Why I’m Marching: We have not forgotten them

Photograph of a man and woman wearing Tá t-shirts at a repeal event

Lucy Boland, West Cork Rebels for Choice

I’ve been thinking about why I’m marching for a while now. Many people who I spoke to didn’t even know that there was a march this year. Most people believe that by repealing the 8th amendment, all the problems we had with abortion in this country just simply went away. But unfortunately, that’s just not the case.

On Wednesday, I attended the presentation of the ARC report into the provision of abortion in Ireland. Several respondents to the survey who had had an abortion in Ireland, stated how grateful they were to the campaigners who worked to Repeal the 8th Amendment, meaning they could access care at home. While this is of course very gratifying to hear, and I am so very happy for those who can avail of abortion care here, there are still those who cannot. 

Many people have been forced to travel, for one reason or another. Some run over the arbitrary 12-week limit because of delays associated with the patronising (and frankly insulting!) mandatory 3 day wait. Because they can’t get childcare or time off work or the nearest provider is too far away or the doctors’ surgery can’t give them another appointment for 3 weeks. Or because our service is largely inaccessible to them because they have a disability or they are a migrant without a PPS number or they can’t get away from their abusive partner or the travel is just too expensive. Or because they are prescribed pills twice but it didn’t work and it’s now too late.

Sometimes, they are made to wait for unnecessary ultrasound results, ordered by doctors who are so afraid of prosecution, that they interpret our legislation too conservatively. Did you know that aiding, abetting or procuring an abortion outside of our rigid constraints is still punishable by law, and carries a possible 14-year prison sentence? Our legislation has the effect of frightening doctors into inaction as they try to navigate tricky legislative grey areas instead of looking after their patients as best as they can, which is what they want to be able to do. What our legislation also does, is to make doctors decide if a foetal anomaly is ‘fatal enough’, and therefore deserving of care in this country, or if the pregnant person should be left to fend for themselves, arranging expensive travel and medical care overseas without any help, during an extremely stressful time, under tight time limits, and, this year, during a global pandemic. As if it wasn’t difficult enough. 

There are too many reasons that people still have to travel to access healthcare. We overwhelmingly voted Yes on May 25th 2018 so that no one should ever have to travel again. And until they don’t, the fight won’t stop.

I am marching for those who had to travel. For those who couldn’t access abortion here, took illegal pills or just couldn’t get one. Because they have been failed. And for every one of them who have spoken up, there are many more who are silent, who are scared, and vulnerable, and angry. But they are still here, and they are watching. And they deserve to know that we have not forgotten them. That we do not think it is over and done with, and that we will not stop fighting for them until everyone who needs to access an abortion in Ireland can, as early as possible or as late as necessary.