I have been the beneficiary of our ability to undertake such reflection, and to make that change. The introduction of marriage equality in 2015 demonstrated our ability to recognise unfairness and injustice, and to change our foundational law in a way that enables and compels the state to treat each of us with the love, empathy and equality.
Katherine Zappone delivered a lecture yesterday on the 8th Amendment to the School of Law and Government’s Socio-Legal Seminar at Dublin City University. DCU was the academic home of Katherine’s late, beloved spouse, Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, with whom she credits her introduction to the impact of the 8th amendment on the lives of women in Ireland.
She stated that “in our Republic, I think that the state’s role is to support a society within which everyone can flourish”. In her work throughout the years in various advocacy guises and now as a TD, she said she has found empathy to be the most important factor in truly gaining an understanding of the issues faced as a result of the 8th Amendment.
“As time goes by, we can see within previously accepted institutions and ideas a deep inequality that we recognise as a source of injustice. When we do, we have a collective duty to try to change that.”
“It is time for the state to get out of the business of controlling reproduction. It is time to repeal the 8th Amendment; to reclaim women’s bodies from the state.”
— SLRCDCU (@SocioLegalDCU) December 7, 2017
This lack of agency denies to women full citizenship in a republic of justice.
Law Reform Recommendations
In her lecture, Zappone made recommendations as to what actual amendments should be made while designing the amendments quoting Martha Nussbaum she said : “empathy is the key to imagination”. Ireland has been so filled with myths about abortion and that we need to now instead start with real-life experiences saying: “If we listened to what women who have had, and not had, abortions in Ireland tell us about how they make this decision?”.
Allowing for the moral agency of women to be the foundation stone in the new laws after the repeal is of particular importance to Zappone who has “absorbed” many first person narratives throughout the years and most recently at the Citizens Assembly. She said this has made it clear that what is needed is “an empathy of difference” and a law that would allow for abortion which is safe, legal and available to all who need it”.
She has rejected the suggestion that abortion should only be made available to people after 12 weeks as she stated, “If we want to address the socio-economic injustice of the 8th Amendment we simply cannot do so with such a limited law. Instead, we have to recognise the many impacts of pregnancy on women’s physical, mental, and material well-being.”
Strike For Repeal
Strike 4 Repeal are launching plans for a national strike if the Government does not commit to a clear yes or no question on a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
“Should it become clear during the Dail debate on the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s recommendations that the government will ignore this demand, we will shut down the country in a national strike for repeal called at a week’s notice.”
They are also calling on the Government to provide for free, safe and legal abortion services on request in Ireland – this is essential for all women and pregnant people to ensure their right to reproductive healthcare is guaranteed regardless of circumstances.
Strike 4 Repeal are an ad hoc, non-affiliated group of activists, academics, artists, students and trade unionists. In March of this year we held a national strike, including a series of demonstrations around the world to demand a referendum on the 8th amendment. This saw over 12,000 people participate in over 50 places across Ireland and abroad. Since then, the pro choice movement has seen progress, including liberal recommendations from the Citizens Assembly and an indication from Leo Varadkar that a referendum will be held in 2018.
However, as we approach 35 years of inaction on the abhorrent Eighth Amendment, we have little faith that the government will ask the right question on the ballot paper.
Spokesperson Emily Waszak added: “We trust people in Ireland to have the empathy and the understanding to vote for repeal – what we don’t trust is that the Government will give people the opportunity.
How to pledge
- Add your name to the Strike4Repeal supporters’ Google Form
- Organise a show of support in your local area
- Talk to your friends and family about the issue
- Visibly show your support on social media and in public
- Write to your political representatives to tell them you want a simple yes or no question on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment
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