This Saturday will see the second annual March for Choice. Mass mobilisation is crucial to ensure the government’s attempt to wash its hands of the abortion issue, following the passing of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, will not be tolerated and, in particular, that the betrayal of the Labour Party in its support of a bill that criminalises women and ignored the issues of foetal abnormalities, rape, incest and inevitable miscarriages will not be overlooked.
Their cowardly attempt to draw a line under the issue was made clear by Minister Pat Rabbite when he said that “I do not see us coming back to this issue in the life time of this government”. Let’s not give them the choice.
The tragic case of a 32 year old mother who bled to death alone in a London taxi, following post abortion complications and having being refused the termination for medical reasons by an Irish maternity hospital, emphasised in the most tragic way how the refusal to acknowledge a woman’s health in the legislation will endanger and inevitably cost lives. The young woman whose previous pregnancy was described as a “painful experience” was told “nothing could be done in Ireland”. Unwell and here on a student visa she then had to face the difficult task of raising the money to travel and pay for the procedure. Yet another sad example of a vulnerable woman being abandoned by the Irish state was made even more sickening by the defiant attempts of the Catholic Church to refuse to perform even the limited terminations covered under the new legislation.
Fr. Kevin Doran, a spokesperson for the Board of Governors of the Mater hospital, said publicly that they “cannot comply” with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act because of the hospitals Catholic ethos and that forcing them to do so would violate their right to religious freedom. Apparently their right to religious freedom trumps the right to life of a dying pregnant woman. Worryingly, last minute changes made to the bill mean that even if publicly funded, certain hospitals may not have to comply with the law – a more convincing argument to the complete separation of church and state could not be made. Fundamental reform of the health system is needed urgently. The complete backwardness of the Church’s stance here was highlighted in a recent survey of Irish medical students where it was shown 55% believe abortion should be legal on request.
The limits of the X legislation exposed the fact that the political establishment have no intention on granting bodily autonomy to Irish women.
The March for Choice should mark the beginning of a new campaign for abortion rights. Pro-Choice groups nationally must come together and garner an influx of new activists and supporters in order to launch and build a new campaign for a referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment – a referendum that could clearly be won with a strong pro-choice movement intervening into a debate in society and connecting with the huge shift forward in attitudes of ordinary people that have taken place on this issue in the last decade.
Join the March for Choice. Assemble, this Saturday at 2pm at the Garden of remembrance.
By Emma Quinn.