth. 

“I’ve always been pro-choice. It might not be for me personally but I would never take that choice away from another woman.  Having children is a personal choice, and not one that I’d ever make for another woman. The eighth amendment makes getting help during crises pregnancies a lot hard than it needs to be.”

Using her photography skills to encourage "difficult conversations", she gathered inspiration from the well-know photo-blog, Humans of New York. 

“I’ve always loved the idea of Humans of New York. Putting faces and words to big issues really personalises them. I wanted to do my bit with photography and social media to promote the Yes vote.”

As part of the series, Molly has photographed an "eclectic" mix of people, from men, to grandparents, to young mothers and people with disabilities. She also snapped big-name Irish celebrities such as Jack Gleeson, director Lenny Abrahamson and musicians May Kay from Le Galaxie and Faye O'Rourke of Little Green Cars.

“There are so many different reasons to vote yes. That’s why I made a specific effort to photograph people from all different ages and genders. No two women are the same, and neither are their reasons for wanting repeal.”

But perhaps the most compelling portrait she's captured was her first, of her own mother. 

“When the repeal debate first started, mum wasn't really sure about repealing. After lots and lots of difficult conversations I could start to see where she was coming from. She had never experienced a crises pregnancy; myself and my brothers had been planned and wanted. She never had any difficulties during pregnancy that so many women have. She realised that she came from a privileged position. Eventually we came to a level of understanding, she’s the first portrait I captured for the series.”

In the run up to the most divisive vote in Ireland's recent history, it can be all too easy to forget the real people affected by the eighth amendment. Molly's fabulous portraits remind us to humanise the debate. Take a look at some of our favourites here:

"Although personally, abortion is never something I would choose for myself, I am very pro-choice because I understand that even if you are against abortion, it’s going to happen. Anyone with half a brain can see the impact it has on women; the awful effect the 8th amendment has and the trauma and shame it creates in this country"- Elena 

 

"The 8th should never have been put in our constitution. It makes Irish women less safe and less free, and blocks progress towards laws based on rationality and compassion rather than superstition and the impulse to control"- Lenny Abrahamson. Director of Room, Frank, What Richard Did and Garage

 

 

‘It’s often assumed that disabled people are inherently anti-choice. People with disabilities are being used as an argument against repealing the 8th. I’m pro-choice because people should have the freedom to make their own decision. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done as far as respecting people with intellectual and physical disabilities, and I don’t see the anti-choice side offering any of that. Young girls with intellectual disabilities who have been abused can’t access abortions here and have been forced to carry a child to term. I do think that there’s a lack of respect towards people with disabilities from the pro-life side. We’re being used as props in this referendum. People need proper access to reproductive health around their disability. At the end of the day, it’s sick, poor and disabled women who suffer most under the 8th. The most sensible thing to do is to trust women, because there are so many complicated issues when it comes to healthcare. It’s a doctors job to help people and save peoples lives but the 8th amendment handcuffs them. The burden of the 8th falls on marginalised people, including women with disabilities often. I really hope that Ireland stands up and votes for Repeal, it’s long overdue.’ (HUMANS OF REPEAL, Ferdia) #HumansOfRepeal #Together4Yes #TogetherForYes #RepealThe8th #Repealproject #Portrait #YesforRepeal #portraitpage #politics #ireland #dublin #postthepeople #theguardian #tpj #woman #womensrights #feminism #photojournalism #35mm #abortionrights #analog #analoguevibes #trustwomen #REPEAL #HONY #8thref #Documentary #abortionreferendum

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"It’s often assumed that disabled people are inherently anti-choice. People with disabilities are being used as an argument against repealing the 8th. I’m pro-choice because people should have the freedom to make their own decision. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done as far as respecting people with intellectual and physical disabilities, and I don’t see the anti-choice side offering any of that.

"Young girls with intellectual disabilities who have been abused can’t access abortions here and have been forced to carry a child to term. I do think that there’s a lack of respect towards people with disabilities from the pro-life side. We’re being used as props in this referendum.

"People need proper access to reproductive health around their disability. At the end of the day, it’s sick, poor and disabled women who suffer most under the 8th.

"The most sensible thing to do is to trust women, because there are so many complicated issues when it comes to healthcare. It’s a doctors job to help people and save peoples lives but the 8th amendment handcuffs them. The burden of the 8th falls on marginalised people, including women with disabilities often. I really hope that Ireland stands up and votes for Repeal, it’s long overdue"- Ferdia

 

"I think in this day and age every woman should have the right to decide what they do with their own body"- Peggy

Follow Humans of Repeal here

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The referendum to repeal the eighth amendment is shaping up to be the most divisive vote in a generation. 

With about 30% of voters still undecided which box to tick on the 25th of May, we ask two Irish millennials which way they're voting and why. 

Clare, 23, is an Arts student and advocate for the no vote. Aura, 23, is a journalist and volunteer for Migrants and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice (MERJ). 

Why are you pro-life/pro-choice?

Clare: The conversations I have with my pro-choice friends usually boil down to one question: Is this a life or not?

I recently watched a video of my cousin’s 11 week scan. It really was the most adorable thing! The little baby is stretching, waving their little hand and wiggling around. We found out at just 9 weeks the baby’s eyes have colour in them, and it’s mouth has tiny taste-buds, and at 10 weeks the little baby’s heart is already beating at 180 beats a minute – that’s three times faster than your own heart!

If we are voting to legalise abortion in Ireland, we really must evaluate what it is we are choosing. Most countries legalised abortion before ultrasounds were widely available. Abortion sadly targets a baby that is most definitely alive before an abortion and is not alive afterwards.

This time yes is a step backwards.

 

Aura: I am pro-choice; we must start trusting women in Ireland to make decisions over their body and lives by making abortion accessible here.

The 8th amendment hasn't stopped abortions from taking place, it has made them more difficult to obtain and adds unintended consequences in maternity services.

Activists who secure pills, doctors abroad that perform abortions and ordinary citizens who give women support following a termination are doing the job of our health service.

Some of us cannot travel due to legal status, finances or commitments at home – this means that the 8th amendment disproportionately affects migrant women and women that cannot afford to or who cannot arrange childcare.

As an Irish citizen I am privileged to vote in this referendum, something that many migrant and ethnic women cannot do, despite making up to 39% of maternal deaths in Ireland.

Savita, Miss Y and now Aisha Chithira are the most well-known examples of migrant women who received appalling healthcare, due to the 8th.

What do you think about termination in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape and incest or when the mother's life is at risk?

Clare: Would it surprise you to know that we already have legal termination in Ireland? And I agree with it? In 2016, 25 legal terminations were carried out, all because the mothers’ lives were at risk. The 8th Amendment allows for women to receive the best treatment during pregnancy, for their lives and for their babies’ lives to be looked after ‘as far as is practicable’. Therefore a legal termination can be carried out if the woman’s life is in danger.

My heart goes out to anyone who has ever experienced anything like this. They are what people call the ‘hard cases’ and they constitute a very small percentage of all abortions. In the referendum on the 25th May however, we are not being asked to vote to allow abortion in these circumstances. This vote on abortion goes much further.

In May, we are voting to allow for abortion on-demand up to 3 months and abortion up to 6 months on vague mental health grounds (it’s in the bill).

 

Aura: A person who has been raped has been denied their consent. They find out they are pregnant and their consent is then taken again under the 8th amendment. There is no compassion in denying a person the right to end a pregnancy they did not want.

It is unthinkable for people experiencing a fatal fetal abnormality (FFA) to travel abroad for a necessary healthcare service and then figure out the logistics of bringing their child’s remains back to Ireland.

I think the conversation should be expanded a bit too. 

Issues with legal status, housing and financial uncertainty are legitimate reasons for not wanting to continue a pregnancy. Can we not have the same compassion for the asylum seeker in Direct Provision, the college student or the woman facing homelessness?

Why do women need to be brutalised or deathly ill before we give them bodily autonomy?

How do you think the pro-life/pro-choice campaign has been doing in the run up to referendum?

Clare: The word on the doors all over Ireland is that the extreme abortion laws the government are pushing do not sit well with the Irish people. We can take nothing for granted, but I am confident the Irish people will come out and Vote No in May.

In the UK, 98% of abortions happen because of social reasons. The top two reasons given as to why a woman seeks an abortion are because 1. she was not supported and 2. she was not financially able. Knowing this, if we as a society offer abortion as a solution instead of real positive social supports, then surely the fault lies with us.

I truly believe the Irish people are a compassionate and caring people. Positive options exist for women in crisis pregnancies, but they are underfunded and under-discussed. I hope that after the referendum, more attention and focus is given by the government to these services.

Now is an opportunity to build an ever more supportive society for women and children.
 

Aura: Their claim of abortion up to six months is a fallacy. The proposed legislation is for 12 weeks. Because of the similarity of the wording with UK law, they are saying that late term abortions will take place here as they do in the UK.

Abortions at 24 weeks or later are 1/1,000 and happen for devastating reasons, such as a FFA diagnosis. We need to stop punishing tragedy.

Love Both (Pro-life Campaign) are calling for the provision of access to free contraception, improvements to counselling and support services and more sexual education in schools as an alternative to abortion. This group has been around since 1992 – where is the evidence of their work on this?

Youth Defence, or Save the 8th, have cropped up over the decades to rally against divorce, contraception, same-sex marriage, women’s liberation, benefits for unmarried mothers and whose past members have associations with European far-right groups.

They do not have compassion for most living humans I would know.

For impartial and independent information on the referendum see the Referendum Commission website here

 

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Scrolling through my newsfeed one night, I noticed that one of my friends had liked a new page. The profile picture was a pair of dolly shoes. I never saw it before, but I instantly understood what it was.

I started to cry.

It has been less than five years since my own crisis pregnancy and I still struggle to find the right way to speak about the 8th amendment. It is so difficult to discuss an issue that will shape the lives of Irish women forever. As a mother, I think about my daughter and how it might impact her life. The landscape is divisive and scary. I had no idea what I was looking for when I thought about how to change this rhetoric that currently surrounds the upcoming referendum.

That night, I realised that the In Her Shoes- Women of the Eighth Facebook page is the answer.

The page is a modern archive of raw and honest accounts by women who have experienced the complex effects of the 8th Amendment. It is not a debating ground, as founder Erin explained when I spoke to her, but simply a platform for women to share their realities with anyone who is willing to read. Each account is accompanied by a photo of a pair of shoes, inviting us to step into their reality for a moment.

On the phone, Erin tells me that her youngest baby is sleeping soundly on her shoulder. I instantly identify with her tone. She is a parent who wants a better Ireland for her little ones; she is hopeful and wary of the next few weeks.

Erin tells me that the idea for In Her Shoes came to her while she was working at a Pro-Choice information stall in her small rural Irish town. She engaged in a conversation with some friendly older men who identified as Pro-Life and had some ideas of why a woman might have an abortion. They were open to hearing real-life experiences. Like all who sit down for a respectful conversation around this issue, Erin realised that, in general, Irish people are empathetic and compassionate. They are willing to see another side of the debate – to hear the effects of the 8th Amendment on real lives. 

The In Her Shoes Facebook page was set up by Erin back in January 2018. She envisaged a platform for a few women to share their personal experiences, but never expected the incredible responses and reactions the page has evoked. To date, there have been over 170 stories shared and there are many more scheduled to post over the next few weeks. Erin started the page on her own but now has a small team of trusted volunteers who help bring these front-line stories to the public. The page has a following of over 59,500.

Image may contain: one or more people

These women tell their harrowing and unique tales with bravery. They speak of shattering diagnoses and being forced to travel or to bury their babies across the sea. They recount sexual assaults that resulted in pregnancy and mental torment. They document the reality of being a pregnant child on an island that doesn't seem to care. They are women with disabilities whose pregnancies have put their lives at risk. They are mothers in violent relationships.

They tell sides of the story that most wouldn't even attribute to the 8th, such as the woman who suffered a devastating miscarriage only to be denied aftercare because her scan was unclear; the women with cancer who are denied chemotherapy after becoming pregnant; a woman whose pregnancy would render her blind eventually, but who was denied a treatment because the glare of the 8th amendment terrifies Irish doctors.

The women who contribute come to life on the screen. They are real. They are our mothers and daughters and sisters. They don't appear as countless statistics but as individuals. They travel. They are forced to travel. They choose not to travel. They bleed, they cry and they share.

Many disclose that this is the first time they have told their story. Some of the accounts describe journeys that date back years- years of carrying a devastating secret. Their vulnerability is evident; you can feel the shaking hands and drumming hearts with every word. They confide in Erin and her followers anonymously and ask us to imagine the horror of each situation.

Image may contain: shoes, outdoor, water and nature

Something that struck me was the recurrent vocabulary in these stories of crisis pregnancies, non-viable pregnancies and miscarriages. Images of crashing worlds and ticking time bombs echo throughout the accounts. However, even with imagery so similar, all of these women recount a loneliness like no other. Isolation is an understatement.

Erin describes the sharing process as healing. These women finally know they are not alone as they share and read the stories of others.

Many say they were Pro-Life before they came face to face with the 8th amendment. The experience of a crisis pregnancy or a non-viable pregnancy is not something that can be imagined. The nuances cannot be simulated, and that’s evident from the detail in each story. No pregnancy is the same and all we can do is read, feel and empathise.

Reviews on the page reveal that Erin’s initiative is changing the way people will vote. The mother of 3 tells me that she receives humbling messages daily about how her page has changed the minds of Pro-Life family members. It can be particularly difficult to discuss Repeal with loved ones.

Image may contain: shoes

Despite giving birth to three Irish children, Eirin is an American immigrant and has no vote for her future or the future of her daughters. In the early days, her goal was to convince one person to vote YES, so that her voice would be heard. She recounts a person reaching out to thank her for helping her Pro-Life Granny see the complexity of the issue and how voting no to Repeal is not the solution for a safer Ireland, even if someone is personally against abortion.

The In Her Shoes- Women of the Eighth page demonstrates a stark reality: Article 40.3.3° of Bunreacht na hEireann– the 8th amendment- does not prevent women from obtaining termination services. This much is clear. It allows for the daily export of Irish women’s healthcare and prevents the support that is needed for those with nowhere to turn.

The accounts given are evidence that the 8th amendment impacts every continued pregnancy and childbirth on Irish soil. The article removes the capacity of a person to give consent during pregnancy or even possible pregnancy. This referendum is about so much more than abortion services. It is about safety for all Irish women.

If you or anyone you know is undecided about how to will vote on May 25th, this page is the place to start. If you haven't already done so, click here for In Her Shoes- Women of the Eighth

Article by Anna Murray. 

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Backed by the Abortion Rights Campaign, “Repeal” is a new Irish short film which was officially released on social media yesterday.

Written and directed by Karl Callan, “Repeal” is the story of three women and the difficulties they encounter in the face of abortion laws in Ireland.

The narratives within the film are all based on real life testimonies from people who have been directly affected by the 8th amendment.

Karl was inspired to make this film by cases such as Savita Halappanavar and the “Miss Y- case” and his goal is to shine a light on what is happening every day in Ireland as a result of the current law.

It is his hope that those who are currently undecided may feel inclined to vote Yes after seeing the film.

“I researched the stories, spoke with women I know that had been through similar situations. I also spoke to medical professionals and learned of the difficulties they go through as a result of the restrictions put on them.

"I wanted to be sure that the film was as realistic as possible,” says Callan Having seen “Repeal”, the Abortion Rights Campaign are happy to lend their support to the film and they gave a short talk in the IFI on Easter Saturday where the film has a private screening.

The film was produced by Karl Callan, Aaron McEnaney, Sofia Bwcka and includes a cast of Irish actors and filmmakers involved in Ireland's thriving film scene notably Maureen O'Connell (writer/director of Proclaim! Award-winning short film) and Lynette Callaghan (Raw, The Clinic).

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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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