Now, Northern Irish women’s rights

A sign in Ireland advocates repeal in the referendum on Irish anti-abortion legislation

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Now for Northern Ireland

IRISH women can be congratulated on the outcome of Friday’s referendum on repealing the ban on abortions in their country.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar will be hoping to take credit for holding the vote, using it to gloss over his government’s right-wing economic record with a progressive sheen, but the victory is the result of years of fearless campaigning by women who refused to be intimidated by the power of patriarchy.

In the Irish republic the struggle will now move to the implementation of the referendum result and our Irish sisters know they have the support and solidarity of the British labour movement in that struggle.

The overwhelming mandate for change highlights the anachronism of laws in Northern Ireland, where women are still denied the right to terminate pregnancies.

As Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth says, this situation is surely unsustainable now that women in the rest of Ireland are set to join women in Britain, which continues to rule the territory, in enjoying that right.

Nonetheless, Theresa May has made it clear she will resist any bid by MPs to vote on liberalising laws in the north.

She knows full well that a majority even in her own party would favour such a move — as has been made clear by Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt.

But she cannot risk the collapse of her shaky alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has made it clear it will block any reform.

Hiding behind Westminster’s role as a “caretaker” administration in the north because of the continuing absence of a Stormont government is a poor excuse when May has done nothing to press the DUP to address republican concerns and restore power-sharing in Belfast.

The Alliance for Choice will be continuing its campaign to press politicians within Northern Ireland to change their ways, and is entitled to whatever assistance comrades in Britain can provide, including by confronting the issue directly in Parliament.

If that splits the Tory Party, ends the DUP alliance and forces new elections in Britain, so much the better.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, women's rights demonstration. AFP photo

Theresa May’s reliance on the DUP hobbles her response to the Irish vote: here.

Wales: UNISON assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie told the annual Merthyr Rising trade union rally today that victory in the Irish referendum to repeal restrictive abortion law was an object lesson for trade unionists. “This was a massive statement by the people of Ireland. People got up and organised themselves, their families and their work colleagues. This is the start of a process, not the end,” he said: here.

Irish midwives for abolishing anti-abortion law

SATURDAY was a historic day for Ireland. The 8th amendment introduced in 1983 has finally been removed and the face of Ireland is changed utterly. Contrary to what the Establishment political parties have already started to say, the credit for this victory rests squarely with the women of Ireland: here.

THE Catholic Church-dominated state of the Irish Republic was rocked to its foundations on Saturday when the results came through after the referendum on abortion. This showed that the 23 May 2015 shock for the state when a referendum agreed to ‘same sex marriage’, was not a one-off, and that the huge gulf not only remains between the Catholic Church and the masses, it has widened, with the mass of the working class, which has borne the full brunt of the economic crisis since the 2008 crash that destroyed their living standards, fighting back in every way that they can: here.

People attend a People Before Profit protest calling of for provision of abortion in Northern Ireland, at Belfast City Hall

Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are incompatible with human rights, Britain’s Supreme Court rules: here.

Women’s rights victory in southern Ireland, now northern Ireland

Irish voters rejoice about referendum victory

By Steve Sweeney:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Ireland’s historic vote sparks pressure for change in the north

IRELAND’S historic abortion vote has fuelled calls for reform in the North, with Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald saying it was time for the six counties to adopt the same legislation.

Irish citizens flew in from across the world on Friday with more than two million casting their vote. An overwhelming 66.4 per cent voted in favour of repealing the law, paving the way for the legalisation of abortion.

The vote was expected by many to be close with polls leading into the final day showing yes with a slender lead of 54-46 over a no vote. With between 14 per cent and 20 per cent undecided neither side was ready to concede.

But with a 64.5 per cent turnout – higher than the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum – Ireland voted by an overwhelming majority to repeal the eighth amendment.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said: “We have without doubt done right by Irish women for this generation and many to come.”

Holding a banner reading “the North is next” then she called on the North to give women the same rights as those in the south.

The Northern Ireland-based Alliance for Choice welcomed the result, with campaigner Danielle Roberts saying: “We are proud to have played a small part in solidarity campaigning with our friends in Ireland, and we will continue with that solidarity until it is no longer needed.

“We also gratefully acknowledge the offers we have already had, in solidarity from the south, to work towards the change that is still so urgently needed in Northern Ireland.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May now faces pressure to act in the north of Ireland – but her fragile grip on power rests on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who strongly oppose changes to abortion laws.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar welcomed the vote and said it was “a day when we say no more. No more doctors telling their patients there’s nothing can be done for them in their own country, no more lonely journeys across the Irish Sea, no more stigma as the veil of secrecy is lifted and no more isolation as the burden of shame is gone.”

And Health Minister Simon Harris said the people of Ireland had shown that they “want to live in a country that treats women with compassion.”

“Under the Eighth Amendment, women in crisis pregnancy have been told take the plane, take the boat, today we tell them take our hand.

“Under the Eighth Amendment, women in crisis have been told you’re on your own. Today we say: we will stand with you”, he said.

The vote was welcomed as a major advance for women’s rights in a country where the once dominant Catholic Church played a key role in pushing and promoting the 1983 constitutional amendment that saw the “right of an unborn child” given equal status to the right of a mother.

The Communist Party of Ireland welcomed the result and paid tribute to those who “never gave up” in the 35-year struggle for the repeal of the eighth amendment. But it warned that there was still a long way to go to achieve equality.

“The next phase in this democratic struggle is ensuring that the establishment parties deliver what they have promised regarding legislation in relation to abortion”, the party said in a statement.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ITUC) general secretary Patricia King said the organisation had “always been consistent in our belief that reproductive health should not be determined by the provisions of the constitution” and remembered those forced to “silently seek treatment away from family and friends over the decades, in secret and in fear.”

The government will work on draft legislation which will allow for abortion without restrictions up to 12 weeks and up to 23 weeks in some circumstances, including rape and health reasons.

It promised to pass the legislation by the end of the year.

Ireland voted by a wide margin on Friday to repeal the reactionary Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution and legalise abortion on demand. The unexpectedly decisive outcome is a blow to the authority of the Catholic Church. It will strengthen demands for anti-abortion laws to be relaxed or repealed in Northern Ireland. … Currently, women face up to 14 years in jail for having an abortion, and thousands every year make the emotionally gruelling trip to Britain for termination. … Among women under the age of 25, 90 percent voted in favour.: here.

Women’s rights victory in Irish referendum

This video says about itself:

A Victory For Abortion Rights In Ireland

26 May 2018

Ireland is one step closer to legal and safe abortions.

Irish women celebrating victory

This photo shows Irish women celebrating the landslide victory in the referendum.

Reuters reports:

No social issue had divided Ireland’s 4.8 million people as sharply as abortion, which was pushed up the political agenda by the death in 2012 of a 31-year-old Indian immigrant from a septic miscarriage after she was refused a termination.

Campaigners left flowers and candles at a large mural of the woman, Savita Halappanavar, in central Dublin. Her parents in India were quoted by the Irish Times newspaper as thanking their “brothers and sisters” in Ireland and requesting the new law be called “Savita’s law”.

Irish women’s rights referendum victory

Irish trade union pro-women's rights banner, photo by Peter Taal/NOS

This photo shows an Irish trade union pro-women’s rights banner. Today, campaigns like this turned out to have won in Ireland.

For decades, the Roman Catholic church, especially the most right-wing tendencies of its hierarchy, was very powerful in Ireland.

That led to the most restrictive anti-abortion law in Europe. It led to scandals. Like forced labour by young women, the ‘Magdalene sisters‘ scandal. Like massive sexual abuse of children by priests, covered up by bishops and by the Vatican. Like mass graves where bodies of children, killed by ill-treatment at religious institutions, were dumped into.

When scandals like that became public, the grip of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the Irish people weakened.

That showed in the results of two referendums. In 2015, a clear majority of Irish voters voted for equal marriage, including for LGBTQ people. This in spite of well-financed homophobic campaigns by the Catholic hierarchy and rich homophobes from the USA and other countries.

And today, the results of another referendum became known. 66%, a big majority, of Irish voters all over the country voted for abolishing the harsh anti-abortion law. Only in one county, Donegal, there was a wafer thin anti-women’s rights majority. This victory came in spite of well-financed misogynist campaigns by the Catholic hierarchy and rich anti-women people from the USA and other countries.

This 26 May 2018 video is called Referendum overturns Ireland’s abortion ban.

Powerful right-wing people usually hate referendums, now that they lose them, even in traditionally conservative Ireland. That’s why the present right-wing Dutch government wants to abolish referendums: they lose them again and again and again.

Abortion referendum in Ireland

This video from the USA says about itself:

14 November 2012

“The debate over legalizing abortion in Ireland flared Wednesday after the government confirmed a miscarrying woman suffering from blood poisoning was refused a quick termination of her pregnancy and died in an Irish hospital.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian living in Galway since 2008 who was 17 weeks along in her pregnancy. The 31-year-old’s case highlights the bizarre legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems in predominantly Catholic Ireland can find themselves.

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found it should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.”*

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the story of Savita Halappanavar, who died after the Catholic hospital

officially, a university hospital

refused her repeated requests for an abortion. Are the strict abortion rules and imposed religious morality upheld by the hospital really viable in today’s age? Where did the idea of this form of “morality” and religion over human life and suffering even originate, and why do people follow it? Cenk Uygur has an answer.

By Dermot Quinn in Ireland:

Irish government calls abortion referendum

23 April 2018

Simon Harris, Health Minister in the Fine Gael-led Irish government, has announced a referendum on May 25 to scrap the notorious Eighth Amendment in the Irish constitution. The so-called “pro life” amendment blocks legal termination of pregnancy in Ireland. Currently women can receive a 14-year jail sentence. A parliamentary committee has recommended allowing terminations and unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

A decision on this minimal concession has split all the major parties and seen repeated twists and turns from leading politicians. Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has elucidated four different positions, while Harris himself, on the conservative wing of Fine Gael, changed his view little more than a year ago. Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin also recently switched to supporting repeal.

Behind the confusion are seething class tensions and the collapse in the authority of the Catholic Church, following the clergy’s involvement in sexual/physical abuse in brutal children’s homes and orphanages. Church attendance in a country where the Church dominates education and health provision has fallen to around 20 percent of the population. In working class areas the figures are reported to be as low as 2 to 3 percent.

The Eighth Amendment was introduced in 1983 after a referendum and three years of protests, rallies and religious vigils orchestrated by right-wing Catholic organisations backed by the Church. Supported by all the major parties, the aim was to copper fasten by national plebiscite Ireland’s already draconian abortion laws.

Passed by a 66.9 percent majority, on a turnout of only 53.7 percent, the 1983 constitutional amendment reads: “The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother guarantees in its laws to defend as far as practicable and vindicate that right.”

The following decades have seen numerous cases in which women have tried to circumvent the reactionary prohibition with terrible emotional, financial and health costs.

In 1992 the High Court ruled that a 14-year-old rape victim could not travel outside Ireland to terminate a pregnancy. The attorney general placed an injunction to prevent her from travelling to Britain. After a public outcry and continuous mass protests outside parliament, the “X case” as it became known, forced the then-Fianna Fail government into holding a series of referenda. These resulted in the freedom to travel outside Ireland for an abortion and the right to information on abortion services being conceded.

In 2010, it was reported that 4,402 women gave Irish addresses to UK abortion clinics in the course of that year. In the same year the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Irish state failed to provide clarity on the legal availability of abortion where the mother’s life was at risk.

In 2011, Amanda Mallet received a scan in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital in 2011 which showed the foetus she was carrying was suffering Edwards syndrome, a fatal condition. Informed by the hospital that she would have to travel to England to terminate the pregnancy she scraped the money together. In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Commission found that Amanda had been subjected to “discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment due to Ireland’s abortion ban.”

In 2012, Savita Halappanavar died in a Galway hospital of septicaemia from complications arising from her pregnancy. She had repeatedly requested an abortion, which could have saved her life. The 31-year-old Indian woman was told by staff at University Hospital Galway that to procure an abortion was impossible as “this was a Catholic country.”

After a huge public outcry and ongoing protest rallies, Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael government grudgingly introduced the 2014 “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill” allowing for abortion if the women was deemed to be suicidal.

This year’s referendum comes after years of intense campaigns, protests and even a strike demanding abortion rights. Particularly amongst young people, there is broad support for repeal of the reactionary law.

In the face of this, the major parties have moved at the last possible moment towards repeal, while the Church itself and the religious right, in Ireland and internationally, are campaigning aggressively to oppose any change.

Although opinion polls are registering large majorities, 63 to 37 percent in favour of repeal, some 20 percent of voters are undecided. A No campaign began on March 10 with a large rally in Dublin addressed by businessman and millionaire Declan Ganley. One of the most prominent right-wing and conservative voices in Ireland, Ganley told the crowd that “the coming weeks would be a battle between the people and the powerful.”

Another speaker was Niamh Ui Bhriain, who also fraudulently presented the anti-abortion campaign as an uprising against the “elite.” Urging a “No” vote, she claimed, “This is a rising of the people against the elites, and on May 25 it’s time to join a rebellion, and to reject both abortion on demand and the untrustworthy political class.”

A UK-based data-analytics company Kanto Systems has been hired by the “Save the Eight” campaign to work for a “No” vote. Kanto Systems is run by Thomas Borwick, son of former British conservative MP Lady Victoria Borwick. Borwick … has close ties to hedge fund billionaire Tomas Mercer, a key backer of Donald Trump.

It is a measure of the backwardness of the Irish bourgeoisie, inseparably entangled as it is with the Catholic Church, that a struggle on this issue is even necessary. Throughout the entire history of the Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland the Church has ruthlessly maintained the leading role handed to it on all social matters by all the political representatives of Irish capitalism, who viewed the Church as its pre-eminent ally against the working class.

If the minimal concession over the 8th Amendment is now being made, it is because any further delay would threaten Church influence with an even more rapid collapse. The amendment is also regarded by sections of the bourgeoisie as an obstacle in their attempts to market Ireland internationally as a modern investment location, particularly for tech companies with a young and socially liberal workforce. Ireland currently has the most restrictive reproductive rights regime in Europe.

Even if the 8th Amendment is repealed next month, the new limit of 12 weeks on terminations is still more restrictive than the 24-week limit in operation across the Irish Sea in Britain. Even this can be extended in cases of medical emergency.

The World Socialist Web Site unequivocally defends the right of free and readily accessible abortion on demand, to comprehensive emotional counselling, free contraception advice, free contraceptive provision and advanced sex and sexual health education in schools. This is inseparable from the struggle for decent social conditions for all who want children but fear the economic consequences. Both require immense inroads into the wealth and social power of the ruling oligarchy, in Ireland and internationally and the socialist re-organisation of society.