Why I’m Marching: Anthea McTiernan

Why I’m Marching: Anthea McTiernan

AMcTiernanGrainne Healy, of the Women’s Coalition, looks on as Joan McDermott and Ann Kinsella (right) sing in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, at the pro-choice rally on Saturday, November 16 1992. Photograph: Joe St Leger, The Irish Times

Walk on. Walk on. With hope in your hearts and you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone.

Well, we’ve walked on. We’ve walked on. We’ve held hope in our hearts and we’ve NEVER walked alone.

We’ve spent decades making friends and comrades. We have learned how to manoeuvre in the tricky world of activism. We’ve stewarded marches, made banners, concocted chants (trickier than you’d think on this issue).

We’ve pushed buggies. We’ve left the kids with supportive partners. We’ve used the wonderful services of community crèches (thanks Klear). We’ve encouraged our teenagers to march at our side. We’ve made friends of all wonderful shapes, sizes and ages. All sorts of friends. All sorts.

And we’re still walking. The back is bad. The eldest offspring is the same age as the founders of Pussy Riot. And we’re still walking.

My wonderful reproductive time is running out. And I am getting more not less angry. The feckers who run this State will have stopped me from ever having a real choice about what to do with my body. I will not forgive them. And I think I am right in thinking that no one on next Saturday’s march will forgive them either. Not until they give up this pathetic, unfeeling, misogynistic desire to tell every woman in this State how to behave.

Next Saturday’s March for Choice comes at a significant time in the saga of Ireland’s  man-made tragedy. We will carry the State’s sad, inadequate and frankly unnecessary reduction of people with a womb to well, just that, a womb, with us as we walk next weekend.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2014, which came into force last January, has finally been backed up by guidelines for medical practitioners. Way to go Ireland!

The guidelines state that “The clinicians responsible for her care will need to use their clinical judgment as to the most appropriate procedure to be carried out, in cognisance of the constitutional protection afforded to the unborn, i.e. a medical or surgical termination or an early delivery by induction or Caesarean section”

For “her” read every woman. Any woman.

Anyone hoping that Miss Y had fallen foul of an aberration in our system of medical care can pack away that hope. The treatment of Miss Y, it turns out, was not unfortunate, it was deliberate – and the State thinks it is justifiable. Actually, the Irish State thinks forcing a women to continue a pregnancy until the foetus can be cut from her stressed, unwilling body is indeed the way to go.

This country does not deserve the generations of wonderful women who have never shut up and put up in the face of Ireland’s two-fingered salute to their reproductive rights.

On November 16th, 1992, I stood shoulder to shoulder with the thousands who had turned out for the March for Choice. We were a broad coalition who were looking for choice in all aspects of our lives, notably reproductive justice and marriage equality. It was cold, but we were warm. Glowing with hope and expectation that a collision of modernity, basic human dignity and rights would equal justice.

We were by no means the first people to hold this hope or take this same action.

Now, 22 years later, with offspring the age of Pussy Rioters, we will set off again. Next Saturday we will leave the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin at 2pm and we will walk. We will walk on with hope in our hearts for we will not walk alone. We will never walk alone.

Tiocfaidh ár lá!


Anthea McTeirnan is the former chair of the Irish Family Planning Association and a reproductive rights campaigner. She is a journalist with The Irish Times. All opinions expressed are her own (and yours!) Twitter: @amcteirnan