People always seem surprised when I tell them about the support I get when canvassing, as a pro-choice candidate in Dublin Central. Questions about where I stand on repealing Article 40.3.3 — or the 8th Amendment to our constitution — come up on the doors quite frequently. While there are of course many people who disagree, the vast majority of my constituents who I meet every day are in favour of allowing a woman full control over all aspects of her healthcare.
In the ongoing struggle for women’s rights, the repeal of the 8th amendment is of vital importance and you only have to look at how strongly we supported marriage equality last May to see that Dublin’s North Inner City always places huge emphasis on equality and fairness. However, there is another reason that the people of Dublin Central support the work done by women’s group since the 80s to remove restrictive abortion laws – many of the women of Dublin Central are disproportionately affected by them.
If you are a women who has a passport or relevant travel documents, and can afford to leave the State and seek medical treatment in the UK, the Netherlands, or further afield, you don’t have to worry about the possibility of a criminal conviction and a jail term. In a very Irish way, it is not illegal to send our women off on lonely Ryanair flights, for other jurisdictions to show them care and compassion. We need to acknowledge that when it comes to our dangerous and unworkable abortion laws, what is keeping them in place is hypocrisy and a seemingly unrelenting need by the Irish State to control women’s bodies.
We also need to acknowledge the fact that not everyone can afford to travel, so working class women and migrant women who may not have the money or the relevant travel documents are doubly disadvantaged.
Abortion laws do not stop abortions, they just make them harder to access, and for some women, put their lives in danger. 12 women a day travel from Ireland to access safe and legal abortion in other jurisdictions; many more are buying abortion pills online, while others resort to more desperate and dangerous measures to end an unwanted pregnancy.
Savita Halappanavar, Miss X, Miss Y, the women of the A, B, C cases – will be wait until we run out of letters of the alphabet, wait for more tragedies, before we put an abortion to the people?
Ireland is the only democratic country in the world to have a constitutional ban on abortion. The National Women’s Council of Ireland, Amnesty International and numerous international statutory bodies have called on Ireland to bring their abortion laws in line with its international human rights obligations. Opinion polls consistently show support among the Irish public for liberalising our abortion laws.
This is a red line issue for voters, it comes up on doors consistently. It is time for our government and for all those who seek to represent to trust women, to respect bodily autonomy and to ensure that every citizen has access to 21st century medical care they need. Repeal the 8th.