Last Sunday, 13th May 2018, members of DiEM25 met in Belfast.
That same day, eleven women, from both sides of the Irish border, travelled to England and Wales for an abortion that would have been illegal in Ireland. There was nothing unusual in that.
It is an everyday occurrence.
In 2016 just under 4,000 women from the island of Ireland had to travel to Britain for an abortion. In other words, eleven women a day. As if that wasn’t bad enough, these women risk long-term damage to their reproductive health – and indeed to their very lives – by the lack of adequate aftercare on the island of Ireland. Many other women risk prosecution by buying mifepristone and misoprostol online to be delivered to them by post so that they can have a medical abortion at home.
The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution equates the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus. It criminalises abortion in all cases, except where to continue a pregnancy would result in the death of the mother.
It criminalises all women who seek this procedure. In the North of Ireland, which is part of the UK, a ban on abortion in almost all circumstances has similarly been maintained. In 2017 the UK government agreed to pay for abortions for women from Northern Ireland if they can travel to England, Scotland, or Wales.
But not every woman can afford to travel. Not every woman has personal circumstances which means she has the freedom to travel. And not every woman has access to after care.
Last Sunday, we agreed to publicise our support for the Repeal the 8th campaign. Now we need your help. We need you to share this letter on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #RepealTheEighth #FreeSafeLegal #TrustWomen #TogetherForYes.
Make no mistake. The campaign for women’s bodily autonomy and full reproductive rights matters to all of us in Europe. We already know the lengths to which Ireland, Hungary and Poland will go to in their efforts to roll back civil and reproductive rights. We have seen the Hungarian anti-abortion poster campaign run by the state, and the attempt in Poland to introduce a total ban on abortion.
But Ireland is the only country in Europe which has a ban on abortion actually written into its constitution. This Friday, 25 th May, the people of Ireland are casting their votes in the Referendum.
And another eleven women will travel to Britain from Ireland. We want them to be among the last to make that journey.
Enough is enough.
Support the Vote to Repeal