“On the surface, nothing has changed,” with regards to abortion legislation, “but in most people’s hearts and minds a lot has changed.” These were the words of Clare Daly TD as she addressed the first public forum of UCD’s fledgling Campaign for Abortion Rights, with a view to repeal the 8th Amendment.
The amendment was introduced as a constitutional ban on abortion in 1983, under Garret FitzGerald’s Labour-Fine Gael coalition government
Daly was joined by AIMS Ireland’s Sinead Redmond, Dr Peadar O’Grady of the Doctors for Choice movement, and UCD’s own gender equality coordinator for UCDSU Welfare Grace Williams. Each of the speakers lent their professional perspective and experience to the forum, with each detailing why they support the Campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment, evoking a passionate response from many members of the sizeable audience.
Daly alluded to the importance of student activism as the student body have, “always been the driving force”, behind social change. Her call for students to engage Ireland’s politicians in the repeal was preceded by a scathing statement on Enda Kenny’s responsibility, “for the appalling mis-action”, in the recent ‘Miss Y’ case. This particular case saw a young immigrant deliver a baby by caesarean section against her will. The young woman was said to be suicidal as she said she had been impregnated by a rapist, and refused an abortion upon her arrival in Ireland.
The plight of the migrant population was recognised and developed upon by Sinead Redmond, as immigrants are hit particularly hard by the legislation. Migrants generally lack an in depth knowledge of the abortion culture here in Ireland, and in many instances lack the financial means to travel to the UK to undergo the procedure. Redmond delivered the worrying statistic that, “If you’re pregnant you are twice as likely to die or have a ‘near miss’ if you’re from outside Ireland and the UK, living in Ireland.”
Dr Peadar O’Grady was quick to dispel the notion that abortion was a high risk procedure as is suggested by many of those who campaign against it. He went on to add that the fatal abortion incidents publicised by the Pro-Life campaigns are illegally carried out in most instances. The provision of legal abortions, in his view, would provide the solution to this problem. "For the want of a pill, someone's dying" he said.
UCDSU’s Grace Williams talked admonishingly about the custom of travelling to the UK to procure abortions. She said that, “young people need access to abortion”, without the expense and stress of having to cross the Irish Sea to mainland UK. Grace announced a mandate which has been placed before the UCDSU Executive which would see the Union formally lobby for the repeal of the 8th Amendment.
On the opening of the floor, a number of those in attendance chose to speak. One student raised the issue of the, ‘prejudice on abortion in secondary schools’. In relation to this issue, Daly was adamant that it needed be stamped out and that schools must, “teach rather than instruct”, students - a key principle in the Pro Choice campaign.
The society will be staging an open meeting again on Monday 3rd November in room A105 of the Newman Building in UCD. They can be found here on Facebook.