This Saturday, Belfast plays host to this year’s ‘Rally for Choice’. In past years there has been static action and counter demos to the ‘Rally for Life’, but this year’s rally is set to be bigger and better than ever!
The Last Round has published many articles on the criminal lack of free, safe and legal abortion access across this island. Activists have shared stories of new initiatives, exposed the inadequate support (or complete lack of it) from the main parties and decried the barbaric treatment of women, who after going through the tough experience of trying to attain abortion pills, have been dragged through the legal system in the name of a law that is older than the Lightbulb. This weekend we call on everyone who has the sense to #trustwomen to attend the rally and march.
Hundreds of people from all over Ireland, North and South, are expected to gather in Buoy Park for speeches at 1pm and then set off to march to City Hall and around the city centre. The march is organised by Rally for Choice Ireland, a group of pro-choice and reproductive justice activists. Their focus is not just the single issue of abortion, but a broader approach to reproductive justice taking in “areas such as the need for comprehensive sex education in schools, access to contraception and related services, and concerted efforts to end discrimination experienced by women in the workplace during pregnancy”.
In Northern Ireland there is only access to abortion if there is a serious risk to the life or long term mental or physical health of the pregnant person. The situation in Ireland is similar, with the additional barrier of the 8th amendment of the constitution which in effect downgrades pregnant people to incubators. Around 5000 women a year are travelling from Ireland and Northern Ireland and paying for private abortion treatment (Abortion Support Network can help with information and funds). Unknown numbers are buying safe but illegal pills from websites like Women on Web and Women Help Women.
Recently in Belfast a woman was criminalised for taking abortion pills that the WHO have put on the essential medicines list. This caused pro-choice activists to step up their actions. Three women handed themselves in to the PSNI confessing to taking the abortion pill, or helping someone else to, in contravention of the ‘current’ law – the 1861 Offences against the Peron Act. The maximum potential sentence for this is life in ‘penal servatude’ to use the Victorian language of the Act. Despite being interviewed for hours it is not yet known if they will be charged with any offense. You can hear from them at the Rally.
Just this week the UN confirmed that the situation in Northern Ireland is breaching Human Rights and called (again!) for the law to be changed. Abortions will always happen, we need to make sure they are safe and legal. Stormont has the power to change our law but hasn’t even set up the working group that should have been close to reporting by now , there is a huge campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment in Ireland, and a campaign across the UK to overhaul the 1967 abortion act to decriminalize abortion.
It’s really important that we take to the streets to make our pro-choice voice heard. The Attorney General is appealing the Judicial Review ruling that found that our current laws breached human rights, there are other women awaiting trial for accessing safe but illegal abortion pills, and MLAs are ignoring the fact that the majority of the public want them to liberalise abortion law.
Oh, and if you needed another reason, the ‘Rally for Life’ will be marching through Belfast at 3pm right after Rally for Choice! They have plenty of funding to bus people in from all over and hand them a mass produced sign. They normally have one that has the outrageous statement ‘keep Ireland abortion free’… is that by sending people for private treatment in England, or ignoring the reality of safe but illegal pills obtained on the internet?
We hope to see you all at 1pm on Saturday 2nd July in Buoy Park as we demand abortion access for everyone in Ireland North and South, the Isle of Man, Poland, Romania, El Salvador and the many many other places across the world where access to abortion healthcare is criminalised and extremely difficult.
There are buses organised from Derry and Dublin, check out facebook for more information. You can find Rally for Choice on facebook, twitter, and the event page for the rally is here. There will also be a family friendly social with music and art after the rally, which you can check out here.