The 8th Amendment was repealed a year ago: It’s NOW for the North

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Helping our sisters up in the North of Ireland in their fight for reproductive healthcare can take just a few minutes; all you have to do is email your MP. 

We can remember the emotional distress and pain endured one year ago, when the 8th Amendment was repealed by 66 percent in a groundbreaking referendum which shook the nation.

It's hard to believe that a whole 365 days have passed since that moment, and even though the new reproductive healthcare measures are experiencing teething problems, we've changed the law forever.

With Alabama and Georgia passing hugely restrictive anti-abortion laws in their states over the last few weeks, the people of America are rightfully scared at the blatant attack against Roe v Wade. The state has criminalised abortion in any stage of pregnancy, including in circumstances of rape and incest, and is punishable by up to 99 years in prison in six months time, when the law is enforced.

This 1973 landmark decision of the US Supreme Court changed America's reproductive healthcare in the Constitution. The ruling that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment provides a fundamental "right to privacy" protects a pregnant women's freedom to choose abortion or not.

Right-wing, conservative governments in the Southern states of America are targeting this ruling, and it's causing a Handmaid's Tale effect. Rightfully, focus has shifted back to Northern Ireland, which has even stricter laws.

On May 25, 2018, Ireland voted to pull it's women up and out of a criminalisation system surrounding their bodies and choices. Our hearts break for Alabama, but the North is still part of our home, our island. They deserve a choice too.

The 8th Amendment outlawed abortion in virtually all circumstances; Northern Ireland's laws would put a woman who had an abortion in prison for life, as well as the healthcare provider. 

Women in the North have zero access to legal abortion services unless they travel abroad, and are charged a large fee if they enter the Irish HSE system, despite being next door. Exceptions up North are only made in extreme medical and mental circumstances, but not for pregnancies as a result of rape.

Prison is the punishment for medical staff who perform abortion, unless the procedure is approved by two doctors. More than 900 women travelled to England and Wales in 2017 to 2018  to seek termination.

Alliance For Choice in Northern Ireland have written an emotional letter to the people of Alabama fighting back against this Draconian Trump-era law, which has led to widespread protest.

"We have begged and pleaded with the UK government to hurry up and address these human rights abuses in Northern Ireland for decades. We are still being ignored, so we really hope, like us, you get to the ear of some great politicians and great people on your side as we know how relentless and tiring the whole thing is. Don’t give up hope."

Their message was to fight with everything they had; get arrested, risk having their flat searched, create good relationships with online pill providers and healthcare practitioners, but most importantly to represent the people. Sharing information that is factually sound to the most amount of people is vital.

Grassroots movements are the reason why the 8th was repealed; not a single politician or party. Those 25 white men in Alabama who created this monster don't realise how powerful a group of people who want bodily autonomy can be. While the North has a smaller population than Alabama or America, the Republic is on their side.

While the Alabama laws cannot yet be enforced, up North there are heartbreaking cases which are still ongoing. One Northern Irish woman was reported by her GP for procuring safe but illegal abortion pills for her then-15 year old daughter, and is now embroiled in a legal battle. Things aren't looking good for their political situation.

At the moment, they are over 850 days without a functioning government after Stormont's 2017 collapse, and no legislation has been passed in over two years. The state is being left behind, and so are the women.

Notably, women-of-colour, those from the LGBTQ+ communities, migrants, those with mental health issues and those from lower economic backgrounds are the worst affected. Their lack of funding and policies relating to sexual violence and marriage equality are worth noting, clearly human rights abuses aren't on their list of priorities.

Westminster needs to act to impose fit-for-purpose abortion legislation for NI, seeing as their government is virtually non-existent. The people of the North contribute to the NHS as much as their UK counterparts, and deserve healthcare that represents the needs of their world.

The fears of upsetting the fraught relationship with the DUP and their ultra-conservative ideals are holding the Tory government back from taking this all-important action. In 2017, Labour's Stella Creasy instigated a rule that gave Northern Irish people access to free abortion care if they travel to England.

The costs of travel, emotional and domestic stress of uprooting and stigma-soaked journey to access this healthcare is hugely traumatic. Your own home is uprooting you, your own country is telling you that they don't believe you have the right to make a choice about your body.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by London-Irish ARC (@londonirisharc) on

We urge you all to write to your MPs through #NowForNI, as well as donate to groups like Alliance for Choice and Abortion Support Network. 

Don't leave the North behind; it's the power of the people that will complete the final push in this battle, just like Repeal.

Feature image: inews.co.uk 

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