The annual March For Choice on Saturday 24 September will let LGBT people show their support for women’s rights
On Saturday 24 September 2016 the fifth annual March For Choice will be taking place, allowing women’s rights supporters and pro-choice campaigners to show their support for the movement to Repeal the 8th Amendment. This year’s theme is rather appropriately designated ‘Rise and Repeal’, and anyone wishing to show their support can meet at the Garden of Remembrance for 2pm.
Organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign the March For Choice provides people with the opportunity to celebrate and make their demands heard. Frequently, pro-choice political campaigners are responding to crises like the death of Savita Halippannavar, or the case of Ms. Y, but the March For Choice let’s them come together in a positive light.
Linda Kavanagh, a spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign who have organised the March For Choice talked with GCN about this year’s March.
“So every year around the International Day for Decriminalisation of Abortion which is the 28th of September, we do a march for choice, and we’ve done one for the last 5 years,” Kavanagh said.
“Last year we had 10,000 people on the street. This year our theme is Rise and Repeal because of the year that’s in it.”
Equality For Women
Speaking about the Irish proclamation which guarantees equal rights to all its citizens Kavanagh said: “A hundred years after the proclamation there are still parts of it that haven’t been fulfilled like equality for men and women and we feel that the 8th amendment is one of the big barriers towards equality that we all are trying to achieve in this country.”
The March For Choice is “a day for people to come out and speak with their feet and show that they’re pro-choice. It’s one of the few days of the year that we get to be celebratory.”
“A lot of the time we’re rallying together in reaction to something horrible, obviously the death of Savita Halappanavar, Ms. Y and recently we protested with Real Productive Health about the misleading information that was given by a rogue pregnancy information to The Times.”
“So it’s this one day that we can come together and be together and make our demands heard by being on the street.”
Sick of Walking
“I’ve been walking in [the March For Choice] since it started and I remember last year doing the March For Equality and I remember specifically my Facebook status saying I hope this referendum goes through soon because I’m sick of walking.”
“And I kind of feel the same way about this march, although it’s such an amazing day and the energy that is in it from the people walking, the people organising it, the people who volunteer, it’s phenomenal!
“As much as it’s a nice experience, I hope we don’t have to experience it next year.”
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In the September issue of GCN which saw the iconic Maser artwork on it’s cover, activist Ailbhe Smyth laid out why she believes Repeal is an LGBT issue.
“Sexuality is central to our lives […] it is about ourselves and our bodies. That’s what abortion is about for women – it’s about ourselves and our bodies,” Smyth said.
Without the support of non-LGBT people, the marriage referendum last year could have gone a very different way.
“I’ve walked in every Pride march there’s been and I’m delighted all my gay friends are supporting me as a woman,” Horan said.
“I think as minorities, both women and gays need to stand up for each other until we get equality for everyone.”
Heading into the fifth year of March For Choice, will this be the last time Andrea Horan and tens of thousands of others must take to the streets to have their voices heard?
The government is now following a template that was set by marriage equality, Kavanagh explained.
“They’re having this Citizens’ Assembly, which is not the same but sort of similar to the Citizen’s Convention which eventually led to the referendum for marriage equality,” Kavanagh said.
Although the Citizens’ Assembly is a step in the right direction, there is still no fixed timeline for a referendum and in the meantime thousands of women will have to travel outside of Ireland to access this health service.
“There’s no guarantee that there will be a referendum after the Citizen’s Assembly, but it seems to be the only thing that the government are willing to do at the moment.”
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Delaying The Inevitable
The polls indicate that Ireland is now ready to change and make provision for access to abortion.
“Poll after poll have shown that people want the 8th amendment repealed, they want some kind of change, some kind of broadening of access. It really is just delaying what we see as the inevitable.”
“The biggest barrier here is politicians and their unwillingness to move on this. They see it as a divisive issue when it’s not really as divisive as they think it is,” Kavanagh said.
At the upcoming press conference for the March For Choice, politicians who have taken a stance contrary to their party’s will be speaking.
Looking at the tactics of last years conservative No campaign in the marriage equality referendum as well as the ongoing anti-choice tactics of misinformation, it is evident that there will be some difficulties ahead for pro-choice campaigners.
“It is going to be really tough,” Kavanagh said. “This idea of balance where people are going to be able to come on and say hateful things and it’s given equal balance to people’s lived experiences is a very scary prospect for us as campaigners.”
“We can see that anti-choice people are willing to lie. They’re lying to people when they go to their pregnancy clinics, they’re postering all over Dublin the Youth Defence posters, they’re going on TV and misleading people about HSE guidelines and that is being given equal weight to the lived experience of women who’ve had abortions and that is a very scary prospect.”
Watch the video below where an anti-choice campaigner misquotes the HSE to declare that abortion causes more emotional distress in both the long and short term than carrying a pregnancy to full term.
March For Choice will be taking place on Saturday 24 September 2016 at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square starting at 2pm.
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