Written by Clare McGowan

#MeToo, #EqualPayGap and #IBelieveHer have brought women’s rights aptly into 2018’s spotlight and now #Together4Yes is taking centre stage. In one month, the Republic of Ireland will join together to vote on abortion rights.  On May 25th, the country will vote on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment from the Constitution. This Amendment recognises “the right to life of the unborn, and with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother” and was signed into law after a referendum in 1983. Abortion in the Republic of Ireland has been illegal since the birth of the state. The main campaign party for the legalisation of abortion is the TogetherForYes campaign. In the run up to the referendum, the organisation has raised €500,000 in order to maximise their effort to buy 28,000 posters and additionally to pay for a national leaflet drop across Ireland.

Donors have left empowering messages on the organisation’s crowd funding page. This truly brings to life the importance behind #Repealthe8th for the women of Ireland. Messages have included the donor’s own personal experiences with the abortion laws in Ireland which outlines the archaic nature of the laws. In addition, an uplifting trend of these messages are those from grandparents and parents that are donating on behalf of their young daughters and granddaughters. They are donating because they no longer want their offspring to feel the need to leave home for something that should be their inherent right over their body. Male donors have also made their voices heard in support of the campaign, in order to affect change for the women in their lives.

Inspiring women’s groups are campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote not only in the Republic of Ireland but also in London. London-Irish ARC have been campaigning on social media and encouraging Irish women situated across the world to fly home to make their vote count. Their campaign to encourage those women to come home and vote has been promoted by selling luggage tags with the slogan “Healthcare. Not Airfare.” to raise funds for abortion right groups. This slogan centres on the enormous travel cost associated with Irish women who need to travel overseas for an abortion. Another more niche and unique group is Room for Rebellion. These pioneers have been “dancing” for abortion rights by holding music events in London, Belfast and Dublin and giving the proceeds to the cause. The powerful support from women who are not directly affected by these laws demonstrates how important this cause is to women across the UK and Ireland.

Amidst all this focus on the Republic of Ireland’s Referendum there have been more successes happening for UK women this month. Ealing Council has become the first in the UK to ban abortion campaigners from protesting outside a clinic. This is a turning point in the way women are treated because such harassment by protestors creates more difficulty for an already difficult decision. There is hope from pro-choice campaigners that other places throughout the country will follow suit to stop the harassment of vulnerable women.

While the referendum is an incredible leap for the women of the South, their Northern sisters will still face up to 14 years in prison. The women of Northern Ireland will effectively be stuck in a ‘No Man’s Land’ of abortion rights. Their neighbours on either side will have access to safe and legal abortions whereas the North still remains an area where abortion is illegal with no talk of a referendum any time soon. One could argue that there will be no immediate change in the next few years if this referendum follows the same pattern as the Gay Marriage referendum which successfully occurred in the South almost 3 years ago. However, there may be hope for similar change soon because at the end of last month the NI same-sex marriage passed the first stage in the House of Lords. While it is unlikely that this private members bill will become a law it does allow the Lords to debate on the controversial matter. Same sex marriage has a long way to go in Northern Ireland and women’s abortion rights are likely to suffer the same fate.AllianceForChoice continues to fights for reproductive justice in NI and are currently providing substantial support for the #TogetherForYes campaign.

If you want to get involved then follow #Together4Yes and help bring Irish women’s rights into the 21st Century where they belong.