We have to maintain and increase the pressure on Westminster and our local politicians to guarantee real abortion access in Northern Ireland. This cannot wait for the sectarian parties to resolve their disagreements and catch up with ordinary people in the 21st century. We demand free, safe, legal abortion, here and now!
Pro-choice activists and trade unionists must organise for the biggest possible mobilisation of people on the streets ahead of any vote on decriminalisation. We must seek solidarity from the labour movement in Britain. Politicians should be left in no doubt that, if our rights continue to be denied, they will face a campaign of civil disobedience that will make the law unworkable. The Socialist Party supports full decriminalisation of abortion but we must go further to ensure abortions are free, safe, legal and accessible here in Northern Ireland on the NHS.
25th May was a momentous and historic day – two thirds of voters in the South voted to repeal the anti-choice eighth amendment from the constitution, demanding the right of women and pregnant people to access abortion services. Unsurprisingly, it was women, young and LGBT+ people and working-class communities that were to the fore in this revolt. The result was a body blow to the Catholic Church’s domination of Irish society which, in living memory, led to such horrors as the imprisonment of women in Magdalene laundries and state-sanctioned abduction of children from unmarried mothers.
The referendum to scrap the ban on abortion was easily passed with 66.4% to 33.6% on a turnout of over 64%, the highest ever for a referendum in Ireland. The result was nearly an exact reversal of the 1983 vote which imposed the ban, except nearly a million more voted this time. As the government, in line with proposals from the Citizen’s Assembly, had said that they intended to legislate for abortion up to 12 weeks on request if Yes won, this can only be interpreted as a very strong pro-choice vote.
On 25 May, Irish citizens voted decisively to repeal the 8th Amendment, a resounding rejection of the abortion ban and misogynistic ideas about women and our bodies. The Yes vote won a landslide 66% and in all but one county. The significance of this victory over decades of anti-choice misogyny and repressive Church control cannot be understated.