Ahead of the impending Irish referendum, I am sending my strong support and solidarity to the women and their allies in the Republic of Ireland who are fighting for the right to a safe and legal abortion.
As women’s organisations have always said, repealing the 8th amendment of the constitution is not a question of morality, but rather a question of public health. The question that is being put to the Irish people is not whether they want abortions to happen – it is whether they want them to happen safely and legally.
The current situation in Ireland forces women to come to the UK (and particularly to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, in my constituency), to access safe abortions. This is extremely problematic as it creates massive inequalities in terms of health between women whose financial status allows them to travel and those whose circumstances limit their choices. Prohibiting abortion is therefore not only sexist – it is also classist. In 2016 I met with Irish women who had come to Liverpool in order to terminate medically unviable foetuses. The tragic cases of women who wanted babies but needed safe and legal abortion was a powerful reminder of the complexity of the abortion question in Eire.
The up and coming referendum is, therefore, an unprecedented opportunity to take a historic step. Liberalisation of abortion law in Ireland would send a strong message of solidarity to Polish women fighting against the tightening of abortion legislation in their country, and women everywhere. In response to the backlash against women’s rights currently at play in Europe and around the world, Irish women need to lead the way.
For too long, control over women’s bodies and lives has taken precedence over health and justice concerns. It is now time for women in Ireland to reclaim their rights and #RepealThe8th!