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Marching for Choice in Dublin

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Man carrying a sign with a picture of a coathanger and the words "Warning: Not for internal use".

It’s rarely easy to be openly pro-choice in Ireland. This country has no shortage of people willing to tell you how you’re a murderer, selfish, disgusting, a baby-killer. How you’re heartless. How you should be ashamed of yourself.

Woman with a poster saying "It's my uterus, I shouldn't need your permission"

The last major pro-choice demo I was at, two years ago, was a counter-demonstration to the March for Life. A couple of hundred of us, thousands of anti-choice marchers led by Youth Defence who didn’t hesitate to get in our faces, shout abuse at us, call us things I’m not going to repeat here. Being openly pro-choice can feel like running a gauntlet where you’re never sure what’ll happen next. So it’s not surprising that I was more than a little bit nervous before yesterday’s March for Choice. That nervousness, that apprehension, made what happened next even more incredible than I could have imagined.

Woman on the phone, holding a sign saying "Having no choice tears MY life apart"

There were so many of us. Meeting at the Spire on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how many people had showed up. I’d expected the usual suspects. There were, when I arrived early, hundreds and hundreds of us. And people just kept on arriving. And in these crowds of people was none of the usual tension of a pro-choice demonstration. As I walked through the crowd to check out what groups and banners were here and to say hello to friends I’d spotted, I heard so many people talking about the numbers. About how they couldn’t believe there were this many of us here. How they’d never seen so many people at something like this before. We were genuinely and collectively in awe at our numbers, here on O’Connell street. For the first time in my life, I felt that we might get somewhere with this. That we might really have some power to change things. Living in Ireland, it’s hard to truly explain what a truly big deal this is. How much of a revelation.

Woman with a sign saying "Against abortion? Don't have one!", pushing a pram with two children, with signs saying "I was a choice".

Walking through the streets, crossing O’Connell bridge, down Westmoreland Street and Kildare Street before turning up towards Merrion Square, it felt even more like a turning point. Here we were, chanting pro-choice slogans on the streets of Dublin, and the counter-demonstration was… where? I saw one man with a sign on O’Connell street. I saw no abuse from passers-by. And our numbers continued to swell.

Woman carrying sign saying "Woman, not Incubator"

In Merrion Square, the speakers were as varied and inspiring as the march itself. We weren’t on the defensive- we were on the offensive and proud of it. They spoke about how we won’t be shamed any longer. About how the majority of Irish people have consistently voted for women’s right to choose, and how we are fed up of being ignored. How if TDs want to follow God’s law and not the law of men (oh, how ironic), they should get out of Leinster house and join a seminary.

Woman carrying a sign saying "If I wanted the church in my *** I'd f*ck a priest!"

Feminist Ire’s Ariel Silvera spoke about the LGBTQ community and the pro-choice movement, arguing that we are natural allies. LGBTQ people need abortions too. Even if queer women don’t need abortions themselves, their sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends do. Ariel also highlighted the fact that it is not only women who need abortions. Many trans* men can get pregnant as well, and abortion providers and campaigners must be aware of their needs.

Man carrying a sign saying "My mother CHOSE to have me. I'm glad society didn't FORCE me on her!"

Mara Clarke from the Abortion Support Network spoke about her experiences raising funds for Irish women to access abortions they would otherwise never be able to afford. Banning abortion does not and never has prevented abortion. It just means that rich women can travel for abortions, and poor women are forced to give birth. The twelve women who travel to the UK every day for abortions are those who can afford it. The Abortion Support Network provides grants to Irish woman, and runs solely on private donations and fundraising. Needless to say, if you’re able to support them please do. Irish women should never be forced by lack of money to become mothers. Nobody should.

Woman carrying a sign saying "Fine Gael protects..." then with the words "Students, Pensioners, the Sick" crossed out, and then the word "Embryos"

But finances aren’t the only reason that people in Ireland could be forced to give birth against their will. The Irish Feminist Network‘s Osaro Azamosa reminded us that many immigrant women are simply not permitted to access visas to travel to the UK. These women’s reproductive rights are not only financially but legally denied by the current situation.

Woman holding a sign saying "Not just a white middle class issue: ethnic migrant women need access to abortion."

And so much more from Sinead Ahern, Ivana Bacik, Claire Daly- if I’ve left anyone out do tell me! And it wasn’t all about abortion. Pro-choice isn’t just about the right to choose abortion. It’s about full reproductive rights- and that means that right to reproduce free of coercion. For a real choice, women need to be supported to raise children without cutbacks to welfare. Without cutbacks to disability allowances for themselves and their children. Just as nobody should be forced to give birth because they can’t afford abortion, nobody should be forced to choose abortion because they can’t afford to raise a wanted child.

Man holding a sign saying "The Truth:In the UK, 78% of abortions are carried out under ten weeks. This is the result of an abortion at 10 weeks. Actual size. Truthfully. "

The Irish state needs to face up to its responsibility for the many thousands of women who have travelled overseas for abortions. It has a long-standing habit of brushing inconvenient women under the carpet- years ago to be incarcerated in Magdalene laundries, now on Ryanair flights to Britain. At yesterday’s march we came together to say that we are no longer going to accept this. We’re sick of being silenced and of our choices villified and shamed. We’re not going to accept being caricatured as heartless murderers anymore. We care deeply for the rights and well-being of all of us, for everyone in this country’s right to self-determination. And we’re not going to be quiet anymore.

Your post author holding a sign saying "Some of us can't leave this country! Whether illegal, trafficked, resident, refugee or asylum seeker- ALL ethnic migrant women deserve quality access to quality sexual health in Ireland. That includes ABORTION!"

Your intrepid blogstress weary and happy after the march.

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About Aoife

Nitpicker extraordinaire, wielder of the Eyebrow of Scepticism, and world-class consumer of tea. I write about skepticism, feminism, pro-choice issues, LGBTQ stuff, cooking, knitting, roller skating and whatever takes my fancy, from an Irish perspective.

13 responses »

  1. Pingback: Marching for Choice in Dublin « Consider the Tea Cosy

  2. Pingback: March for Choice Rally in Dublin, Ireland « Becky's Kaleidoscope

  3. Reblogged this on Insane Mutterings and commented:
    A recounting from being on the ground at the #march4choice.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: March for Choice roundup! « Consider the Tea Cosy

  5. On_the_other_hand

    Unpersuasive. The reason I’m against abortion is that I think a foetus deserves the legal protection of a person. They’re undoubtedly human and can feel pain. Also, for what it’s worth, though I suppose most here will disagree with this, I believe a foetus has a soul. If we as a country permit the killing/termination/whatever-word-you-prefer of humans who barely resemble such because it is expedient, then we are entering a cold world indeed. We would be moving to a society in which cold reasoning, cost-benefit analysis, trumps even the most precious human feeling; a society’s love for, and duty of care towards, the most vulnerable within it. It is cold reasoning, untempered by feeling and pity, which leads societies to the worst things they can do. In this country, we see it in its little form with the rolling back of social protections, medical services, educational services, and services for the elderly and disabled, because it’s expedient to do so. Abortion in Western societies lies close to the heart of a grand, inhumane project of coarsening, callousness, privatization and selfish individualism, cheapening of culture and the marketization of social bonds that has left so many of us clamouring for something antecedent, primaeval, loving and basic.

    Reply
    • I really do not want to be condescending but you really do need to read some actual science books written by credible scientists. It seems to me that your opinions are drawn from The Bible and outrageously inaccurate “pro-life” propaganda.

      First of all, please read the Bible. All of it. From cover to cover. Then, get back here and state where the Bible says abortion is wrong. (To save you a bit of time, it doesn’t. In fact, go to http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/says_about/abortion.html and read the relevant sections for yourself. Oh, and by the way, before you say “that’s the Old Testament so it doesn’t count”, take a peek at Matthew 5:17.)

      As to the absurd belief that 10-12 week old embryo can feel pain, take a look at this: http://www.rcog.org.uk/news/rcog-release-rcog-updates-its-guidance. This research was done by actual scientists using scientific methods of research and not by people who make up fictional stories to further their cause.

      If you are not a close-minded, religious pro-lifer, you may come to realise that what you have been told, by both those who indoctrinated you to believe in one of the thousands of imaginary gods worshiped on earth today and pro-life fantasists, is completely and utterly unsupported by any empirical evidence whatsoever.

      Reply
      • Have you ever seen a six week old heartbeat on an ultrasound? No, I didn’t think so.

        Reply
      • She didn’t say a 10 – 12 week old embryo can feel pain, an age was not specified. However the recent ban on abortion after 20 weeks in Texas was based on the fact that unborn babies are capable of feeling excruciating pain from 20 weeks. (And it is entirely possible that it starts even before that point). I’m not religious at all, in fact I’m an atheist. Abortion is a civil rights issue and many secular people throughout the world are opposed to it.

        Reply
  6. womensfightback17

    Have been active in reproductive freedoms and pro-choice campaigns in the UK – great to get info on what is going on in Ireland (and for it to be such positive news!) Sounds like a great demo and really good to see the wider picture of how the cuts are affecting women and how attacks on, or lack of, reproductive freedoms fit into the broader agenda.
    (If okay will re-post on our blog).
    Esther (Women’s Fightback)

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Marching for Choice in Dublin « Women's Fightback

  8. Really? Hundreds of people eh? Try 40,000 at the Rally for Life in June 2013. Incidentally, the early feminists were absolutely scathing about abortion, and so should any woman be, who truly believes in equality and justice for women.

    Reply
  9. Just a question- is it really the state who is repsoinsible if a woman gets pregnant or is pregnancy actually the result of a sexual relationship between a woman and a man? At least this is how I had my baby. It didn’t just happen to me. I am not a passive subject that needs the state to help me in every aspect of my life. I am a strong woman actually! When I had sex I knew a baby could be a result. Seems like we are forgetting some obvous facts here!

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Marching for Choice in Dublin

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