Marching for Choice in Dublin

Re-posting this report of a successful pro-choice demo in Dublin. Currently abortion is illegal in Ireland  – and if a woman wants one she has to go to the U.K and pay herself (cost aprox 2000 euro). Around 12 women a day travel to the UK from Irealnd for abortions. The writer also looks at the impact of the cuts which are making many women who would like to keep their baby feel financially forced to have an abortion.

For a real choice, women need to be supported to raise children without cutbacks to welfare…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.

Marching for Choice in Dublin.

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 womensfightback17

Women’s Fightback is a socialist feminist paper and blog produced by members and supporters of the socialist group Workers' Liberty. Workers’ Liberty is a revolutionary socialist organisation fighting as part of the labour and student movements, and in campaigns, for a socialist alternative to capitalism, based on common ownership and democracy.

2 comments

  1. Hello! Thanks for the repost and for letting me know. Good to hear you’re spreading the word- the demo was truly incredible. If you’d like to see other people’s reactions to the march as well as tons of videos of some seriously inspring speeches, I put together a roundup of media links of the demo. It was amazing!

  2. this is so so so amazing! keep it up!

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