“We can’t afford to be complacent” - Repeal activists to march until abortion legislation in place 3 years ago

“We can’t afford to be complacent” - Repeal activists to march until abortion legislation in place

Free, Safe, Legal is the theme of the seventh annual March for Choice.

The Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) have announced that the theme for the seventh annual March for Choice, taking place on Saturday 29 September in Dublin, is ‘Free Safe Legal’.

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The march will be the first since Ireland voted by a 66.4% majority to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

At a press conference on Tuesday in Buswells Hotel, speakers from a range of backgrounds discussed the significance of the ‘Free Safe Legal’ theme, as the Dáil prepares to pass legislation to ensure abortion care is finally available in Ireland.

Speakers at the briefing included co-founder of Doctors for Choice Dr Mary Favier, member of Lawyers for Choice Gearoidín McEvoy, Clare Daly TD, member of MERJ (Migrants and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice) Paulo Rivetti and founder/member and former convener of Free Safe Legal, Cathie Shiels.

Dr Favier spoke on the need to focus on getting medical services in place for those who need them:

"I am marching for choice because while we have achieved a lot we have much more to do to ensure the implementation of a safe and legal abortion service In Ireland.

"We must all remain active and vocal to ensure that we never go back."

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"The significant and overwhelming vote of the Irish people to rid our country of the restrictions of the Eighth Amendment should now be followed through with visionary human rights-centred legislation to provide access to a high standard abortion service for women who need it," Clare Daly TD said.

Rivetti drew attention to the troubling implications of the practice by some doctors of refusing abortion care on grounds of conscience, and to the disproportionate effects this could have on the most marginalised in society:

"The repealing of the Eighth Amendment was a huge victory and we owe it to all those women, trans and non-binary people, Irish and non-Irish, settled and non-settled, who have mobilised for decades.

"However, the struggle is not over. We will march for a law that guarantees access to abortion and pregnant people-friendly health services - and neither of the two are compatible with conscientious objection.

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"The existence of conscientious objection carries on the legacy of shaming women and it is a move against the result of the referendum in May - the people did not vote for restricting access to abortion but the opposite. Conscientious objection puts the life of pregnant people in danger.

"It obliges them to extensive waiting periods and unnecessary travels, by bus or car this time rather than plane or boat, affecting those in more vulnerable conditions, such as people living in Direct Provision or other forms of institutionalisation and those with precarious visa status."

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McEvoy then commented on the significance of bodily autonomy as a result of the referendum.

"To me, Repeal means granting women control over their own bodies and access to basic reproductive rights. It means putting the power in the hands of women, who for so long in Ireland, were disenfranchised, demonised and shamed.

"It allows us as a country to vindicate the human rights of all pregnant people and welcome home those countless women who we shunned across the sea."

Reflecting on the theme of the upcoming march, Shiels said:

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“The march will see thousands take to the street to celebrate our recent victories and to ensure that no one is left behind as we move forward with legislation and services.

"It will be a chance to honour those whose lives have been lost to the Eighth Amendment and to make a promise that we will continue to fight until abortion is available across the Island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, and to those whose circumstances will fall outside the remit of the proposed legislation.

“This year’s march will be a chance to celebrate the successes of the pro-choice, pro-change movement in Ireland. However, it is also a time to acknowledge that on a practical level, nothing has changed since 25 May.

"Every day, 10 people still travel for abortion care, while at least 3 more take pills at home that are safe but remain illegal under Irish law.

"Now more than ever, it is crucial that we as a nation come together to call for stigma-free access to abortion for anyone who wants or needs one, regardless of their financial or legal status.”

Main image via Free Safe Legal