While Irish women are demonstrating during the 6th Annual March for Choice in Dublin on the 30th of September, solidarity demos are taking place across Scotland in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. At the steps of the Royal Concert Hall a group of mainly young women armed with banners and signs is listening, shouting, being. I hear Irish accents, but also Spanish, English, American. Anastasia, a girl holding a sign that says ‘My life my responsibility my choice’ explains it clearly: “It’s important to stand in solidarity with women in Ireland, and also with women all over the world who don’t have the same access to abortions, and don’t have rights over their own body – which is a fundamental right.”
As it stands now in the Republic of Ireland, abortion is illegal in almost all cases, including rape, incest and when it is known the foetus will not survive outside the womb. Under the eighth amendment, equal right to life is given to the mother and the unborn child. In Northern Ireland, the 1967 Abortion Act, which established legal abortion in the rest of the UK, has never been applied. Ten to 12 women leave Ireland every day to procure an abortion in the rest of the UK or Europe. Ordering abortion pills online, that can result in 14 years in prison, is the only option when a woman doesn’t have enough money to travel abroad.
Playing a purple bongo throughout the chanting of “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate!” and “They say no-choice, we say pro-choice” is Ruby. She has a similar mentality, that while this is a protest to repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland, it’s about something much bigger than that. “I know there will be some people who will say ‘Why are you demonstrating? You already have rights.’ That’s all bullshit because as you can see in the US, women’s rights are rolled back very quickly, and here people can hardly be sure of their rights too. If you want to be able to live freely, and have rights to you body, you have to fight for it.”
This fight, fought on the street, in community centres or on social media by women, men and non-binary people from all over the world, has led to Ireland holding a referendum on the eighth amendment in 2018. Announced just a week ago, it means another year of strong campaigning in Ireland. Yet hopefully, the 6th March for Choice was the last one, and women will be able to access free, safe abortions, regardless of how they became pregnant.
Images also courtesy of Aike Jansen