This year Belfast saw its largest pro-choice demonstration when about a thousand people took to the streets for the Rally for Choice. This was a significant achievement and to mark it we’ve put together this brief documentary featuring footage from the march, some of the speakers and interviews with both organisers and participants.
It is all but impossible, both in theory and in practice, to legally obtin an abortion on the island of Ireland, both north and south of the imaginary border that divides this island. It is completely impossible to safely and legally obtain an abortion anywhere in Ireland; the legal framework in the south specifically requires that in order to obtain an abortion without being criminalised for so doing, the woman who needs it must be ill enough to die; thus it is rendered impossible for her to be safe in access to legal abortion.
We awake to news that more towns in Ireland are under water due to storm flooding. And that perhaps the sea ice at the north pole might melt due to temperatures rising above zero. The first story is given a lot more prominence in Irish media than the second but strangely at the same time another story is being celebrated. The start of yet more greenhouse gases being pumped out of their safe place far below the sea off the Irish shore to be processed and then released into the atmosphere via the Corrib refinery.
News broke on the 19th June that a Belfast woman is to stand trial for helping her daughter procure an abortion. In response on 24th June a letter was handed in signed by 215 abortion activists admitting that they are guilty of breaking the law by either taking or helping someone procure the Early Medical Abortion (EMA) pill.
Alliance for Choice Belfast has organised this action in solidarity with the woman charged. A similar action occurred in 2013 when 100 people signed a letter admitting to doing the same thing this woman has done and not a single person who signed the letter was contacted by police.
In this society we are told that we have certain rights; the right to vote, the right to protest, the right to bodily autonomy (i.e. the right to decide what happens to our bodies). All of these rights can be taken away in a flash at the whim of those in power. But you cannot take away from a pregnant person that which they don’t have: bodily autonomy.
Abortion is extremely restrictive on this island, with the southern state not acting on the prohibitive legislation that is in place – as was highlighted with Ms. Y in August 2014 – and the northern state only allowing abortion when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life (read: not health).
Despite spending in the region of a million euro and getting the backing of the catholic church its now clear that the anti-choice extremists of Youth Defence & the Pro Life Campaign were resoundingly defeated when the Dail finally voted though legislation implementing the X-Case judgment of 21 years ago. This time last year they were confident that they already had enough Fine Gael TD's on board to block the required legislation but they reckoned against the wave of public anger that followed the death of Savita Halappanavar after she was denied a potentially life saving abortion in a Galway hospital.
12th June saw the publication of the The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 on which the Dail votes this evening. In this piece of legislation, it states,
"It shall be an offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life"
"A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, or both."
Interview with Texan Anarchist, Jen Rogue
Q. How easy is to get an abortion in Texas?
Depends on what you mean by “easy.” To begin with, there is a very conservative culture that shames and silences women about sex and opts for abstinence-only sex education, which contributes to abortion being inaccessible. Texas is almost ten times the size of Ireland and has the nation’s largest rural population, which is yet another obstacle to access, given the limited options in health care. Additionally, with a price tag of $450 to $3,000 (depending on how advanced the pregnancy is), the cost alone makes access to abortion a huge challenge.
Q. How was this law going to change the situation?
The bill would ban any and all abortions after 20 weeks. Also, it would require clinics to be certified as “ambulatory surgical centres” and their doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. This would close almost every clinic in the state, leaving only 5 out of the current 47.
There are some stories that are hard to cover - the death of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant women, from septicemia whose life might have been saved if an abortion was not delayed is a hard as they come. According to the Irish Times Praveen Halappanavar, the husband of Savita said she had asked for a termination several times over a three day period only to be told "this is a catholic country."
For years we were aware that the failure of successive governments to legislate could result in a tragedy but when the first reports started to circulate that this had happened we were horrified. How did we come to this point?
Anti-choice bigots are going into a frenzy to try and prevent the Irish government legislating for abortion provision in the republic as required by the X and C judgements. But they are ignoring the reality that 1000 plus women are already obtaining abortions in the republic every year and are simply making that decision for themselves. The bigots 'keep Ireland abortion free' crusade was fake even before the opening of Marie Stopes in Belfast, the false slogan is presumably designed to fool the US donors whose donations the bigots salaries and offices depend on. But it is having tragic consequences for women in Ireland as those unable to access abortion pills are left without access to abortion.