Repeal Campaign Launches in UCD

Photography by Dylan O’Neill

UCD for Choice and UCDSU held the launch for their campaign to repeal the 8th amendment on Wednesday night.

The launch was opened by President Barry Murphy and Welfare Officer Eoghan Mac Domhnaill. The two men gave a well-rehearsed speech about the importance of repealing the 8th amendment to the packed student hall of over 400 students.

The floor was then given to a line-up of female speakers and poets, with the first speaker, Anne Marie Hourihane, taking the audience back to the roots of the amendment in 1983. That year the eighth amendment was written into the Irish constitution by referendum. The 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 respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

Is there a word in Irish for the homesickness
known only when you are sent away?
Even when you feel like you come from nowhere?
How do you say your home makes you sick?
– from Hard to Say by Caoimhe Donnelly

In the lead-up to that referendum, Hourihane was amongst those campaigning against the inclusion of the amendment to the constitution. Hourihane compared the 1983 campaign to the upcoming campaign ahead of the referendum and advised the repeal campaigners present to “be respectful of your opponents, tackle them with humour and gentleness.”

Hourihane said that she hopes this referendum will avoid the anger and divisive nature of the 1983 campaign where there was a portrayal of “abortion rights as an attack on people with disabilities.”

Over a year ago, the ‘REPEAL Project’ was born. The brainchild of Anna Cosgrave, the project aimed to show the desire of the Irish people for repeal, and the black jumpers with REPEAL across the chest have become one of the hallmark images of the current repeal campaign.

At the beginning of Cosgrave’s talk, a group of 12 walked into the student centre wearing bright pink “Love Both” hoodies. The group formed a line at the back of the room where they held signs with slogans such as “Hope, Not Abortion” and “We Deserve Better than Abortion.” The group remained until the end of the launch. They were quiet and respectful, and friendly to those who approached them.

As Cosgrave continued speaking, she detailed how access to abortion is a class issue. Only women with the money to travel can access an abortion, the eighth amendment “enslaves women who are not in the right socio-economic group.”

Cosgrave called for those assembled to repeal the 8th amendment “for Ann Lovett, Savita Halappanavar, for Ms X, Ms Y, this alphabet soup… 100 years after women winning the vote, we have a final fight to repeal the 8th amendment.”

You gotta grab us
By the pussy
Before we get too big for our boots
Prove you’re not a wussy
Deciding what to do with the fruit of our wombs.
Give us a chance
To use our voice
Listen up…
We want choice
– from “All Things Nice” by Melissa Plunkett

The final speech of the night was given by Aoife Gray, auditor of UCD for Choice. She asked people to come to their group if they wanted to learn more, emphasising the diverse and inclusive nature of the group, and assuring those present that “UCD for Choice is a safe place.”

The success of UCD for Choice has emphasised to Gray the importance of individuals, and she called for those present to do what they could in the campaign. “You are all individually powerful. You all have a voice.”

Between each of the main speakers, poetry was read. The poems were written and performed by Caoimhe Donnelly and Melissa Plunket respectively.

The poetry, and general talk at the launch highlighted a feeling across the wider repeal campaign that this referendum ultimately comes down to trusting women, and allowing women to make their own choices over what happens with their bodies. This sentiment was summed up by Hourihane during her speech where she noted that some people seem to think “that if abortion comes in, girls will go mad altogether.”

A referendum on the possible removal of the eighth amendment from our constitution is expected to take place in late May. If the amendment is repealed, it will be up to the government to legislate for abortion services in Ireland.