Why I’m Marching: over 8,000 reasons per year

Mary, ARC Volunteer

Collection of ARC and repeal-themed badges arranged on a white background

In 2018, the year that well over a million people voted to Repeal the hideous 8th Amendment, I (like lots of you) did a lot of talking on doorsteps, social media and anywhere I could. I did a lot of listening and reading too. We all now have a better idea of what the experiences behind the data are – traveling to England or Holland with borrowed money, making plans during a traumatic time, importing pills without medical supervision because the options ran out, being denied healthcare and human rights in Ireland.

After we repealed the 8th, people talked about how glad they were that pregnant people would have the right to determine their future, with privacy, dignity and safe, local healthcare for their choices. This is the new Ireland, emerging from a shameful period of policing bodies and choices. 

But I am looking at the legislation we have and see lots of potential for those experiences to be re-lived, still. Because I can think of at least a dozen ways in which our current legislation does not protect and empower pregnant people and their rights, I’m marching. 

6,577 people accessed abortion care in Ireland in 2020. I still find it a relief that people did not have to travel. But not everyone who accessed abortion services in Ireland had a positive experience –  because of MANDATORY three day waiting periods, protests and harassment outside hospitals and clinics, lack of geographical or hospital access, lack of choices and lack of privacy.  I’m marching to say to our legislators that their care needs to be locally based; free of barriers; free of protests, rogue pregnancy agencies and biased information. 

1,389 people from the island of Ireland travelled to England and Wales in 2020, forced to because of the restrictions in provision and legislation.  In a year when many of us barely left our county, how is this ok?  Other people continue to travel further distances or import pills to get the abortion they need.  I’m marching to say I don’t want people to have to travel for healthcare that can and should be provided in Ireland.

Finally, attending the march is also my thanks to the staff who have led the introduction of elective services where they work. Providing reproductive healthcare is not something that should need to be celebrated in a modern republic, but the first elective providers in Ireland deserve our support and respect.

I believe it’s a radically harmful idea that people would remain pregnant against their will, or that they would have to set aside their privacy or dignity to access abortion.  We no longer have a constitutional barrier, so we need political will to fix the well-known issues. Listening to women and pregnant people, situating them at the heart of the care and services provided, is vital.