Together for Yes launched to campaign for Yes vote in Repeal of 8th referendum

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There are times when you walk into a room, and you sense that this is the exact space that you should be, something special is about to take place. It was that way, when Solidarity Times attended the launch of the Together for Yes campaign in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital last Thursday [22nd of March]. The room was filling up fast and there was excited chatter in all quarters. You need a crowd, and progress and movements come from crowds assembled and pushing in a direction. Together for Yes, is as broad an alliance as I have ever witnessed for a campaign, and all the disparate groups where represented, covering a spectrum that ran from activists, feminists, anarchists, socialists, republicans, through to the most established of establishment political parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael included.

Together for Yes is a broad alliance, very broad because it unites all of the people who see this law for what it is, and the time has come to address it, by repealing it. This is issue which has blighted this island, and will continue to do so, even after we win the vote to repeal the 8th amendment, as we cannot forget about the active denial of reproductive rights that exists in Norther Ireland. But in the room last Thursday, the atmosphere crackled with static, there was anticipation to get this started, to enact the campaign, and to repeal the 8th amendment, to move towards free safe medical reproductive care for people in the republic of Ireland.

The morning would mark a day when the first step was taken towards bringing the country in line with 24 other states in Europe who have abortion available. We are ending the hypocrisy of banning abortion here, whilst thousands of Irish women are forced to go to the UK and elsewhere to terminate. We are going to end the practice of securing pills on the internet and then taking them in unsupervised conditions, in order to have an abortion. We are ending a law which equates a foetus with the life of a woman, and which has caused death in Irish hospitals. For all these reasons and more, there was the chatter and the knowledge that now is the time to make history, to emerge from the darkest past. A past that is marked with the sign ‘Here Be Monsters’. A past that is mired misogyny, a brutal and desperate history which we have yet to process. But it is something we will do together, and it will start with repeal.

All of the energy that comes from knowing what has gone before, was in the room for the launch. The Minister for Health even showed up to lend his support, and unlike so many other events, did NOT take centre stage. The centre stage was left to three women who represent the various groups who are working together to mobilise a massive Yes for repeal, and they were Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Grainne Griffin from the Abortion Rights Campaign, and Ailbhe Smyth convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eight.

The meeting began with the story of a couple who went through the painful journey abroad to secure an abortion in the UK, because the foetus that she carried would never survive. She told her story because she wanted to spare others of having to go through her ordeal.

Peter Boylan, the former master of the maternity hospital in Holles Street, spoke of the grave harm and death that the 8th amendment has caused since It was written into the statute books in 1983. Finally we heard from Catherine McGuinness, a former Justice to the Supreme court, and a veteran of the original campaign against the 8th amendment of the early 80’s. She said it was time to end the hypocrisy and vote yes. She spoke of the need for the campaign to be conducted in a respectful manner, something that was sadly lacking in 1983, from the other side.

The atmoshphere was charged, because we are together for yes, together for repeal, together for change. We are unified in our march out of our present hypocrisy, and into a future where a woman continues to enjoy human rights, even when pregnant.

Video of the launch

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