Are the abortion laws in Ireland about to change?
Tens of thousands of people marched through Dublin this weekend to demand a change to the Ireland’s abortion laws, in what was the first major demonstration since the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said he wanted to hold a referendum on abortion next year.
Campaigners took part in the March for Choice in Dublin’s city centre chanting ‘Hey, hey Leo, the eighth amendment has got to go,’ ‘keep your rosaries off my ovaries’, and ‘parent by choice, for choice,’ The Guardian reported.
In London protestors also gathered outside the Irish Embassy where in a powerful statement, they left a tally in chalk on the ground for each of the 205,704 women who have had to travel from Ireland to the UK for an abortion since 1983, when Ireland’s current abortion law came into effect.
‘Taking the abortion pill carries a life prison sentence in Northern Ireland’
Ireland has one of Europe’s strictest laws on abortion, with the procedure only permitted in cases where the mother’s life is in danger – an amendment only made in 2013 under Ireland’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.
In cases of rape, fatal foetal abnormality, incest and inevitable miscarriage however, the ban on abortion still stands.
With the current laws in place since 1983 and increasing numbers of women forced to travel abroad for terminations to avoid the 14-year prison sentence in Ireland, women’s groups and organisations have been calling for change, campaigning for free, safe and legal abortion.
And it looks like it could be imminent, with the Irish government confirming that it will be holding a referendum next year on whether to change its abortion laws.
‘Our laws fail women who need an abortions,’ explained Cara Sanquest and Hannah Little, co-founders of the London-based Abortion Rights Campaign group, which attended the protest. ‘Around eleven women a day are forced to travel from Ireland and Northern Ireland to Britain for abortions – over 3,000 women last year.’
The two women were honoured at the Marie Claire UK Future Shapers awards this year for their efforts for Irish women, going on to explain how they got started on the cause. ‘It’s up to all of us to set the political gender,’ they explained. ‘As young women living in London, it’s strange to think that taking the abortion pill, which is available on the NHS, carries a 14-year prison sentence in Ireland, and life in prison in Northern Ireland.’
They continued: ‘Our laws fail women who need abortions – women’s lives are at risk. After hearing about Savita Halappanavar, a woman from Galway who died after being refused an abortion while miscarrying, we couldn’t ignore Ireland’s laws any more.’
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‘In the 21st century, it’s really important that women have control of their own bodies.’