On 23rd November, the decriminalisation bill will have its second reading. We must mobilise to ensure that the government allots the bill time and allows it to progress to the next stage where it can become law. We must make it clear that a majority in Northern Ireland, across the community divide, support decriminalisation. The trade unions must also stand in solidarity and bring the collective power of workers to bear in this fight, and in the struggle for marriage equality.
After a landslide vote of just under 67% to repeal the constitutional abortion ban on 25th May, on 18th September, the eighth amendment was formally repealed in the South, after all appeals made seeking to the challenge the referendum result were dismissed.
On 9th August, the Argentinian senate rejected a bill to legalise abortion up to 14 weeks into pregnancy. That the vote took place was testament to the mounting pressure on politicians from a growing wave of women’s struggles against oppressive laws and social norms, in Argentina and around the world.
The women’s movement in Argentina has a proud history of unity in action to fight to legalizing abortion. It was this struggle which led, eleven years ago, to a bill being drafted for parliament, which has now been debated more than seven times.
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.