Repeal the 8th: the deep-rooted issue of women’s rights in Ireland

Strike4Repeal protest at DCU on International Women's Day. Credit: Shirley Donlon

Once upon a time contraception was illegal in Ireland.

It wasn’t until members of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement (IWLM) travelled to Belfast by train in 1971 to buy contraceptives, bringing them back to Dublin, waving them in the air as they passed through customs, that the ‘taboo’ element of discussing contraception was addressed.

Today, the Catholic Church still holds power over the stigma of abortion in Ireland. But not for long.

“Get your rosaries off my ovaries”

Thousands of people took to the streets to march for a repeal of The Eighth Amendment earlier this month.

International women’s day took place on the 8th of March which also harboured a national protest for Strike4Repeal; a campaign promoting that The Eighth Amendment to be repealed in order to allow abortion services in Ireland.

However great it is to see so many people get involved in these marches, protests and organised demonstrations in order to raise awareness for the need of a repeal of The Eighth Amendment, the frustrating element of why we still have to go to so much trouble to get such enormously important issues recognised by the Irish Government is absurd.

“We won’t wait, repeal the eighth!”

According to Amnesty International UK, at least ten women travel from Ireland to the U.K. every day to receive abortions and roughly 4,000 women make the journey to Britain or elsewhere in Europe every year.

The fact that Irish women spend so much money travelling abroad to different countries to receive a service that should, without a doubt, be facilitated here in Ireland is time consuming, often traumatising and cruel.

Ireland has been falling behind most European countries in regards to its treatment of women and women’s rights for years.

“My body, my choice.”

The recent discovery of the mass graves where the remains of roughly 800 dead babies and young children were found in Tuam, Galway, highlights the influence that the Catholic Church has held on Ireland for too long.

Magdalene Laundries operated from 1765 to the late 1990s, keeping many women who had children out of wedlock prisoner; working and living in terrible conditions.

The Magdalene Laundries are a great indication of the corrupt society in which the Catholic Church has guilt tripped people in Ireland into living for many, many years.

However, today we live in a different world.

People will no longer accept ideals, rules and legislation forbidding them to be granted not only their rights as women, but rights as human beings.

Ireland has had years of making backward decisions and focusing on issues that aren’t nearly as important or vital to be addressed as the issue of abortion rights.

We need not wait for another case like Savita Halappanvar to happen, who died of septic shock after being refused an abortion by her doctors in hospital in Galway, before we step into action.

Women are no longer willing to accept that abortion is something that shouldn’t be spoken about. It is time for the issue of abortion in Ireland to be addressed, solved and practiced.

Abortion is a human right.

As human beings, women deserve the right to choose what way they wish to make decisions about their own body. Simple as.

Shirley Donlon