In case you’ve missed it, UCD’s Student Union has a pro-choice stance regarding abortion, and is mandated to campaign to repeal the 8th amendment. The repeal the 8th movement is widespread, it garners huge attention from the Irish media (and here’s another article), repeal hoodies, big marches down to household conversations.
Exactly what the SU has done with their mandate to campaign for repeal the 8th is questionable. In September, the SU took part in a march for choice, they’ve agreed to support the group UCD for Choice, but what else have they done about the Repeal movement this year? Next week, two events regarding Repeal are happening. One is the arrival of the “Abortion Pill” bus, the other is Strike 4 Repeal, timing of which unfortunately (for the SU) clashes with the annual SU sabbatical elections.
The SU are not endorsing the “Abortion Pill” bus (a decision with which I quite agree, stay tuned for why), their ability to partake and endorse Strike 4 Repeal is limited due to their efforts being concentrated in the upcoming elections.
But, at the moment, what can any group hope to achieve from such demonstrations in support of repealing the 8th amendment? The government has set up a Citizen’s Assembly specifically to determine public opinion, such demonstrations are rather moot. The Citizen’s Assembly is made up of 100 people, 99 private citizens, randomly selected as a broad representation of the Irish electorate and the Chairperson Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.
The government is going to listen to the results of the Citizen’s Assembly, regardless of what demonstrations have taken place, this is the realistic situation with which we are faced. The positive note for those who want the 8th amendment repealed, is that the Citizen’s Assembly is so far leaning towards suggesting a repeal of the 8th amendment, in fact, the meetings of the Citizen’s Assembly (which have taken place over 3 weekends so far) have been viewed by anti-abortion lobbying groups to be biased towards taking submissions from pro-repealing the 8th opinions.
The Citizen’s Assembly is expected to submit reports and recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas within the coming months.
All the same, demonstrations are going ahead. The first to hit UCD will be the “Abortion Pill” bus arriving in UCD on Monday, March 6th. The bus is run by ROSA (Reproductive rights against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity). The bus is a form of protest against the restrictions placed by the 8th amendment on a woman’s control over her own body, and is a call to the people of Ireland and the government to repeal the 8th.
The bus is also a mode of protesting safe medical practise.
Ultimately, repealing the 8th amendment should result in the ability of women to access safe abortions. Safe abortions.
ROSA will be providing individuals with abortion pills in UCD on Monday, following a skype consultation with doctors in the Netherlands. A Skype consultation with a doctor is not a full medical evaluation. The woman is then given abortion pills and left to her own devices.
Obtaining abortion pills is illegal in Ireland. Providing someone with abortion pills is illegal in Ireland. Purchasing abortion pills online is illegal in Ireland.
To me, the illegality of the activities is not the issue. The issue is women taking pills following an insufficient evaluation. The abortion pills being provided are effective for up to 9 weeks of pregnancy, but who will be able to tell how far along the woman is? If she takes pills at 15 weeks of pregnancy, she’s risking her health. You never know how your body is going to react to a medication, taking it without the presence of a medical person is not a great idea, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
That’s what it comes down to, women risking their health, and being encouraged to do so. Yes, it’s certainly making a political statement, but it’s not caring about women.
If you should take an abortion pill, and after you become ill, do not be afraid to seek medical help. Doctors are not required to the report to the gardai that a woman has taken an abortion pill, and are advised to only do so if they fear it has come about from abusive circumstances or they are obliged to by court order.
Making political statements about repealing the 8th amendment is great. Risking women’s health is not.
Strike 4 Repeal is more my cup of tea. In UCD, UCD for Choice encourages students to wear black, and leave lectures at 12.30pm, to gather outside James Joyce Library for a rally at 1pm. UCDSU will provide placards and t-shirts for the event. The group will move to town to join the main rally at 5pm.
These demonstrations may be bound to have little or no effect, but they encourage people to use their voices. They encourage people to talk and to keep talking until we see a change coming, and until a change arrives. In the long-run it means we can say we were there. We can say we took part in a movement that changed the way our government treats our bodies.