Why I’m Marching: The race is on for good legislation and access, and it’s far from run

Text "Why I'm Marching" white on a grey background. At the bottom of the image are the words "No one left behind", each letter made up of a group of people. There is a person holding a placard on the bottom right hand side of the image. The Abortion Rights Campaign logo is on the bottom left, with "March for Choice 28th Sept" along the bottom of the image.

With this year’s March For Choice less than a month away, we are delighted to share the first post in our Why I’m Marching blog series, from the wonderful Tara Flynn.

If you would like to share why you’re marching or why this year’s march is important to you, we would love to hear from you. Please send your written contributions (up to 700 words) or video entries (up to 1 minute, incl. captions) to [email protected]. See you on September 28th! #ARCMarch19 #NoOneLeftBehind

Working in comedy, I’m used to getting funny looks.  Recently, though, those looks are off-stage, from friends and acquaintances, when I ask if they’re going to the ARC March for Choice this year. There’s silence. Bemusement, while they compute whether I’m messing or having some kind of episode – or, speaking of episodes – whether they’ve found themselves in Doctor Who, having somehow taken a tardis back to 2017. “But Tara,” they say, full of derision, concern, or both, “we repealed the 8th. The country voted for a pregnant person’s right to choose. Overwhelmingly. We were so relieved we cried. Remember? You were there. I mean, I gave you a tissue. I’m pretty sure you were there…”

I was. I was there. It was an incredible moment, realising that the country welcomed home so many of us who had had to travel for healthcare. That they acknowledged that people have abortions for an infinite number of reasons, and regardless of what they’d choose for themselves in those circumstances, they didn’t judge.  That being the owner of a womb shouldn’t mean you get separate treatment under the law or a constitutional denial of your rights. It was a relief. But we always knew it would only be the start. Without repeal, no changes could be made, but getting a discriminatory clause out of the constitution is merely the removal of an obstacle, not the end of the course.

I say ‘course’: so many race analogies were used during the campaign for repeal. Is it a marathon, or a sprint? I used to say, it’s a marathon we’re having to do at sprint pace. No wonder we were wrecked. And fair play to Ireland, so long clouded by indoctrination, misinformation, myth and stigma, the country listened, learned and made up its own mind. Which is all we were ever asking to be allowed to do in the first place. So, to over-stretch the race analogy, the campaign for repeal was the warm up, the getting in the starting blocks; repeal itself was, essentially, the starter’s pistol. Now, the race is on for good legislation and access, and it’s far from run.

What happens if you’re in a rural area with an anti-choice GP, who ‘conscientiously objects’ to prescribing you medication you request? What if you have childcare issues, travel issues, work issues, or are, say, in Direct Provision and can’t travel twice to a ‘conscientious provider’ to fulfil the (unnecessary, placatory) three-day wait? What if you’re past twelve weeks, in a wanted pregnancy going tragically wrong? What if you live in Northern Ireland? Our sisters and brothers there marched alongside us, every step, on the road to repeal. They made noise from where they were, took buses to the March for Choice, helped canvass the border counties. Now, it’s our duty to return the favour. Even though it looks like Westminster is finally paying attention to the shameful blocking of reproductive rights in NI, we must make noise, bus up, if we can, to stand with them, show we’ve got their backs. I’m immensely grateful to them. I hope their starting line is in sight now, too.

In the US and across the globe we’re seeing an age-old conservative push for control of people’s wombs. The very cheek of it, like. Sake! It comes dressed as concern, but there’s little concern for the living breathing person whose choice it is to make, for what they might do once a forced birth were over, for the offspring they might already have, and can’t care for. We know that one well, here, don’t we? So whether we’re in Armagh, Athlone or Alabama, we know our rights can be taken at any moment. The fight never stops. We must keep pressure on politicians, keep talking to end stigma, and hold each other up when it all seems too much. It sounds like a lot, and it is. That’s why solidarity is everything. We’re not going anywhere. So to send a message to those that would threaten our rights, to those that need our support, and to hold each other up (and just say hi), we march.

It’s the least we can do.