Labour Youth Launch Repeal the Eighth Amendment Campus Campaign

Photo credit: Joanna O'MalleyOn October 20th, the Repeal the Eighth Amendment College Campus Campaign visited UCD. The campaign, launched this month by Labour Women and Labour Youth, aims to engage students in the movement to reverse Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion. The campus roadshow will visit six university campuses around the country.The campaign set up an information stand in the old Student Centre where students could sign a petition to repeal the amendment. Students were encouraged to learn about the issue before signing the petition and were also able to register to vote at the stand.  Students were able to take photos with a Repeal the Eighth frame to support the movement on social media. The stand was visited by Labour politicians Councillor Peter O’Brien and Senator Aideen Hayden.Speaking to the University Observer, Sinead Ahern, Chair of Labour Women, said one of the main goals of the campaign was to register the maximum number of students to vote. “One of the things we’ve seen over the last few decades is that the voices of students tend to be ignored. This will send a message to anyone seeking election to the Dáil that students need to be listened to.”According to Laura Harmon, who was formerly President of USI and is now working with the Labour party, the campaign collected several hundred signatures while at UCD. By the end of the six university tour she expects they will have collected a thousand signatures.In a college-wide referendum in 2013, the majority of students voted to make pro-choice the official position of the UCD Students’ Union. This allowed UCDSU to take part in the pro-choice March For Change that took place in Dublin in September.However, students have to play an active role in the campaign to get their voices heard according to Jack Eustance, Chair of Labour Youth. “So many students support repealing the eighth amendment, but unless they get involved politically and push for it as a vital issue, it could be many years before a vote is called.”This campaign is one of several indications that Labour have given that they will be making the repeal of the eighth amendment part of their social policy. Tánaiste Joan Burton has already suggested that repealing the amendment could be part of Labour’s manifesto in the next general election. Labour is hoping to capitalise on the momentum created after the massive student engagement in the marriage referendum earlier this year. Ahern points out that the last time there was a referendum on abortion rights was in 1983, before most undergraduates were even born.“For any of us who haven’t had the opportunity to vote on the eighth amendment, it can seem like a real slap in the face that something so important as the right to life, to health, to dignity can be completely overruled,” Ahern says.