Yesterday Ireland repealed the 8th amendment which gave the unborn foetus equal right to life as the mother. Finally the way has been paved for free, safe and legal abortions for women living in Ireland.
It’s been a very emotional last few days. In the run up to the referendum, I felt like crying every time I passed a Yes canvasser. I felt enraged by the last minute desperate efforts of the No campaign, flaunting posters of bloody foetuses besides statues of the Virgin Mary, and using children with Down Syndrome as pawns for their cause.
I was unsure what the outcome of the referendum would be. Verbal sparring on social media, in TV debates and coverage in the main national newspapers made it seem like we were heading for a very close 50/50 split result.
As I’m not an Irish citizen, I couldn’t vote. I was placing my trust in other people to do the right thing and hoped the country I’ve been calling my home for 15 years would finally grant women bodily autonomy. As it turned out, Ireland is more united over the issue of women’s reproductive rights than we were led to believe. Young and old from rural and urban areas voted Yes across the board. And a resounding Yes it was.
My first thoughts as the polls were coming in were with my close friends who had to endure miscarriages without proper medical support, prognosis of fatal foetal abnormalities with no options available to them, and with Savita and all the unnamed women and girls who suffered gravely under the 8th amendment.
It’s a bittersweet victory since it comes to late for them. Will they ever receive an apology for what’s been done to them under the 8th amendment? Looking at how long and hard the survivors of Magdalene Laundries had to fight for an apology, I think this looks unlikely to materialise any time soon.
The Taoiseach has attributed the result of the referendum to a quiet revolution happening in Ireland over the last decade or so. I think it’s more apt to call it a long ignored revolution. Women and men have fought this battle for decades, and it was great to see that activists like Ailbhe Smyth, Orla O’Connor and the team of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Tara Flynn and Roisin Ingle who bravely told their abortion stories, Colm O’Gorman from Amnesty Ireland and Dr Peter Boylan received the loudest cheers at the gathering at Dublin Castle yesterday.
Repeal the 8th has been a feminist grassroots movement, and it’s thanks to the numerous volunteers, campaigners and activists that the politicians finally listened and took action. This victory belongs to them. Let’s make sure legislation is enacted swiftly without any compromises.