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.
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.
The protests in the wake of the trial – which forced the sacking of Jackson and Olding by Ulster Rugby and have prompted a review into the conduct of such trials in the future – are the beginnings of a movement against misogyny, against victim blaming and against rape culture. We can link this to the wider movement against sexism worldwide, in particular across South America with the ‘Ni Una Menos’ movement and in Spain, with tens of thousands protesting across the country after the recent clearing of the ‘manada’ (wolf pack) of the gang rape of a young woman. It is imperative we continue to build this movement to win the fight in ending sexism, misogyny and oppression worldwide.
In Spain, “I Believe Her” became “Yo Te Creo”, with thousands protesting the acquittal of five men accused of gang-raping a young woman. Less than two months earlier, 5.1 million workers had spilled onto the streets of Spain to strike against sexism on International Women’s Day. In Latin America the Ni Una Menos movement has refused to tolerate endemic murders of and violence against women. Millions globally have used the #MeToo hashtag and have broken a collective silence, sharing their experiences of sexual assault and harassment.