Today, International Women’s Day, Strike 4 Repeal is taking place across Ireland. The event, organised by a number of activists, came about after no announcement was made by the Irish Government to hold a referendum on repealing the Eight Amendment before today.
The Eighth Amendment, inserted in 1983, equates the life of a pregnant person with the life of a foetus, and limits abortion in Ireland solely to circumstances where a “real and substantial risk” to the life of the mother exists. The impact of Ireland’s abortion laws and the Eighth Amendment have been far-reaching. The Eighth Amendment affects maternal and pregnancy rights. It prevents those carrying foetuses with fatal abnormalities from accessing abortions. It has resulted in the deaths of women in Ireland. It forces people who wish to access abortions to travel overseas (if they have the means and ability to) or face a 14 year jail sentence for importing and taking medical abortion pills in Ireland. On average, 12 Irish women travel to the UK every day for an abortion.
In October of last year, thousands of people in more than 60 cities in Poland went on strike to protect their access to abortion, and won. Strike 4 Repeal isn’t organised as an industrial strike in the traditional sense. It is inclusive of all types of work, and organisers encouraged participants to be imaginative in how to approach the action.
WIT Students’ Union (WITSU) showed support to such an important event by organising a group photo call today. Students were encouraged to wear black to show solidarity with the strike. This photo call showed WITSU’s support to the event and towards repealing the Eighth Amendment. Many students, staff and friends turned out for the photo and Michelle Byrne, WITSU President, addressed the crowd.
WITSU have also made a submission to the Citizens’ Assembly calling for a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment. The Citizens’ Assembly is organised by the Government to look at key issues, the first being abortion in Ireland. WITSU’s submission featured a number of reasons on why a referendum should be announced, and detailed the negative affects that the Eighth Amendment has on Irish women. On Sunday, Michelle was invited to observe the Citizens’ Assembly as part of an advocacy group. Rise & Repeal Waterford organiser, Aislinn Fell, also attended as a WIT student. The Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) presented to the room with a strong, passionate speech which included the first mentions of how this issue affects trans and non-binary people too.
Michelle rallied the Strike 4 Repeal photo call and strongly supports repealing the Eighth Amendment. “The mood was solemn and angry today. WIT staff and students do not want to wait for bodily autonomy any longer” Michelle explained after the photo call, “Not one person who stood with us today has had an opportunity to vote in the referendum on this issue in their lifetime, yet they are the people the Eighth Amendment controls. We want our say now. We want a choice in what we do with our bodies. We will not wait any longer. Repeal the Eighth!”
WITSU is mandated to support repealing the Eighth Amendment by Class Reps. This was voted upon at Class Rep Council earlier last year and reaffirmed this year.