Why I’m Still Marching: People deserve dignity and safety

Photography of Joanne Kompa holding a cardboard sign that reads 'Repeal the 8th'

Joanne Kompa

My name is Joanne and I’m still here. Some of you might remember me from Saturday stalls in the run up to the Referendum, some from the online shop. I am still campaigning, still marching. Because even in the limited way, in which abortion has been made legal, it is still not available to too many people. 

The doctors are still uncertain in cases of fatal foetal anomaly  and  they are still in danger of prosecution. Still too many people are forced to travel abroad, and if they are unable to because of any reason, like health or inability to afford travelling – they are forced to carry to full term the pregnancy that they neither can cope with or want.

A large group of Irish society is still unable to access abortion medical care. There are areas in the country without any abortion services providers. That forces people to travel around the country and not only once, but twice, as the three day waiting period requires two visits to medical facilities. This excludes a large group of Irish society from accessing medical care: from the disabled people, for whom travelling may be difficult and whose right not to want to continue pregnancy is as valid as anyone else’s; through people living in abusive relationships, to people who are simply not able to afford travelling in two visits. 

I am marching, because it is not only women who need abortion. And the transgender members of our society still experience all sort of barriers to accessing abortion services. Just as women in need of terminating their pregnancy, trans people need and deserve respect, empathy and dignity while accessing abortion care. And these rights should be guaranteed and protected – and as we see now improved.

Then we still have the absurd 12 weeks’ limit, which prevents people who discover their pregnancy at the end of this period are often not able to get the appointments and meet the three day waiting period in time legally mandated. And unless you do pregnancy tests weekly (which I doubt anyone can afford to do) there is a very good chance you will not discover you’re pregnant earlier.  Also, if the medical abortion, even one carried out well in time, fails – people are prevented from accessing further treatment in Ireland. This is very unfair, arbitrary and unreasonable, knowing that the nervous system in a foetus develops most at the very end of the pregnancy and that is when it starts being able to feel anything. Not at 12 weeks, not at 20 weeks. And yet pregnant people suffer because of the 12 week gestation limit. 

I am marching because both people in need of abortion and the medical professionals deserve dignity and safety. And their right not to be harassed on the way to the medical appointment or to work at the abortion providing clinic has still not been guaranteed as there are no safe access zones. Three years after the Referendum! 

 I am marching because we still don’t have the long promised free contraception and proper sexual education which would protect people from becoming unintentionally pregnant. 

I am also marching, because we need to improve the legislation we have and because we need to protect it. Unless we talk about the need for improvements in access to abortion care, there will still be people in our country excluded from access to abortion. Unless we talk about the need of accessible abortion care, the numerous fanatical organisations who want people to suffer, will brainwash the politicians into taking our hard-fought rights away from us or built more and more barriers to receiving care. We’ve seen that in Poland. We’re seeing it in Texas and other states.  We don’t want to see it in Ireland again.

I am marching because I strongly believe that reproductive health is a very personal issue and everyone who needs to terminate their pregnancy should have access to free, safe, legal and local abortion.