Thousands of people staged a massive protest in Dublin on Saturday against Ireland’s strict abortion laws, The Guardian reported. Anti-abortion activists also staged counter protests.
The sixth edition of the annual “March for Choice” event was more significant this year after Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s recent announcement that the country will vote in a referendum in 2018 on whether to lift the ban on abortion.
Participants carried hundreds of banners, including some that said, “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries”, “Don’t trust me with choice, but child” and “I am a woman, not womb”, and chanted: “Hey, hey Leo, the eighth amendment has got to go”.
Varadkar has previously said that the eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution, which makes abortion illegal unless there is a substantial risk to the mothers’ life, was “too restrictive”. The amendment was passed by a two-thirds majority in 1983 and gives an unborn child a right to life equal to that of its mother.
This means Irish women who want to abort, even in cases of rape or incest, must travel abroad. According to a report in The New York Times, at least 3,400 Irish women travelled to England and Wales for abortions in 2015.
Linda Kavanagh, a spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign, said, “The reality is we have an instrument of violence against women written into our constitution, violence that is enacted every day on all pregnant people in Ireland,” according to The Independent. “The Eighth Amendment has caused untold misery and damage, and it’s time we removed it once and for all.”
Support to do away with the ban accelerated after the death of Savita Halappanavar, a dentist of Indian origin, in 2012. An Irish hospital had denied her abortion even though she was at risk of a life-threatening miscarriage in the 17th week of pregnancy. Halappanavar died of severe infections.