Abortion is Healthcare, co-convener Lauran’s speech at the 12th Annual March for Choice

Today we mark the 12th Annual March for Choice on International Safe Abortion Day. We call for Abortion to be recognised as essential healthcare – on Demand and Without Apology. We stand in solidarity with our siblings in the North, who have also assembled today, calling for free, safe, legal, and local abortion services across the whole island. We are here today, 5 years on from Repeal, because of the barriers that still remain. “For our foremothers, for ourselves, the generations yet to come. Witches or women, these are our bodies which shall not be given up.” Many were deeply moved back then by the words of Sarah Maria Griffin’s poem ‘We Face This Land’. She has honoured us by writing a follow up poem:

After We Face This Land

How quickly five years pass.

How heavy the weight of repeal.

How sharp the relief of yes.

How, every time I stand on the beach

I think of the eleven who travelled for care every day,

and wonder how many must be travelling still.

How many are lost in the slipstream, uncounted.

What does the land owe them?

What was promised?

What can be taken away?

I think, there on the sand, of the way the ocean comes in –

quietly, at first.

Then all at once

the shore is just gone.

How quickly we could be swimming again

out of our depth.

We cannot let the ground be taken out from under us

by something cold, and without mercy.

We must instead be the rising tide

ready to swell together again.

Ready to lift one another.

To rise.

Let us rise together.

We stand by the statement that Abortion is Healthcare and should be treated as such. No other healthcare is legislated for in this way; it is left to medical best practice, with the interest of the patients at heart. No other healthcare has the barrier of criminalisation. Leave these medical decisions to the doctors who know best how to care for their patients. Abortion should be provided with care and compassion in all circumstances. Decriminalisation is fundamental to recognising abortion as healthcare. We have medical safeguards in place – there is no need for abortion to be seen as a criminal matter unless the goal is to keep stigma and shame attached to abortion care. Only 10% of GPs provide complete abortion services. Only 12 of our 19 maternity hospitals provide services.

Access to abortion is time-dependent. The highly restrictive options in our current legislation and the geographic disparity in provision, negatively impact abortion seekers. We warned about these issues from the beginning – the rural/urban divide and patchy provision disproportionately impacts disabled people, working-class people, migrants, people living in Direct Provision, people who are already parents, and people who have other responsibilities.  Are we really saying that we are ok with abortion access being a lottery of means and geography? For too long we have caused women and pregnant people to suffer in this country for their care. No more can we stand by while we hear stories of trauma, of wait times, of long travel, of foreign travel, of expenses incurred, of conscientious obstruction, of judgement and stigma and shame. Abortion needs to be free, safe, legal, local, and accessible to all.

We call on this government to acknowledge the findings of the independent review conducted by Marie O’Shea and to implement the changes recommended Without Delay. Abolish the cruel and medically unnecessary 3 day wait. Eliminate the narrow window of a 12 week cut off. Decriminalise all forms of abortion and untie doctors hands so they can provide best medical care. Remove the restrictive 28 day limit on fatal foetal anomalies so we don’t heap more pain on top of heartbreak. Ensure the adequate  provision of services for all counties and areas of Ireland. Give us the promised safe access zones so those with only bigotry in their minds and cruelty in their hearts can’t impede access to this basic healthcare.

Our fight for reproductive justice is part of the global fight for justice; for Trans rights, for housing rights, for inclusion, for sex worker rights, rights for parents, the right to have children how and when you choose, the right to choose not to have children, for migrant rights and for refugee rights. 

It’s one fight.

And we will not leave people behind. There are No circumstances in which it is acceptable to force someone to remain pregnant against their will.  As long as one person is forced to travel or forced to carry a pregnancy they do not want then there are NOT ENOUGH abortions in Ireland.

I’ll say it again in case the crowd in there didn’t hear me the first time: