Reflections on Repeal: Home Thoughts From Abroad
This blog is one of a series of perspectives written by members of London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign to mark the first anniversary of the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Read the rest here.
On the 26th of May 2018, a crowd of Irish people, their friends and families gathered at a pub in east London. A sea of upturned faces stared at the TV screen throughout the day, following the results of the referendum in Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
Faces lit up with hope, anxiety, and creeping elation as the results were called out constituency by constituency, confirming the exit polls from the night before. A result that everyone hoped for but had hardly dared to imagine over the months and weeks leading up to this day. The Irish people had voted by a landslide for YES to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution of Ireland.
Some of the faces in the crowd had spent decades in London supporting Ireland’s “hidden diaspora”, the women and girls who had to get the boat or plane to England for abortion care services denied to them at home.
Many of those in the pub that day had coalesced as a group through the formation of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign in 2016. They played their part from abroad to repeal the Eighth and launched #hometovote to encourage vote-eligible citizens to travel and make their vote count.
Others were Irish people in London who had simply sought out a place to be with their own. Whether in celebration or protest, they wanted to be together for YES on this historic day.
Similar scenes played out around the world, from Paris to St.Petersburg, from Sydney to Vancouver. Irrespective of where in the world Irish people were living, they found ways to volunteer, to fundraise, to protest, to be activists in the campaign for people to have access to free, safe, legal and local abortion services in Ireland.
Approaching the first anniversary of the referendum to Repeal the Eighth, we are entitled to celebrate the huge step forward taken by Ireland last year. But let us not forget those who have been left behind. There are still people forced to travel or obtain illegal pills because they cannot access abortion services in Ireland under the post-referendum legislation.
And what of Northern Ireland? The only place left on the islands of Ireland and Britain where women are treated in law as second-class citizens, forced to travel in a crisis while there is no functioning government prepared to face up to its responsibilities.
The international campaign to Repeal the Eighth demonstrated that we can take action, we can have an impact even when we live abroad. We will not now turn our back on our sisters and brothers in Northern Ireland. #TheNorthIsNext