This past Saturday, thousands took to the streets of Dublin for the seventh annual March for Choice, the first since May’s referendum resulted in the repealof the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution which outlawed abortion. The vote to repeal passed with 66.4 percent of the vote,with only a single county, the northern Donegal, voting no with a small 51.9% majority.
So what was the point of Saturday’s march, if the law that outlawed choice has finally been struck down by the people of the Republic of Ireland? The chants that rippled across the crowds provide some hints:
“Legislate;” Pregnant People cannot wait!;” “Free, Safe, Legal”
While the repeal of the eighth amendment represents a major victory for its advocates, many activists and citizens alike are concerned with the potential for loopholes and the nitty-gritty of the forthcoming language of long awaited legislation.
For example, according to the Irish government in March of 2017, any forthcoming legislation regarding abortion would include a 48-72 hour “consideration period” before an individual planning to have an abortion is able to have the procedure. Advocates for abortion rights assert that this waiting period is nothing short of cruel punishment.
Marchers also pointed out that language should read “people” or “pregnant individuals” where possible and not only “women” to avoid giving judges, physicians, etc. the ability to discriminate against transgender or gender non-conforming individuals.
“The North is Next!”
The referendum has been won for the Republic of Ireland, but abortion laws in Northern Ireland have been referred to as “barbaric” and “medieval”. Although the High Court of Belfast ruled in November of 2015 that the existing laws conflicted with human rights law, abortions in Northern Ireland are only permitted if the women’s life is in danger, or there is an agreed upon permanent risk to her physical and mental health. There are no legal exceptions for instances of rape or incest, or for foetal abnormalities. A BBC report from this June stated that a startling 900 women had traveled from Northern Ireland to England for an abortion within the last year according to the UK Department of Health.
Amnesty International Ireland has adapted current campaign slogans for reform that read #ItsTime For Women in Northern Ireland to Decide in addition to The Abortion Rights Campaign’s (who sponsored the March) hashtag #TheNorthIsNext.
So why were so many thousands of people marching on Saturday? As Michelle Devane from the Irish Examiner says in her coverage: for advocates, the abortion battle may have been won, but the war continues.