At The ‘Repeal The 8th Amendment’ March

'Irish politicians want this to go away. We won't let it.'


by Polly Vernon |
Published on

Saturday September 24th, 2016: 25,000 people gather outside Dublin's Garden of Remembrance - me, among them.

We are old, young and in between, we are men, women and kids, we are a little damp 'cos it's raining and a little harassed because there's a bus strike on and we had to change arrangements last minute to get here at all – but we are here!

Many of us wear black sweatshirts emblazoned with a single word: Repeal. This sweatshirt – the work of activist Anna Cosgrave - is the iconography of the movement to win abortion rights for the women of Ireland: the cause that's brought us together today.


Anna Cosgrave

The reason why, at 2pm, we set off on a shouty, sweary, cheery and chanty, placard-wavey march through the streets of Dublin. We bang drums, sing and scream, we set off bright pink smoke bombs and we sometimes have a little cry, because we really, really want meaningful abortion rights for the women of Ireland. We want the repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which gives an unborn embryo equivalent human rights to the woman who is carrying it.

It seems extraordinary, but the women of Ireland still have no meaningful rights, or access, to abortion. Those who find themselves unhappily pregnant are forced to make the journey across the Irish sea to England, Wales or Scotland to get terminations.


Never mind if they're pregnant at 12. Never mind if they're pregnant as a consequence of rape, or incest, or if the child they're carrying stands no chance of living outside the womb. Never mind if they're pregnant under the most prosaic of circs – but know they just don't want this pregnancy.

11 Irish women make this trip, every day; they are effectively expelled, excluded, denied by their own country. Those that can't afford to come to England must either continue with the pregnancy, or risk illegally obtaining the abortion pill online, a crime punishable with up to 14 years in prison.


It's mind-boggling, and utterly enraging – or, as the young woman marching next to me has scrawled across her placard: "It's 2016! How is this still a Thing FFS?". There's also a: "Think outside my box!", and - perhaps my fave: "Hoes before Embryos!".

As we march, some people sing ("Get your rosaries off my ovaries!", or "Pro-life, that's a lie, you don't care if women die!"); while other women talk about their experience of abortion. Sixty-somethings talk about how they snuck off to England for terminations 35 years ago, and only feel able to talk about it now. Mothers of young girls talk about how scared they are their daughters might be subject to the same cruel, compassionless indignity, if things don't change.


Twenty-year-olds tell me talking about abortion is the Irish straight woman's equivalent of coming out. "We didn't even use the word 'abortion' in public until a couple of years ago", one campaigner says. Another tells me how shocked she was to discover that the medication she was given, freely and easily, when she suffered a miscarriage, was nothing less than the abortion pill: "Mifepristone and Misoprostol, which we are told is so toxic, wrong and dangerous; turns out, it's on the World Health Authority's list of essential medicines!"

Me and my brigade of marchers end up in the pub – of course we do, this is Dublin – and over restorative crisps and wine, I ask what the rest of us can do to help.


"Just don't forget this is our situation," is the general feeling. "Irish politicians don't want to deal with this, it's too controversial, they want it to go away and be forgotten. But if they feel pressure from the outside, if they feel watched, they can't ignore it forever."

We will watch, and we will pressure, I promise the entire pub. And: we will, won't we?

More on this:

Abortion In Ireland: Repeal The 8th Amendment

The Country Where Women Are Too Afraid To Speak About Abortion

'It Felt Like A Medieval Walk of Shame:' Abortion Stigma 90 Years On

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