Thousands march for right to abortion in Ireland

By Olivia Anderton
October 29, 2018
Abortion Rights Campaign

“We voted to repeal the 8th, now it‘s time to legislate!” chanted thousands of defenders of women’s right to choose abortion at a Sept. 29 march in Dublin, pointing to the victory for women and all working people scored in May when a large majority voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution that had enshrined “the right to life of the unborn” and prevented women’s access to abortion.

Legislation to make abortion legal has been drawn up by the government, but has yet to be passed through parliament or medical services put in place.

“This has never been a quiet revolution,” organizers told participants in the protest. “Don’t get quiet now!”

On Oct. 4 Health Minister Simon Harris introduced for the first time the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill in the Irish parliament. The bill provides for abortion on request up to 12 weeks, but institutes a three-day waiting period before the procedure can be carried out. The bill provides a clause that medical personnel can use a “conscientious objection” to refuse to carry out abortion services, but obliges them to make referrals to those who will. Some politicians and the Catholic Church are calling for the provision to cover referrals as well. Discussion and debate on the bill continues.

A number of marchers wore red and carried a suitcase, symbolizing the fact that to get a legal abortion today women still have to travel to the U.K. Volunteers who escort them to doctors there wear red to be recognized.

Another popular slogan on the march was “The North is Next! #NoOneLeftBehind.” Abortion is banned in Northern Ireland, unlike in the rest of the U.K., and women seeking abortions there — like in the South — have to fly abroad to have the procedure. The campaign for a change in Northern Ireland’s laws is gathering momentum. Proponents of a woman’s right to choose in Belfast organized a demonstration in July, chanting, “No more airfare, we want health care!”

The same day as the march in Dublin thousands demonstrated for a woman’s right to choose abortion in Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, across Europe and elsewhere.