When is Compromise Compromise? Securing Full Abortion Rights for Ireland – A United Campaign to Repeal the Eighth

“Once the Eighth is gone, future legislators can work towards a truly progressive reproductive healthcare system in Ireland”

Our National Chair, Chloe Manahan, makes the case for a united Repeal campaign in the promised referendum.


Leftists are notorious for in-fighting.  This is not to be taken entirely as a negative reflection on us; it illustrates our capacity for critical thought and our determination to fight practices that fly in the face of our values.  However, the tendency to criticise within our own movements begs the question “where is the line where we stop protecting the integrity of our movement and start tacitly supporting inaction and, occasionally, regression?”

This question often becomes the prevailing argument in narratives around any campaign of the Left’s. During Bernie Sanders’ bid for the US Presidency, we spent inordinate amounts of time dissecting his claims to be a socialist.  Was this true or could he be more accurately be defined as a ‘New Deal-er’?Perhaps he is a European-style Social Democrat, or a Keynesian.  Ultimately, this was not the most important aspect of his campaign, and activists vying for his success did not allow it to become that.  This is obviously a good thing.  If the majority of discourse lies around how a campaign defines itself, as opposed to what it does and whether it ultimately serves to remedy say, class divisions or the subjugation of an oppressed group, the conversation has probably been derailed.

Pro-choice and proud! LY National Chair, Chloe Manahan, campaigning for Repeal of the Eighth Amendment

Substance over nomenclature and semantics becomes especially relevant in campaigns where two sides with diverging goals mutually reinforce each other to a significant degree.  I think to socialism and social democracy.  Although a socialist may call for workplaces to be owned by workers, it is unlikely that they would oppose a social democratic initiative to introduce more stringent health and safety regulations in capitalist corporations in the meantime.  This is because reformist efforts can often set a precedent for a radical left-wing future.  There is no shame in admitting that, especially in the Irish Case where any (admittedly rare) radical outcomes, more often than not, have come from reformist origins.

This should all be borne in mind as we work together to repeal the Eighth Amendment.  Among campaigners are pro-repeal activists and pro-choice activists.  We all want the constitutional ban on abortion in Ireland gone, but what comes next can often be the subject of some debate.

I am prochoice.  I am pro-choice and I am proud that my organisation fully supports the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and the decriminalisation of abortion.  I am pro-choice and I am proud that my Party stands behind the recommendations of the Joint-Oireachtas Committees recommendations.  My pro-choice values are constantly reaffirmed by my comrades who equally call for free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland.

Organisations like the Abortion Rights Campaign and the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment facilitate collaboration between different groups, and it is largely down to them, among others that a referendum on the fate of the Eighth is even on the cards.  However, until recently, it was easier to be a united front, as all that we were in a position to demand was a referendum.  Now however, we are faced with the divisions that may come as the wording of a referendum is determined and will soon be up for debate in the Oireachtas.

Free, safe and legal abortion is framed as extremist by neoliberal and mainstream media, such as RTE and INM, as well as the two largest political parties in the State, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. This is, as we know, not a fair representation of the campaign. Regardless, it is unlikely that these institutions will be stripped of their positions as the dominant disseminators of information and doctrines.

I am not about to argue that we should allow politicians and public figures to simply pay lip-service to abortion rights, without actively fighting for their implementation in the name of unity.  Not when 12 women leave the country to obtain an abortion every day.  Not when five women take the abortion pill illegally in Ireland every day.

I am simply highlighting that right now, the pro-choice/pro-repeal crowd, true activists, have an opportunity to cast our differences to the side and campaign to get Article 40.3.3 out of Bunreacht na hÉireann. We have an opportunity to finish the work of the feminists and allies that have come before us and secure abortion rights in Ireland. What we are offered over the summer may not be totally free, safe and legal abortion, but if we are unsuccessful this time around, who knows when Ireland will have another opportunity to ask for something better? Once the Eighth is gone, future legislators can work towards a truly progressive reproductive healthcare system in Ireland.

In the meantime, the campaign for what is not a radical framework for the provision of abortion in Ireland has already proven to be a nasty and hate-filled battle – let’s all work together for the common good and make sure that we repeal the Eighth.

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