Content warning: discussion of abortion.
On Saturday, 29 September, the Scottish Irish Abortion Rights Campaign hosted the ‘March for Choice demonstration.’ The march took place outside Scottish Parliament to protest the delayed legislation of abortion rights in Ireland. The date was arranged to fall around the 28 of September: the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion.
On a Saturday afternoon, the Scottish Irish Abortion Rights Campaign (SIARC) — alongside many international speakers — held the attention of a group of eager feminists as they recounted the tribulations of repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, along with their own goals moving forward.
On the 25 of May 2018, the Eighth Amendment, which prevented the legal access to abortion for Irish women, was repealed in a historic referendum. SIARC were actively involved in a campaign for repeal and, as was frequently pointed out during the rally, the possibility of repeal was the reason for SIARC’s initial creation.
Throughout the speeches, it was made apparent that the goal for this march was not entirely clear. The Eighth Amendment has been repealed, which could arguably be expected to render the movement redundant or obsolete. However, between the chants and cheers, a very clear message was delivered: abortion rights in the UK and Ireland are few, fickle, and frequently misunderstood.
The 1967 Abortion Act has not yet been extended to Northern Ireland where it is still illegal to access abortions. This lead to 346 women travelling from Northern Ireland to England in 2017, forced to access abortions alone and away from home. BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) has an entire section on their website dedicated to advice for those travelling from their home country to terminate a pregnancy — a demonstration of the scope of the issue.
One speaker, Lor, from the SIARC, commented on this issue when recounting a recent flight home to Belfast stating: “I wondered at what point during the flight my rights were taken away.”
Other speakers included Carolina Alcázar, from Spain, who behind the organiser of an upcoming Women’s Strike on 8 March.
The rally ended with Claudine, a women’s activist, leading the group in chants. One message carried through the rally: SIARC played an important role in the fight for abortion rights in the Republic of Ireland and the north is next.
Image Credit: Jessica McCamley