After several years’ sustained campaigning from activists, the Irish public will be consulted next year on the 8th Amendment of their country's constitutionby Stephanie Boland / September 27, 2017 / Leave a comment
There’s a video that, if you move in certain circles, you might have seen online. In it, a group of women walk along a pristine West London street, each with a wheely suitcase. Their faces are serious, and many of them wear a black jumper with the word “REPEAL” written in white. They’re heading to the Irish Embassy.
If you were to slow the video down and count, you’d find that there are 77 of them: the same number of Irish women who, on average, travel to Britain every week to procure an abortion.
Carry out a straw poll on a London street like this one, and you’ll find plenty of people aren’t aware of Ireland’s abortion laws. Until recently, even some feminist activists were surprised to learn about the 8thamendment: the clause in the Irish constitution that makes the life of a foetus equal to that of the woman carrying it (in one recent case, a woman and her foetus were actually represented by separate legal teams).
Under Irish law, abortion is illegal even in cases of rape or incest, although since 2013 it has been permitted if a woman’s life is at risk. In practice, if a woman wishes to procure an abortion, she has three options: obtain illegal abortion pills and risk prosecution; attempt an abortion at home; or, if she can get together the money, travel to Britain, to pay for an abortion there.
It is this last group of women that the suitcase protest, organised by the Coalition to Repeal the 8thAmendment, was designed to highlight. The affecting video is just one action in a sustained campaign by different groups, across the Republic and overseas. The famous REPEAL jumpers are another, with activists seen sitting behind Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a recent speech on Brexit.
Women like Irish Times writer Roisin Ingle and Helen Linehan—wife of the Irish comedian, Graham Linehan—have written about their own experiences. Earlier this year, following a similar action in Poland, a “#Strike4Repeal” action shut down Dublin city centre.
If English feminists used to be in the dark about Ireland’s abortion laws, Irish activists have switched the light on—permanently.
“On average, 77 Irish women travel to Britain every week to procure an abortion”
More important, however, is…